Did trade for RG3 cost Washington a shot to sign Peyton Manning?

Chris Cwik
·3-min read

It has been over a decade since Washington won a playoff game. While the team has put together some solid seasons since that playoff win in 2005, it hasn’t experienced year-over-year success. Not having a franchise quarterback might have something to do with that.

It didn’t have to be that way. Turns out, Washington could have signed Peyton Manning in 2012 if the team didn’t trade for Robert Griffin III.

That revelation comes in a lengthy piece on Manning’s 2012 free agency from The Athletic. Manning says he met with both Mike and Kyle Shanahan that offseason, and came away impressed with Kyle, who was Washington’s offensive coordinator at the time. Mike Shanahan was the team’s head coach.

Manning adds that he was comfortable working with Mike Shanahan, but realized it wasn’t going to be a possibility the instant Washington traded for the No. 2 overall draft pick.

Peyton: “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. But they had made a trade for the second pick of the draft, which they ended up taking Robert Griffin III. 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.”

Shanahan also recalls speaking to Denver Broncos general manager John Elway about the situation years later. Shanahan says Elway believed Manning wanted to go to Washington over Denver.

Shanahan: “I think Peyton was disappointed. 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.’ And that came from John. I knew we were fairly close.”

That, obviously, didn’t happen. After a whirlwind of visits and throwing sessions, Manning signed with the Broncos. Manning spent four seasons in Denver, going to the Super Bowl twice, and winning it in his final year in the NFL.

The Arizona Cardinals, San Fransisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans were all finalists for Manning. Elway’s negotiating style won in the end. Manning appreciated that Elway never pressured Manning to make a decision.

Peyton: “I was always asking him, ‘What’s your deadline?’ and I remember Elway saying, ‘There’s no deadline, there’s no deadline,’ and I think that had a big role. When they would text or call me to check in, they were just checking in. There’s nothing worse than that person saying, ‘Hey, do you know yet? Do you know yet? Do you know yet?’ Eventually you just go, ‘No, I don’t know yet, but because you’re annoying the hell out of me, I’m going to tell you no.’”

As for Washington, well, the team probably initially didn’t regret missing out on Manning. Griffin looked like a future star during his rookie season, but a knee injury in the playoffs had a major impact on the rest of his career. He eventually lost his starting job to Kirk Cousins. Griffin left Washington following the 2014 season. The team allowed Cousins to walk in free agency in 2017.

After going 7-9 in 2018, Washington selected Dwayne Haskins in the first round of the NFL draft. Following an up-and-down rookie season, Haskins will spend his sophomore season trying to prove he’s the franchise quarterback the team desperately needs.

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