The San Francisco 49ers came out of nowhere this past week and became the front runners in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. While Manning, if signed, would bring plenty of media exposure, it does raise a number of questions in regards to how he’ll be able to perform and if he actually make sense for the 49ers organization.
One issue with Manning is that he played his home games in a dome for his entire professional career, so he did not have to deal with the elements. The 49ers home stadium, Candlestick Park has poor drainage and the wind can also be a major factor as well. Those are two things that Manning has not had to deal with while playing for the Indianapolis Colts.
According to pro-football-reference.com Manning has played four games at Candlestick Park and while his completion percentage of 64.4 percent is great, he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns though.
Looking at his overall career records the best place for Manning to sign would be a team in either the AFC North or AFC South. His combined record against opponents in those two divisions is 59-13. The Tennessee Titans are one of the teams that has been rumored to be in the running for his services and are in the AFC South.
Another question mark about Manning is his ability to win in the playoffs as he has a record of just 9-10. Also, noteworthy is that seven times under the direction of Manning the Colts were one-and-done.
An argument in support of Manning on why he would be able to succeed with the 49ers is that he has never played on a team with as much talent as the 49ers have on the defensive side of the football. The 49ers certainly have a talented defense anchored by defensive end Justin Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis.
The Colts did have talent on their defense and some of the names are Dwight Freeney, who is a seven-time Pro-Bowler and three time All-Pro; Robert Mathis, a three time Pro-Bowler and Bob Sanders, who was a two time Pro-Bowler, two time All-Pro and in 2007 won the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
One of Manning’s greatest attributes is his ability to read defenses and get rid of the ball quickly and is a major reason why he does not get sacked very much. In his career the most he’s ever been sacked was 29 times and that was back in 2001. With his ability to recognize defenses and being able to get the ball out quickly allowed him to thrive with a decent offensive line while with the Colts.
For the 49ers, though, the offensive line has been the team’s Achilles heel for years. Last season quarterback Alex Smith was sacked a league-high 44 times. Some of the sacks were on Smith, yet for the most part it was the offensive line failing to protect Smith and giving him very little time to get rid of the football.
Smith is mobile, so he can use his legs in attempt to avoid pass rushers and attempt to at least get back closer to the line of scrimmage. A strength of Smith is that he does not try to force the football and will take the sack rather than turning the ball over. With one of the best punters in the NFL in Andy Lee, Smith can afford to take a sack and the 49ers can play the field position game.
As for Manning, being able to scramble is not his strength. Like mentioned before, he is great at recognizing defenses and getting rid of the football before being sacked. What gives Manning the edge is that a majority of the time he is throwing the football from the shotgun position instead of being under center.
If the 49ers do attempt to accommodate Manning by having him in the shotgun formation, that will pose more issues for the 49ers’ offensive line and also there was very little success by the 49ers running the football in 2011 out of the shotgun formation. Having Manning play under center will make it more difficult to escape from pressure and blitzes.
Finally, the biggest issue regarding Manning is the four surgeries on his neck in the past 18 months. There’s no guarantee how well Manning will hold up especially if he’s hit. It is not like when Manning was showcasing his ability to throw at Duke; if he were struggling with his throw he would be retiring.
Manning is a huge risk for the 49ers to take. This is not like the signing of Randy Moss to an incentive-laden contract that provides very low risk and high rewards if he produces for the team. For the 49ers, the 2011 season was not terrible as the team went 13-3 and nearly made it to the Super Bowl. By possibly taking the risk on Manning at this point it makes very little sense for the 49ers organization and the 49ers instead should be looking at free agents to improve the offensive line.