The Peyton chase stands at three teams. Assuming that the Broncos, Titans, and 49ers each have put equivalent offers on the table, the question becomes identifying the best overall fit for the future Hall of Famer.
If the primary factor is, as it should be, the path to the Super Bowl, the 49ers should be the first choice.
On closer inspection, however, the personalities and the fiercely competitive natures of Peyton Manning and coach Jim Harbaugh could be an impediment. Both men want to run the show. Both men are used to being the center of attention. Both men have a tendency to get a little upset when things don’t work out exactly the way they’re supposed to work out.
Consider their respective histories. Manning achieved his biggest success under Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell, both of whom never get upset — and both of whom were more than happy to let Peyton run the offense and stand in the spotlight. Harbaugh has excelled with low-profile quarterbacks who always defer to the head coach, like Alex Smith and Andrew Luck.
Then there’s the supporting cast. Over the years, Peyton has enjoyed a wide assortment of non-diva receivers who understand that the quarterback is in charge, and that they should say or do nothing to undermine that. From Marvin Harrison to Reggie Wayne to Marcus Pollard to Dallas Clark to Pierre Garçon to a more recent revolving door of no-name pass-catchers, Peyton has never had to deal demanding, demonstrative skill-position players.
In San Francisco, he’d be throwing to the passionate and at times mercurial Vernon Davis. To Michael Crabtree, who never has done nearly enough to come close to justifying his opinion of himself. To Randy Moss, whose name requires no further elaboration.
None of this mean that Manning will say no to the Niners. In the end, he may decide to take a chance on co-existing with Harbaugh and Davis and Crabtree and Moss. The desire to win a Super Bowl can blur those otherwise bright warning signs, as we saw three years ago when obsessive-compulsive micromanager Brad Childress embraced close-your-eyes-and-wing-it quarterback Brett Favre.
Harbaugh is willing to do it, possibly because others within the organization are making the call, and possibly because Harbaugh once found a way to work with Mike Ditka. Besides, Harbaugh desperately wants to win, and he knows that Peyton Manning gives him a far better chance than Alex Smith. The bigger question is whether Manning thinks that going to the team with the most talent supersedes going to an organization with a much greater inclination to let him be the guy he was in Indianapolis.