Examining where Peyton Manning could land

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Examining where Peyton Manning could land

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Peyton Manning could be the missing piece for the Miami Dolphins. Or, the Arizona Cardinals. Maybe even the New York Jets or Seattle Seahawks. Washington, Kansas City, Denver and Tennessee also are possible suitors. But for now, where the free agent quarterback lands is anybody's guess. Including Manning's. "I have no idea who wants me, what team wants me, how this process works," Manning said. "I don't know if it's like college recruiting where you go take visits. I mean, this is all so new to me." The four-time league MVP was released by the Colts on Wednesday after spending all 14 of his NFL seasons in Indianapolis, but made it clear he still wants to play football. Plenty of teams will be interested in the 35-year-old Manning -- as long as he proves he's healthy after missing last season while coming off a series of neck operations. If everything checks out, the laundry list of teams will be lengthy -- a Peyton-palooza of sorts. And, why not? Manning has been one of the greatest to play his position, rewriting record books while throwing for nearly 55,000 yards and 399 touchdowns, and winning a Super Bowl along the way. "I realize that I'm not going to play forever, and I think I'm going to know the time to stop playing," Manning said in South Florida, where he has a home and flew to after the news conference in Indianapolis to announce his release. "But right now," he added, "I still want to play." Rex Ryan's Jets could be the landing spot, a scenario that would have Manning sharing the New York-area headlines with his brother Eli of the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. That sure would ramp things up in their sibling rivalry -- and the teams' back-and-forth battle for the city spotlight. It would also likely signal the end for Mark Sanchez after three up-and-down seasons. The Dolphins have said they would strongly pursue Manning if he became available, even after Matt Moore had a solid season while taking over for a team that has tried to replace Dan Marino since 2000. "Dan Marino is my all-time favorite quarterback after my Dad and after Eli," said Manning, whose father Archie played 14 NFL seasons. "He's No. 3 on my list, so everybody knows how I feel about him. I literally have not had one conversation with anyone about these teams." The Cardinals, three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, are an intriguing possibility with one of the game's top wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald. But they still have a lot of money invested in quarterback Kevin Kolb. "There will be no other Peyton Manning," Colts owner Jim Irsay said. Which is exactly why the quarterback will be one of the most sought-after free agents in NFL history. Here's a look at some of his options: ------ ARIZONA CARDINALS: Certainly having Fitzgerald there would give Manning a game-changing receiver. Arizona would also offer Manning a warm-weather climate. The Cardinals also have been known to go after the big-named signal caller, as they did with Kurt Warner a few years ago. Coach Ken Whisenhunt gave Warner lots of freedom at the line of scrimmage and would have no problem doing that with Manning. The problem? Arizona made a big splash last offseason when it signed Kolb to a huge contract, and would owe him a 7 million roster bonus on March 17 if he remains on the team. ------ DENVER BRONCOS: What about Tebow Time? Well, despite going 8-5 and guiding the Broncos back to the playoffs for the first time in six years, Tim Tebow lost four of his last five starts and completed fewer than half his passes. Team vice president John Elway has said Tebow will be the starter when training camp rolls around -- but stopped short of naming him the QB for the season. That's because there are still plenty of questions about Tebow. The Broncos haven't had a franchise quarterback since Elway retired following his second straight championship more than a decade ago. But they're eager to see what Tebow can do with a regular offseason and dedication to becoming a pocket passer. Sure, he could learn a few things from Manning being around, but his growth could also be stunted. ------ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Matt Cassel was a Pro Bowl quarterback just two years ago, but a healthy Manning would be a step up. A big one. The Chiefs also have a terrific trio of young playmakers in running back Jamaal Charles, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and tight end Tony Moeaki. Manning would have people around him to make plays. And coach Romeo Crennel put the Chiefs in the conversation when he welcomed the idea of having Manning on his team at the NFL combine a few weeks ago. Still, Kansas City owes Cassel 5.25 million this year, 7.5 million next year and 9 million in 2014 -- a hefty bill for a backup. They also have a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll, and general manager Scott Pioli is often hands on when it comes to that side of the ball. Would there be a clash? ------ MIAMI DOLPHINS: When the Dolphins hired the offensive-minded Joe Philbin as coach in January, team officials privately said they would go after Manning if he became available. Miami has money, terrific talent and warm weather: three big selling points. Manning also has a home there. The team has started 16 quarterbacks since Marino retired, but Moore played well last year after Chad Henne was sidelined by a season-ending shoulder injury. There are doubts, though, that Moore is a franchise quarterback, and if the Dolphins don't sign Manning, they may pursue Green Bay's Matt Flynn or try to trade up and draft a quarterback in the first round. ------ NEW YORK JETS: Ryan has repeatedly expressed his admiration and respect for Manning, and the Jets aren't far removed from winning. They went to consecutive AFC championship games before in-fighting contributed to the team finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Sanchez has been the face of the franchise since they traded up to draft him fifth overall in 2009, but the Jets -- who made a huge splash by acquiring Brett Favre four years ago -- have said they will look at every position if they can improve. They also had Tom Moore, Manning's former offensive coordinator, as a consultant last season, although it's unclear if he'll be back. Despite the Jets' recent success under Ryan, the locker-room discord might be a deterrent for Manning. He also might be unwilling to play in the circus atmosphere of New York, a town in which Eli has become a huge star. Think the city's media would play up the sibling rivalry? Salary cap issues also might prevent the Jets from being a true contender. ------ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Seattle has its franchise running back in Marshawn Lynch, and seems to be solid on the outside with receivers Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Doug Baldwin and tight end Zach Miller. The offensive line is young and improved, but the remaining question for Seattle's offense is at quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson toughed his way through a painful pectoral injury for more than half of last season, but was never overly impressive. Manning could be the answer. Still, Jackson has never been given much of a chance as a starter and played fairly well while battling his injury and was respected in the locker room. ------ TENNESSEE TITANS: Fans have already started a "Come Back, Peyton" campaign, with billboards and radio ads pushing for Manning to return to Tennessee, where he starred in college for the Vols. The Titans drafted Jake Locker with the No. 8 pick last April and signed Matt Hasselbeck to a three-year deal last July, but they went 9-7. They have around 30 million in cap space they need to use on finding a pass rush. While a happy homecoming would make for a nice story, general manager Ruston Webster has said twice in the past month -- to season-ticket holders and at the NFL combine -- that the team is happy with its quarterbacks. ------ WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Owner Dan Snyder always seems to be in play when it comes to signing big-name free agents, and the Redskins are in major need of a quarterback. Mike Shanahan has whiffed on three (Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck) in his two years in Washington, and the Redskins are expected to pursue Manning if they can determine he's healthy. They have plenty of cap space, and the Redskins can lobby Manning by saying they'll use that room to be aggressive in free agency. But that also could make them less appealing to Manning, since they're lacking at so many positions.

