Posted January 28, 2014

How Seahawks pursued Peyton Manning … and Russell Wilson could’ve gone to Broncos

AFC West, Denver Broncos, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLVIII
Russell Wilson kisses the ring after Seattle's 40-10 preseason win over Peyton Manning's Broncos in Aug., 2013.

In an alternate universe, QBs Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson would be wearing the opposite team’s uniform. (John Leyba/Getty Images)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – The rumblings started soon after Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay announced Peyton Manning’s release in a tearful press conference on March 7, 2012. Several NFL teams were ready to compete for Manning’s services, and Seattle was one of them. The Seahawks had finished their second year under head coach Pete Carroll with Tarvaris Jackson as their primary quarterback, and it was their second 7-9 season. It was clear that while Jackson had done his best, Seattle would need more at the position if it wanted to compete at a Super Bowl level. Thus, as Manning met with representatives of the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals to decide his future, Carroll came up with a plan to try to crowbar the process.

From Peter King’s April 2, 2012, article on that process:

One more surprise: Manning got a call informing him that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had flown, unannounced, with Seattle G.M. John Schneider to the airport in Englewood. Carroll would do whatever Manning wanted — talk for a while in Denver or on the plane to Arizona, his next visit, or fly him to Seattle for a lengthier discussion.

Peyton Manning does not like surprises. He said no thanks. Carroll flew home.

“Yeah, we tried to hook up with him and we couldn’t make it come together,” Carroll said after the fact. “We tried to fit in to their schedule that looked like it had some space in it, but there wasn’t enough. So we made an effort. It’s kind of just classic for us – just competing to try to find a way and we just couldn’t pull it off at that time. We had to take a shot at that. It didn’t work out for us there. We had already spoken before that and we just couldn’t quite get together on it.”

In a scene right out of a bad airport adventure movie, Carroll had tried to apply his “Always Compete” philosophy to his quarterback situation. It didn’t work; Manning felt most comfortable with the Broncos, especially because the Broncos had a top-level executive in John Elway who could tell Manning precisely how it was to come back from a rough time in his mid-30s to rebound and return to the biggest games possible.

BURKE: How Denver Broncos built their Super Bowl team

That has now happened for Manning. He’ll be playing in Super Bowl XLVIII against those very same Seahawks in part because of what Carroll and Schneider did next. There was a nearly unprecedented haul of potentially great quarterback talent in the 2012 draft, so Seattle’s brain trust went back to that idea. Schneider expressed admiration for Ryan Tannehill’s quarterbacking acumen, but the Texas A&M star went to the Dolphins with the eighth overall pick, and Seattle was picking 15th after trading down from 12th with the Philadelphia Eagles. With Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Tannehill already off the board, Carroll and Schneider again refocused, surprising just about everyone by selecting West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick. And then Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner with the 47th overall pick in the second round.

And then, with the 75th overall pick in the third round, Carroll trusted Schneider when the GM said he had a feeling about Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seahawks also signed former Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn to a three-year contract, but it was patently obvious from Wilson’s first rookie minicamp practice that he had the determination, intelligence and physical tools to take the job. He did just that, and Carroll announced to Wilson that he would be the team’s starter before Wilson’s first regular-season game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 9. The Seahawks lost that game when Wilson couldn’t connect with his receivers in a late goal-line stand, but there haven’t been many losses since then. The Seahawks went 11-5 in 2012, falling to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, and followed that up with a 13-3 mark and their upcoming Super Bowl appearance.

FARRAR: How Seattle Seahawks built their Super Bowl team

Wilson has thrown 52 touchdown passes in his first two regular seasons — 26 in each season —  which is certainly impressive. However, there has to be a part of Carroll that wonders what it would have been like had Manning come to the Emerald City and thrown anywhere near the 55 touchdowns he managed for the Broncos in 2013 alone.

“No, I haven’t thought too much about that since we moved on,” Carroll said from Seahawks headquarters on Friday. “It’s kind of interesting that we’re playing against him at this point. We wound up with Russell, and they wound up with Peyton. So, it’s pretty cool.”

One thing’s for sure — in retrospect, Seattle would have taken Wilson anyway, which opens up one of many alternate histories.

“Knowing what I know now, we would have taken him a little higher,” Carroll said with a laugh.

And in the end, Manning’s journey to Denver worked out for both teams. The Broncos got the finishing touch on a team that was almost there, and the Seahawks continued their process of roster construction that has allowed them to field the second-youngest Super Bowl team of all time.

“Often,” Schneider recently said when he was asked if he still thinks what his team would have looked like with Manning at the helm. “I just think that we would have continued to do things the way we do it all the time. I know that we wouldn’t have been able to afford several players, but we would have competed in other areas to compensate for it in where we were deficient in our roster. It’s a daily process.”

