Jets should pass on Peyton

FILE - Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning watches

FILE - Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game. (Jan. 1, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Bob Glauber

Newsday columnist Bob Glauber Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He

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INDIANAPOLIS

Jets coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum seemed adamant at the end of the season that Mark Sanchez will remain the team's starting quarterback in 2012.

That all changed Thursday when the team's top two decision-makers left open the possibility of signing Colts quarterback Peyton Manning if he is released in the coming weeks. Ryan and Tannenbaum continued to support Sanchez, but they left the distinct impression that they'd give the idea of signing Manning very serious consideration.

"Mark's our starter and we feel good about that," Tannenbaum said. "But if other opportunities came along at whatever position, we'll look into it."

Fair enough. After all, we're talking about a future Hall of Fame quarterback here, not some run-of-the-mill veteran passer. And the Jets are coming off a season in which Sanchez's play, especially down the stretch -- when they lost three straight games to drop out of playoff contention -- was troublesome.

The Jets certainly are within their rights to consider signing Manning, thus creating their biggest news since their trade for Packers quarterback Brett Favre four years ago. But there are sufficient complications that ultimately should convince them that making a play for Manning isn't necessarily in their best interests right now.

First of all, speaking of Favre -- how'd that work out?

Manning has had four surgeries to address problems in his neck, and he still hasn't recovered full strength in his passing arm because of continued nerve regeneration issues. Manning's hope is to get back to as close to 100 percent as possible, but there are no guarantees.

Manning had never missed a game in his entire NFL, college or high school careers before last season, so there's also the issue of how quickly he can return to prominence. He may be Peyton Manning, but even he would have some major rust.

Remember, when Manning had surgery to remove an infected bursa sac in his left knee before the 2008 season, he didn't play in a preseason game and struggled early in the year. He had 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in his first seven games before finally getting untracked in the second half of the season. Who knows how long it would take him to return to form after missing an entire season?

There's also Manning's age to consider. He'll turn 36 next month, and even though he has kept himself in remarkable shape over the years, he's still at an age when many quarterbacks begin to go downhill.

For some historical perspective, look at another example of a Hall of Fame quarterback who missed an entire season because of an injury and what happened when he returned with another team.

Former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana sat out the 1991 season after undergoing surgery on his right elbow. At age 36, he was traded to the Chiefs before the 1993 season, and he played only two more years before retiring. The best the Chiefs did with him was reaching the AFC Championship Game in Montana's first year with them.

Sanchez was the Jets' quarterback in back-to-back AFC Championship Games his first two seasons. And he was the winning quarterback when the Jets beat Manning's Colts in Indianapolis in a wild-card playoff game in January 2011. That's the last time Manning played.

Another factor working against the Jets: the competition for Manning's services. Nearly a half-dozen teams are expected to make a play for him, and the Jets might not be at the top of that list. The Redskins, Seahawks, Dolphins, Chiefs and Cardinals figure to be in the mix, and Washington and Miami no doubt will offer huge dollars in a deal. The Jets have some salary-cap limitations and also have needs at several other positions. That could limit an offer to Manning.

Don't forget, too, that the Jets have hired offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who stresses the run-oriented offense that Ryan himself espouses.

And then there is Sanchez himself. Do you give up all that you have invested in him the last three years, not only from a financial standpoint but the draft picks surrendered in the blockbuster trade to get him in 2009? And suppose you go after Manning and don't get him? Do you really want to risk messing with a young quarterback's already fragile confidence level?

Sanchez, still only 25 years old, has shown promise in the early part of his career. Those four road playoff victories shouldn't be ignored, even if there have been other struggles along the way.

Put it all together, and the risk-reward on this one just doesn't add up. If the Jets truly believe in Sanchez, they need to stand by their conviction regardless of the Manning temptation.