Article first published as As Gang Green Turns: Manning Up - Rex Has To Prove He Has the Right Stuff on Blogcritics.
The old adage is that talk is cheap, which means in Jets head coach Rex Ryan's case that he has a 99 cent store full of throw away quotations. Most notable is stuff along the lines of promising his team will win the Super Bowl, anyone wanting to win a Super Bowl should be a Jet, and so on. Obviously, none of these things are anything that you can take to the bank to earn interest (or to make the great quarterback Peyton Manning want to wear Jet green).
Still, a compelling possibility exists for Ryan and the Jets: Manning is free and available and is looking for work. Manning currently has more opportunities than a kid in a candy store, but you have to know that he wants to connect with a winner: not a team that looks good on paper, but one that can get the boots on the ground drive all the way to the Super Bowl.
One of my vices is listening to sports talk radio shows here in New York, and everyone is buzzing about Manning and the possibility of him in a Jets uniform. As a Jets fan I couldn't say that doesn't get me excited, but I have also learned over the years that nothing is easy in the soap opera known As Gang Green Turns. While this should be a simple equation: Manning + Jets = Super Bowl, there are so many cooks ready to spoil the broth, and chief among them is Ryan and his mouth that roared.
Manning doesn't want promises of a Super Bowl: he wants to be there. From what I've heard on those radio shows, Peyton has no desire to play in the NFC and face his brother more than necessary. He wants to be in the AFC and hopes that he gets to the big game, and then facing his brother would be the stuff of legends. If you think New York got crazy for the Yankees and Mets in 2000, the New York Giants vs. Jets with the Brothers Manning opposing one another would send this metropolis into sheer lunacy.
Still, getting Manning to sign on the dotted line is going to be a challenge. I think Ryan and the Jets have to court Manning, prove they are winners, and Ryan has to change his style quite a bit. If he goes from big mouth to a more measured and methodical approach (similar to Giants head coach Tom Coughlin), Manning might be more secure in coming here.
People calling into the radio shows question Manning's health. If the Jets get him, will he be the superstar he was once, or will he suffer a mid season breakdown and burst everyone's bubbles? We know Manning didn't play a game last year, and there has to be some concern about his ability to throw a ball, his velocity, and his endurance. Certainly, even a compromised Manning might be better than Mark Sanchez, but medical tests will determine his health and we can take it from there.
The Jets have to go for Manning, and perhaps Mark Sanchez gains a mentor and will learn to be the same kind of player. Will it be hard for Sanchez to take a step backwards? Of course, and maybe even the Jets trade him to drop payroll to accommodate Manning's salary. That would be sound financial planning and investment to be sure.
I want to see Manning in Jets green next year. If Ryan and company want to see him there too, they have to show they are ready to win - not just talk about it. Ryan is the key here, and if the whole thing doesn't work out, you have to wonder if Manning figured he would avoid the dubious pleasures of being Rex Ryan's quarterback. If that would be the case, Ryan has to get out of town faster than you can say "Mangenius." I'm sure former Jets head coach Eric Mangini will welcome him to the club.
Photo Credits: Manning - lifenews.com; Ryan - Boston Herald.com