Let's speculate: Could Les Miles come back to the Big Ten?

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Let's speculate: Could Les Miles come back to the Big Ten?

Les Miles was fired Sunday after 12 seasons as the head coach at LSU.

Miles has an awesome resume: a 114-34 record with 62 SEC wins, plus a national championship in 2007 and another trip to the national title game in 2011. Seven of his 12 seasons ended with double-digit wins, and two of them ended in SEC championships.

So he's sure to be a hot commodity when teams look to fill not-yet-existent head-coaching vacancies this offseason.

As far as we're concerned here in Big Ten Country, though, will a Big Ten program be able to land the Mad Hatter as a high-profile splash?

Miles is a Big Ten product, remember. An Ohio native, he played for Bo Schembechler at Michigan and later coached under Schembechler and Gary Moeller as a Michigan assistant from 1987 to 1994. He has familiarity with the conference and the recruiting grounds.

It's all pure speculation right now, as it's quite possible there will be no openings in the conference when the regular season wraps in late November. But if we were to project which Big Ten programs might be looking for new coaches this offseason, could we find a spot for Miles?

The obvious team that might be parting ways with its current head coach is Purdue. Darrell Hazell has had almost no success running the Boilermakers, currently with a 8-31 record in three-plus seasons and a grotesque 2-22 mark in Big Ten play. That's usually enough for a tenure to come to an end, but is it too much losing to keep Purdue from being an attractive choice for the free agent Miles? Certainly we've seen high-profile coaches take jobs at less-than-power programs before, particularly after wearing out their welcome at their previous spot of employment. Lovie Smith just surprised by taking a job at Illinois after a long career as an NFL head coach. Perhaps Purdue can use similar tactics — new athletics director Mike Bobinski just started his tenure and would surely like to make a splash — and of course there's all that Big Ten TV money that should make competitive pay no problem at all.

