According to a recent article detailing Peyton Manning’s free-agent experience published by The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala and Lindsay Jones, among others, the Washington football club had the inside track on the Broncos when it came to landing the prized free agent.
It all started when Manning met with then-Washington head coach Mike Shanahan at his home in Denver, following his meeting with the Broncos.
“I went over to Mike Shanahan’s house and visited with Mike and Kyle Shanahan, and we sat in their den and watched film,” Manning said. “Kyle went over their offense. I was really impressed with Kyle. I had known Mike for a long time, played for him in a Pro Bowl, and we’ve stayed in touch, and so I felt comfortable talking to them.”
The intrigue was mutual.
“We were very much interested in Peyton at that time,” Shanahan told The Athletic. “I mean, I followed his career. I know him quite well, so I feel like we had an excellent chance to get him. But knowing that Eli [Manning] was in the NFC East, it surely wasn’t a slam dunk.”
Fortunately for the Broncos, Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington club, helped engineer a trade with the Rams that sent the second overall pick — where Robert Griffin III was expected to be taken — to Washington in return for a bevy of picks.
However, Shanahan was never a believer in Griffin, which led him to select Kirk Cousins as an insurance plan, in the fourth round of that same draft.
“I was drafted to a team with a coach who didn’t want me, with an organization that wasn’t sold on me,” Griffin told The Washington Post. in 2017.
“I was really disappointed in myself because I knew where Robert [Griffin III] was going,” Mike Shanahan told Fox Sports’ Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe on ‘Undisputed’. “I knew where his dad was going. I knew where Dan Snyder was going. It was up to me to convince this guy that, ‘Hey, if you don’t run, your dropback game…it’s not there now, but you can get there.’ I blame myself for not getting to the kid. He really believed he was Aaron Rodgers. In his mind, he believed he was Aaron Rodgers. I said, ‘You know what? You’re not Aaron Rodgers.”
If Snyder never engages in that trade with the Rams, the better part of the last decade in the NFL, and in Denver especially, would have gone entirely differently.
“[Washington] had made a trade for the second pick of the draft, which they ended up taking Robert Griffin III,” Manning said to The Athletic. “So as soon as they made that trade, even Mike kind of knew that eliminated them. It just wasn’t going to make sense. Kind of like the Colts, they were obviously going to go with a quarterback in the first round.”
“I think Peyton was disappointed,” Shanahan said in regards to the trade for the No. 2 pick. “Kyle and I were kind of surprised that he still wanted to meet with us. I can remember talking with Elway one time not too long ago, a few years ago. He said, ‘Mike, do you realize that Peyton, I think, was going to go to your place? I think he really wanted to go to your place more than our place.’ I said, ‘Really? I didn’t know that.’
Thank goodness for Robert Griffin III, otherwise, Denver’s quarterback carousel might have never stopped spinning and John Elway’s tenure as general manager could have ended far too soon.