Unchanged 49ers approach could appeal to Manning

Unchanged 49ers approach could appeal to Manning
March 17, 2012, 4:12 pm
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During his meetings with the teams courting him, quarterback Peyton Manning has not been selling himself and his way of doing things.Manning, who spent his entire Indianapolis Colts career in the same offensive scheme, is not interested in bringing everything he mastered to his new team, an NFL executive told CSNBayArea.com.Instead, Manning has asked questions and listened attentively while keeping an open mind to new ideas. And that might be the 49ers' best selling point to the four-time MVP.
Manning, who turns 36 next Saturday, missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing neck fusion surgery on Sept. 9. The Colts cut Manning on March 7 after the organization decided not to pick up a 28 million roster bonus.Manning has reportedly narrowed his choices to the Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos and 49ers. The Titans can offer Manning a lifetime contract. The Broncos have the most salary cap room of the contenders.
The 49ers can offer Manning plenty of money, too, along with a solid supporting cast and a fresh approach.In 2010 with the Colts, Manning attempted 42.4 passes per game. Last season, quarterback Alex Smith attempted 28 passes a game with the 49ers.A team that gears its offense around throwing the ball is going to spend more time practicing a wider variety of pass routes. Theoretically, that's more wear and tear during the course of the offseason, training camp and in-season practices.And a team that throws the ball 40 times a game will also subject its quarterback to more punishment. After all, Smith was sacked 44 times last season -- once every 11 times he dropped back to throw.Coach Jim Harbaugh's philosophy of a power running game and using play-action pass could be exactly what Manning wants at this stage in his career.Running back Frank Gore would not face a regular diet of eight-man fronts as he did last season when the 49ers ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards. With Manning behind center, things would open up for the run game. And with an effective run game, Manning would surely benefit and, conceivably, see his career extended.The source said Manning is not locked into playing in the same Colts system with his new team. In fact, Manning might want something different to reinvigorate him.Bill Polian, the general manager who drafted Manning in 1998 and now works of ESPN, said recently that while Manning is an expert in the system he ran with the Colts, his knowledge of NFL offenses is far-reaching."No one studies football as much as Peyton Manning," Polian said. "He's the ultimate expert. He knows the rudiments of virtually every offense there is. He spends time in the off-season studying offenses that are a little bit different than ours and he picks the brains of coaches he's had in the Pro Bowl."And it's entirely possible Manning sought out the 49ers because he recognized it as a good fit.Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated wrote this week: "The owner of one 2011 playoff team told SI that while his club was not pursuing Manning, it would seriously consider signing him (pending a positive medical report) if he phoned and said he wanted to play for them."The 49ers had an offer on the table to Alex Smith a week ago, as reported by CSNBayArea.com, and was showing no interested in Manning. When the 49ers and Smith did not finalize a multi-year agreement at the start of free agency, something changed.Were the 49ers the team that was waiting on Manning to call them? Did Manning pick up the phone?The sides spoke Tuesday in North Carolina when Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman paced Manning through a workout, as ESPN first reported.
Harbaugh can be very persuasive, but perhaps all he had to do was tell Manning that the offensive philosophy the 49ers employed in 2011 would remain in place.With that ground-based approach and Smith at quarterback, the 49ers won the NFC West with a 13-3 record. The 49ers lost to the eventual Super Bowl-champion New York Giants, in overtime, in the NFC championship game.The 49ers were able to keep their entire dominating defense intact this offseason with a franchise tag for safety Dashon Goldson and the re-signings of cornerback Carlos Rogers and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks.The team added a potential vertical threat with the addition of Randy Moss to a one-year contract to pair with Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game.
It is believed that Manning listened, asked questions, and kept an open mind.The NFL Network reported that Manning has informed the 49ers, Titans and Broncos that his decision will be made Monday or Tuesday.

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