The dust has settled and obviously Peyton Manning isn't coming to the desert.
Manning had a serious interest in the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals had an even more serious interest in Manning. But in the end, Manning chose to join the Denver Broncos and Arizona will move forward with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton for a second straight season.
Now this isn't a knock on Kolb or Skelton. Both are stand-up guys willing to take accountability for their actions. Both are tough – although some may question that about Kolb given his injury-riddled first season with the Cardinals. Both have shown flashes of their ability and, Skelton in particular, has displayed a knack to win games – regardless of how good or bad his personal performance was.
Instead, this is merely about Arizona – a franchise desperate to return to the winner's circle – losing out on a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback.
Manning would have instantly brought more notoriety to the Cardinals than any player in franchise history. Arizona has been down a similar road before bringing in Hall of Fame caliber players such as Emmitt Smith and Edgerrin James. Bringing in 30-plus year old running backs, however, produced somewhat inauspicious results.
Manning, on the other hand, appears to still have at least a few years left under his belt. The Broncos ponied up roughly $60 million in guaranteed money over the next three years to secure the services of their new signal caller. And they felt good enough about him that they immediately traded Tim Tebow – who rocked the entire NFL world last year – to the New York Jets for relatively little in return.
But back to the Cards, who are now forced to proceed with Kolb and Skelton – barring a stunning turn of events that cause Arizona to invest an early pick in this year's draft on a quarterback.
| John Skelton|
On the other hand, Skelton is the knight in shining armor – as are many backup quarterbacks. Skelton went 5-3 as the starter a year ago, and although he's not the most vocal guy around, his natural leadership skills are obvious. Many are calling for Skelton to get a fair shot at the starting job in 2012, but he might have to once again wait for a Kolb injury or a string of subpar performances to see the field.
But ultimately it's hard to judge either quarterback. Let's face it; neither Kolb nor Skelton had a lot to work with during their stints under center. Aside from All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals' offense is lackluster from top to bottom. A legitimate wideout opposite of Fitzgerald has yet to emerge and the team's tight end position continues to produce marginal results.
Arizona's offensive line woes are a story for itself and team has done little to address those issues so far in the offseason. Sure, the Cardinals are expected to in the draft, but will they be able to land the caliber of player it takes to make an immediate impact? That is no easy task.
Whoever winds up under center should have a new weapon in the backfield with second-year running back Ryan Williams set to return. Williams missed his entire rookie season after tearing up his knee in the preseason. Arizona was forced to lean on Beanie Wells more than ever and while Wells did produce his best season as a pro he still leaves a lot to be desired in the running game.
Considering how it all played out, will the fact that Manning won't be in a Cardinals' uniform haunt them? Yes and no. Arizona had a chance to bring a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback to a team still in need of a spark. But despite Manning's reported willingness to accept an incentive-laden contract, he ended up being the highest paid player in the NFL – something the Cardinals couldn't have matched.
Arizona put its best foot forward to lure Manning but in the end it wasn't enough. Now, life goes on with Kolb and Skelton – for better or for worse.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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