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Mike Shanahan, Peyton Manning To Share The Same Field

A meeting in March 2012 between the Redskins’ head coach and the free agent quarterback was designed to get Manning to Washington, but he instead chose to sign with Denver.

BY ZAC BOYER

ASHBURN – In desperate need of a quarterback around which Mike Shanahan could structure his rebuilding project, the Washington Redskins’ head coach and his son, Kyle, the offensive coordinator, met with Peyton Manning in Denver in March 2011.

Manning, released by the Indianapolis Colts after 13 seasons, faced innumerable questions about his health and his future after spinal fusion surgery kept him from playing at all during the 2011 season.

There was just one problem: A day earlier, the Redskins had finalized a trade with the St. Louis Rams that would net them the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft – a pick they would likely use on either of the two top college quarterbacks, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.

“In some ways, that sort of changed a lot of things,” Manning said Wednesday.

On Sunday, the two will share the same field for the first time since that meeting when the Redskins head west to face the Broncos.

Shanahan knew from the meeting it was unlikely Manning would sign with the Redskins. After all, their salary cap situation was in flux – the team didn’t have the ability to pay the quarterback, and a penalty levied days later further tightened its wallet – and there was one other factor weighing heavily against choosing Washington.

“Any time you have a brother within the same division, that wasn’t going to happen,” Shanahan said. “And so even though I enjoyed spending time with him, my [feeling] was understanding from a family standpoint, it would be very tough to come within the same division, especially in the NFC East.”

Manning narrowed his choices to the Broncos, the San Francisco 49ers and the Tennessee Titans shortly thereafter, then signed a five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos 10 days the after meeting.

“I enjoyed that visit with him and Kyle both,” Manning said. “I was very impressed with Kyle Shanahan, and like I said, Mike and I have had somewhat of a relationship for quite some time now being in the NFL as long as I have.”

Manning threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdown passes last season, the third-most in the league, and set team records in nearly every major passing category. With him, the Broncos went 13-3 and won the AFC West.

And, he hasn’t slowed down at all this season. His 2,565 passing yards are on pace to easily top New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ record of 5,476 yards from 2011, and the Broncos’ 42.6 points per game would shatter the New England Patriots’ modern-day record of 36.8 points from 2007.

Only the Colts, who ruined Denver’s undefeated start with a 39-33 victory in Manning’s return to Indianapolis on Sunday, have been able to figure out how to stop the Broncos. They were able to get sufficient pressure with their four-man front, leaving their linebackers to patrol the middle of the field and their defensive backs to control the receivers.

“We have to play our best game,” safety Reed Doughty said. “I think defensively, we’ve had some really good moments – and you can have moments just like the Colts had moments [on Sunday] and then he scores 21 real quick. … Whatever it is we do, we have to do it to our best.”

Shanahan and Manning first met at the Pro Bowl in 2005, when each represented the AFC. Since then, Manning said he’s maintained a tremendous respect for Shanahan.

“Just in that one time, I really felt like you can see why he’s been so successful as a coach,” Manning said. “The way he operates, just the schedule, the meetings, and you get to talk a little bit of football with him as well, so I definitely enjoyed that week.”

A version of this story appears in Friday’s edition of The Free Lance-Star.

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