But there will more than likely be other suitors from bigger programs and ones with more storied traditions. Could one of them be Penn State? James Franklin is only in Year 3 in Happy Valley, but the Valley isn't so happy at the moment, with the Nittany Lions getting crushed by Michigan on Saturday to show just how big the gap currently is between the top of the Big Ten East Division and Penn State. Bill O'Brien worked wonders in the immediate years after the Jerry Sandusky scandal had such a big effect on the program, but Franklin's continued reclamation effort isn't going too swimmingly in that ultra-competitive division with 7-6 records in each of his first two campaigns. There's certainly a case to be made for giving Franklin more time, but college football fans (and athletics departments) aren't famous for their patience. The tradition and profile of Penn State would have to be attractive to Miles, who dealt with a high-profile environment at LSU, and if the university is real serious about getting the Lions back to the top of college football's heap, bringing in Miles — and his track record of recruiting success — would do it, at the very least from a public-relations standpoint.

And then there's the obligatory mention of Michigan. Michigan? Jim Harbaugh is just in the second year of his tenure and seemingly has a lifelong title set up as the King of Ann Arbor. But should Harbaugh, who's had great success turning the Wolverines around in lightning-quick fashion, head back to the NFL, that would create an opening. Who better to fill that hypothetical vacancy than another Michigan Man in Miles? Miles has had his name linked to Michigan before, of course, with the obvious connection sparking speculation when the Wolverines needed to find replacements for Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. There's no indication Harbaugh's going anywhere, of course — we're in speculation land, remember? — but because it's Miles, the possibility has to be at least addressed.

It's all a guessing game at this point, and there are sure to be other high-profile openings around college football that will become speculative destinations for Miles, not to mention other job titles that aren't "head coach." But it'd be something to see him join the Big Ten's already-loaded roster of head coaches.

White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

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White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

CLEVELAND -- Whether they knew him or not, the overwhelming sentiment throughout the White Sox clubhouse on Sunday is that baseball was robbed of one of its most likeable players when Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident.

Known for his vivid celebrations on the field and his wide, endless smile, Fernandez made a strong impression, whether with his skillset or infinite love of the game. White Sox players had their eyes fixed on several televisions littered throughout the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field on Sunday during a morning press conference confirming the death of Fernandez, 24, and two others.

White Sox reliever Dan Jennings played with Fernandez for two seasons. Though he enjoyed a 3-0 White Sox win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Jennings said his happiness was muted as he mulled the death of Fernandez, who was killed when the boat he was on slammed into a jetty in Miami Beach, Fla.

“He seemed invincible is what it was,” Jennings said. “A lot of guys know what I mean when I say he was invincible on the mound. There were days he was unstoppable, and that’s how you viewed him is invincible. It’s too hard to really put into words what he meant to the game and what he meant to Miami.”

“I just hope to love the game as much as he does some day. It’s tough to do, but he did. He had fun, and he loved the game more than anything.”

Todd Frazier remembers how approachable he found Fernandez in their limited interactions. The two met in the outfield one day after they faced each other for the first time and joked around.

“I was like, ‘Dog, you don’t throw me any fastballs,’ ” Frazier said. “He was like, “Why would I throw you fastballs?’ And we just started laughing.

“That’s the kind of guy he was. You could come up and talk to him. He had an infectious smile and just had a love for the game that I hope every ballplayer could have. It’s a terrible, terrible day.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Fernandez’s death reminded him of the March 22, 1993 accident that took the lives of Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews. Only pitcher Bob Ojeda survived that crash and Ventura remembers the shockwaves it sent through clubhouses throughout baseball.

“I can still remember … just how sad that was,” Ventura said. “You don’t have to know them personally. But they’re within their group, and it breaks everybody up. It really does.”

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon didn’t have a chance to meet Fernandez, a pitcher he admired for his competitive style and bulldog mentality. But another reason Rodon looked up to Fernandez is for the way he seemed to play the game with such joy. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a press conference Sunday that Fernandez enjoyed the game like a Little Leaguer does.

Rodon recently spoke about rediscovering his own joy of baseball. Naturally, Rodon’s thoughts drifted toward Fernandez when he took the mound on Sunday.

“You could tell,” Rodon said. “We had a beautiful day to come out and play and sad to say that one person is never going to get to play again. He’ll be very missed. You can’t take these days for granted. Just hope you guys go home today and tell the people you love, you love them. Losing a person like that is hard.”