By the way, it wasn’t out of the question that Wilson could be wearing Broncos colors right now — he was very much on head coach John Fox’s radar, well before the 2012 draft, when Fox was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

“Well, Russell and I go back even further than that,” Fox said Sunday during his introductory Super Bowl press conference. “I spent time in that part of the country when he was a quarterback at North Carolina State with Tom O’Brien and his staff. So I actually got to meet him even when he was still in college at NC State, even before he transferred to Wisconsin. He’s a tremendous young man. What he’s accomplished in a very short time in our league doesn’t surprise me at all — just his makeup, his leadership ability and just the kind of competitor he is.”

As for Manning and Wilson, the primary characters in this story have known each other since Wilson attended the Manning Passing Academy as a high school sophomore. He was one of about a dozen youngsters in Manning’s group, just trying to get in that orbit. Later, the two met again — right around the time everything fell in place for both of their current teams.

And this happened in Denver … when Wilson was Fox’s guest in Dove Valley.

“I met Russell Wilson, believe it or not, when I was visiting the Broncos,” Manning remembered Sunday. “Let me think about this … I believe it was after I signed with the Broncos, so let’s call it March or April [2012]. They were having players come in for visits before the draft. I was actually in the film room watching some tape, and someone brought Russell in. He was in town for a visit. I had a chance to shake his hand. It was an exciting time in his life, getting ready for the draft. So, I wished him luck and told him I enjoyed watching his college career. I had a chance to shake his hand after the two preseason games we played the last two years.”

There will be one more chance for the two quarterbacks to shake hands after this Sunday’s Super Bowl and perhaps to wonder what might have been … in all sorts of permutations.

KING: Monday Morning Quarterback: Get ready for restrained Richard Sherman

62 comments
Mark20
Mark20

What if? Well, the Broncos would not be close to the SB that's for sure. And, when Manning retires, Broncos fans need to get ready for another several years of mediocrity. And that could be next year. Can you say Brock Osweiler?

davidhd
davidhd

Another thing that's kind of left out of this discussion is Manning's age and health. Seattle doesn't have great pass blocking offensive line, Manning has serious neck issues, and he's 37. The Broncos are going right back to the drawing board in a year or two when Manning retires, while Seattle will have Wilson for another decade if he stays healthy. 


Wilson is statistically in the top 5 QBs of all time at the 2 year mark, in QB rating, TDs, TD to INT ration, Yards per attempt, and certainly winning percentage. I'd rather have Wilson than Manning, considering age, and long term stability. Manning is considerably better right now, as a pure pocket passer, but Wilson is a top 10 QB in the NFL and a good fit for Seattle.

davidhd
davidhd

This article is one of the many reasons why it's obnoxious to have Peyton Manning on the team opposite the one you want to win the super bowl. A game that should be a story of two great teams playing is instead a 2 week period where we all get to listen to grown men swoon over a legendary American Icon. I like Peyton, but the guy wouldn't even talk to Seattle, even though the Seahawks are a much better team than Denver at every position except QB and WR. It's his choice, and that's fine, but instead of wishing for some hypothetical super Seahawks team with Peyton and the legion of boom together, I'm excited to see that defense send Peyton back to Denver, where he belongs, with another super bowl loss. 

DavidSchrank
DavidSchrank

If Manning had signed with Seattle I highly doubt the team would be competing in the Super Bowl this Sunday. What makes the Seahawks such a formidable opponent is its ferocious defense. The reason why Seattle was able to construct such a defense was in part because Russell Wilson's salary is roughly 1/20th of what Peyton's is.  

JoelCappello
JoelCappello

It's hilarious that there are so many people that call these articles 'meaningless'. Like what did you expect? This is sport. There is not much to report here but intrigue, possibilities, and personalities. People need to lighten up.

gary41
gary41

Schneider got the word on Wilson via his staff, including Bevell, who spent time in Wisconsin earlier as the Packers QB coach.      

MichaelJ.Teston
MichaelJ.Teston

I got no dog in this one, but "what if Seattle outright wins" then this article is all that, "what if?" really doesn't matter. I like Manning but so what. When they meet the better team will win (most of the time). Last time Seattle was in the Superbowl, IMHO they got screwed.

biasedsportsfan
biasedsportsfan

What if something that didn't ever even have a chance to happen, did? Bring on baseball...

