The era of Peyton Manning dominating in Indianapolis is over. Make no mistake, he will not be on the Colts next year and he will be playing football elsewhere. Any scenario otherwise is pretty unrealistic at this point, especially with a $28 million bonus due to Manning on March 8 that will give the Colts no choice but to release the future Hall of Famer.
The Jaguars in 2011 had the NFL's leading rusher and the 6th ranked defense, but had an utterly inept passing offense. I'll preface by saying that I feel Blaine Gabbert didn't get a fair shake at success with a cast of characters that would've been difficult for anyone to succeed with.
However, if Manning were to come back and play at even 80% of the level where he's been at for the last decade, he will make any team a Super Bowl contender instantly. The Jaguars included.I feel dirty saying it after rooting so much against Manning for so long and watching him tear apart the Jaguars and consistently put the AFC South out of reach, yet for those same reasons I know the value of the player he is, or at least was.
Manning made a subpar surrounding cast look like a playoff-quality team year in and year out, and when he went down with a neck injury his impact was instantly visible. With the Jaguars he wouldn't exactly be getting the greatest supporting cast, at least not on his signing day. The Jaguars have the defense to help him, a dynamic running back to help him and within weeks of his signing can have a receiving corps that is up to his standard of play.
I'll be honest, all of this seems very unrealistic even as I write it. While it's hard to find a whole lot of reasons not to like the potential move to sign Manning (with the only obvious negative being his injury), the move just doesn't seem like a move that would be typical of the Jaguars.
Yet that's exactly why I almost feel like there could be a chance. This isn't the same organization we have all watched through the years. When Shahid Khan took over he immediately made it clear that he wants to spend the money necessary to win and build a passing offense that can compete in today's NFL.
I don't like the notion that Wayne Weaver was "cheap" or refused to spend money, the philosophies of the Jaguars front office seem to have changed recently. With new general manager Gene Smith, Vic Ketchman lauded that Smith was going to do things the right way with BAP drafting and little emphasis on free agency. Smith promptly did the opposite.
I will believe that Gene Smith is a BAP drafter the day that his draft picks don't magically happen to align perfectly with the needs of the team. I'll believe that he isn't going to focus too much on free agency when he doesn't have an offseason that includes big free agent signings like Matt Roth, Clint Session, Paul Posluszny, Drew Coleman, Dawan Landry, Aaron Kampman, Kassim Osgood, Torry Holt or Tra Thomas.
These aren't the same Jaguars that would instantly shy away from a big move, in fact, early indications seem to show that they revel in it.
There's little doubt that if Peyton Manning recovers from his injury and even approaches the form that was his former self, that he will be an upgrade over at least two-thirds of the NFL's quarterbacks. So why not the Jaguars?