ManningWatch: Myths vs. motivators

For years we've made assumptions and educated guesses about what matters most to Peyton Manning.

We might think Manning likes playing in domes, that he prefers a small market or must have full control of the offensive playbook.

But now, with the longtime Indianapolis Colts quarterback headed toward free agency for the first time, we're about to find out how those assumptions fare in the market.

A quick look at some of them:

  • Wants to play indoors. The fact that Manning has called an indoor stadium home for his entire career could lead us to think he'll want to continue playing in one. And he might. Quarterbacks benefit from controlled conditions. But Manning won a Super Bowl in a rainstorm. Do we really know where stadium type ranks on his list of priorities?

  • Seeks an easy division. This one drew a swift reaction from AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky when we spoke Wednesday morning. To think that Manning would avoid, say, the AFC East for fear of New England? Manning, afraid? Those other teams should fear him, right? And for those casting the NFC West as a soft landing spot, it's time to reconsider. Did anyone see the San Francisco 49ers' defense last season? Seattle and Arizona also put the hurt on opposing offenses at times. And the worst team in the NFC West just hired a coordinator under fire for issuing bounties on quarterbacks.

  • Reggie Wayne as a package deal: This one has been making the rounds quite a bit. As the theory goes, an NFL team could entice Manning by guaranteeing to land his longtime favorite target. But we might be overlooking one small detail, that Wayne will have something to say about where he plays next. We shouldn't just assume Manning and Wayne as a package deal. Kuharsky isn't buying this one, either. For all we know, Manning might really want to play with, say, Pierre Garcon.

  • Manning prefers a small market: Manning played in one for years and flourished there, and we all know he loves to focus on football without distractions. But perhaps no player in NFL history has sought the spotlight as a pitchman as effectively as Manning in recent years. Manning has also embraced opportunities to appear on Saturday Night Live. The evidence suggests he could handle a big market easily and might even prefer one, for all we know.

  • Offensive line important: Every quarterback would benefit from a strong line, but Manning made his offensive line look good, not the other way around. His ability to distribute the ball quickly allowed the Colts to dominate in the passing game without great offensive linemen.

  • Fit matters more than money: This is a fair assumption, but money issues hastened Manning's departure from the Colts. We can assume Manning's next team will pay him handsomely. Manning didn't do all those commercials for free, either. Any NFL team will have to pay Manning. As a side note, every team has enough financial wherewithal to pay him, regardless of an owner's net worth.

  • Control of the offense is key: I'm buying this one as a true motivator, not just a myth. It's tougher to envision Manning adapting his game for a system-oriented offensive coach such as Washington's Mike Shanahan. Manning did control the offense in Indianapolis. Going to a team with a flexible offensive staff would seem to make the most sense.

  • Will not want to face his brother: We have no way of knowing whether Manning would want to avoid the NFC East simply because his brother, Eli, plays for the New York Giants. Tony Dungy has promoted this line of thinking, lending credence to it.

That makes eight potential myths or genuine motivators. I'm guessing you've got one or two more. Manning is about to speak at the Colts' news conference. Perhaps he'll shed some light on what matters most to him.