IanHartless
IanHartless

We might be talking about the Seahawks going for 19-0 on Sunday. That's NOT a knock on Russell Wilson either. Manning's just that good. He's never played on a team that had a D like Seattle's.

friendly--neighborhood--scrawler
friendly--neighborhood--scrawler

Hmmm SMH.. ..if the Seahawks had Manning and the Broncos had Wilson... and people wonder continue to kick these writers in their baby nuts.. 

Readers deserves better  than this..there is no shame in admitting you don't have a story today or any good stories this week, i would rather see a blank page, doodles , pencil sketches anything ... you have a wealth of readers why not ask them for ideas again there is no shame in admitting you suck at certain things and ideas may be one of them

espnrefugee0218
espnrefugee0218

I think both teams and their fans are happy the way things have worked out.  Talking about marijuana laws not football 

SandersonKramer
SandersonKramer

What if my Aunt had Balls? She'd be my Uncle. Do they pay you by the word?

JackHoff
JackHoff

Peyton is way too classy for Seattle.

ClintMccullough
ClintMccullough

I think Peyton Manning is a piece of crap 4 not even coming 2 Seattle 2 try out 4 us. Just a sorry sorry piece of crap!!!!

Jonathan T
Jonathan T

Then Seattle might win the Super Bowl but it wouldn't be against the Broncos.

billthompsonbaby
billthompsonbaby

@davidhd Maybe Seattle wasn't willing to give Peyton the play-calling power that he's had his entire career. Oh, and maybe your receivers suck. Your #1 receiver is 37th in the league, Baldwin. Cough. 

davidhd
davidhd

@Richard--Ramirez Bums don't normally throw for 26 TDs in their first two seasons, over 60% completions, or over a 100 passer rating. Wilson is a top 10 QB in the league, and would probably have better stats if it weren't for Seattle's emphasis on the run. If you actually watched the Seahawks play, you would know that the team wouldn't be in the super bowl without him.

JimStumbo
JimStumbo

@MichaelJ.Teston Better watch it, people might start calling you a homer for blaming the refs in that SB.  At least they do when you mention that as a Seattle fan.

PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

@IanHartless not to mention that Manning would have been retired very fast with the front line we had promise you that one 

Dick Nuggets
Dick Nuggets

@IanHartless not to mention, Peyton couldn't string a play out like Russell can or run like he can for that matter.  Russell is better suited for Seattle's current game plan.

Arthur7
Arthur7

@IanHartless 


With Manning on the team, Carroll couldn't afford to bring in Michael Bennett, Avril, etc.


So Seattle's defense wouldn't be "that good"

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

@friendly--neighborhood--scrawlerThe only thing that really seems to make you happy is finding something to criticize.  I'll bet you have no friends only people who tolerate you because they're too nice to tell you that you're a tool. 

Arthur7
Arthur7

@JackHoff 


Jack Off is a very appropriate name.


Were you born with it, or did you change it?

BestTampaSportsFan
BestTampaSportsFan

@ClintMccullough LOL, Manning has controlled everything in his career. He doesn't like surprises ^ read above^  A phone call would have set the meeting on Peytons terms

badbeatya
badbeatya

@Jonathan TAgreed. It was more like the Broncos practice squad.  GO HAWKS!!!!


Genius, Genius, Genius!

BrandonNilson
BrandonNilson

Wilson is a winner. He's proved it to his teammates and fans everywhere he's played. Now he's going to prove it to the entire world. This team is stacked with talent that nobody else paid much, if any, attention to. When you do that it creates a mentality that the "star" studded rosters don't have. They have a complete team who can beat anyone in all 3 phases, but that mentality is their 4th phase and that's what will ultimately decide this me. Much respect for Denver's offense, but their 1 phase that's extremely good isn't going to be enough to beat Seattle. It's their time.

ezrae33
ezrae33

@Jonathan T Denver might win a Super Bowl but It will not be against the Seahawks. See what I did there? Thanks for the insightful post.

davidhd
davidhd

@billthompsonbaby @davidhd Except Wilson hasn't hasn't missed a down in two years, and basically slides almost every single time he runs. He doesn't take hits very often, and has a knack for avoiding the big shots even when he gets sacked.

davidhd
davidhd

@billthompsonbaby @davidhd I wasn't aware that Baldwin was Seattle's number 1 WR. Seattle has Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Percy Harvin listed ahead of him on the depth chart. That being said, you missed the point of my comment in your zeal to troll and talk up the Broncos. I don't care about Peyton being a Seahawk or not. If he plays like he did in his last super bowl, Seattle's going home with a ring anyway.

PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

@JimStumbo @MichaelJ.Teston did you even bother to read his first part of that or skip right over it (I got no dog in this one) man some ppl and he is correct the Hawks did get cheated out of it refs came out and admitted it so if you perhaps learn some facts before that then you would sound a bit smarter 

Jonathan T
Jonathan T

@BrandonNilsonTheir 1 phase???  Seriously?  Denver has a pretty good defense too.  Look at how they shut down Tom Brady.....3 points thru 3 qtrs.  You can't tell me Seattle has anywhere near the offensive power that the Patriots have.  Yes, Seattle has the premier defense but they can't shut down Peyton.  It might be a tough battle for the first half but by the second half he will have them figured out and the Broncos will win the SB.  The Seahawks do not have the offense to keep up.

JimStumbo
JimStumbo

@billthompsonbaby @davidhd @Richard--Ramirez 
That's it.  Just ignore his tying Manning for the most TDs in your rookie season, his 60%+ completion percentage, his passer rating.  All of those stats are not because of the defense and running game. If you watched the games, you will know how often he has to scramble and get out of a jam, and make a play....

MichaelJ.Teston
MichaelJ.Teston

@PaulMaggard @JimStumbo @MichaelJ.Teston Unfortunately, I live in Ohio a stones throw from, you guessed it, Cleveland. I would like to be a fan of the Browns, but anyone knowing anything about football knows that the Browns make it excruciatingly hard to be a Browns fan. So I'm no homer for the Hawks, I actually have a hard time rooting for the Hawks because of their head coach. The team, though, is likable because they play the game. As in that last Super Bowl appearance by the Hawks, I just hope the game doesn't turn on refs calls. Manning is actually the only reason I'd like to see Denver win but he could also be the reason Denver loses. That D front for Seattle goes after the QBs. It will be interesting since I don't know if Manning has so much been touched by anyone in the playoffs. And this is of course why they actually play the game on the field. Certainly if Denver wins, no surprise but if Seattle wins, and even wins big, it will not surprise this commenter.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@friendly--neighborhood--scrawler That's why I write them.  I enjoy helping to increase your level of misery.   If you didn't have something to whine about you might get bored and go away, depriving us of the chance to watch you get worked up over a simple article.

BestTampaSportsFan
BestTampaSportsFan

One more surprise: Manning got a call informing him that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had flown, unannounced,


Manning probably called when he was 1st looking but this is different. Manning is a HOF QB and didn't have to keep playing so I'm sure Manning already had his mind set. Rigid? maybe but  not whishy  washy

jaolson28
jaolson28

@Jonathan T @BrandonNilson 2013 Patriots: 27.8 points per game.  2013 Seahawks: 26.1 points per game.  They are a lot closer than you think.

In terms of average P/G Seahawks are tied with Green Bay for 8th in the NFL.  The idea they have a weak offense is nonsense.

PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

@Jonathan T @BrandonNilson you said pretty good defense lmao you making me laugh lol the patriots have nothing and it finally showed lol you are dreaming dude the Hawks excel at making half time adjustments no one is better at it then the LOB by then Manning will probably be done and I could see Welker getting knocked out also

Jonathan T
Jonathan T

@BradFountain@Jonathan T@BrandonNilson 

Seattle's offense sucks except for Lynch.  Let's just say this.  If they fall behind by 2 touchdowns, they will not catch up.  The Bronco's are going to shut down Lynch and force Wilson to beat them with his arm and I don't think he can do it.  I predict 30 - 17 Broncos win.  

badbeatya
badbeatya

@Jonathan TWell, considering Russell Wilson had 1 more passing TD than Tom Brady and considering that Marshawn Lynch had over 1200 yards rushing with 12 rushing TDs, I'd say that Seattle's offensive capabilities are well established and statistically very close to New England.  Plus, Denver will have to account for Percy Harvin (i hope for a few plays b4 he gets injured...lol...jk) which will create other offensive opportunities.  

Manning is not perfect as he has thrown 10 picks this season & he is going to be running for his life in the freezing cold, while throwing his patented ducks to the DBs. Other than Kaepernick scrambling on plays, SF was not able to effectively rush against Seattle and I don't think anyone is worried about Manning running on his gimpy ankle.


Seattle's offense will be more than able to keep up, especially considering the good field position the defense and special teams are going to be getting for them.  GO HAWKS!!!

Arthur7
Arthur7

@Jonathan T @BrandonNilson  


This was in reply to your statement:


"Denver has a pretty good defense too"


Seattle allowed 231 points this season, Denver allowed 399. Please feel free to provide excuses that explain how Denver's defense is "pretty good"

Arthur7
Arthur7

@Jonathan T @BrandonNilson 


Denver allowed almost 2x as many points as Seattle.


Denver's offence has trouble with a phycial Seattle type defense. In the preseason, both SF and Seattle held Denver to 10 points.