You want to know how bad the Miami Dolphins need Peyton Manning? Let's start with a little history lesson. You know what they say about filling the shoes of a Hall of Famer -- you can't. Ever since the retirement of Dan Marino in 2000, the Dolphins were left trying to find any quarterback who can start and make them a respectable offensive team. When you had the likes of Jay Fiedler, Joey Harrington, Chad Pennington and Chad Henne trying to carry the weight of a franchise on their shoulders, you have to ask how far did they really expect to go with these guys?
Their defenses were respectable and the running attack improved over the years (ironically after Marino left), but the efforts since Marino left only yielded three playoff appearances, two W ild Card round eliminations and a divisional round appearance. The first two appearances came immediately after Marino left and their last playoff appearance was in the 2008 season, losing in the Wild Card round to the Baltimore Ravens. Now the franchise is in the hands of Matt Moore, the former Carolina Panther, who had a career season throwing for 2,497 yards, completing 60.5 percent of his passes with a 16-9 touchdown to interception ratio and a 87.1 quarterback rating. He also fumbled the ball 14 times and lost 6 of them, both also career highs.
So what would a 80, much less, a 50 percent Peyton Manning do? While comparing Manning and Moore's numbers is like comparing the forbidden apple from the Tree of Knowledge to a rotted, bruised and dehydrated orange, let's just say that Manning's in the caliber of elite quarterback that creates the offensive stars around him. Few others like Brett Favre, Tom Brady or even Dan Marino share that very distinction.
Without Manning to put the Indianapolis Colts on his back, you would have never heard of the likes of Edgerrin James, Pierre Garçon, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark or Marvin Harrison. Need proof? In James' final three seasons with the Colts, he averaged 1,437.7 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns a season. His final four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks? 755 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns a season, keeping in mind that he only topped 1,000 yards in his first two seasons with the Cards.
Receiver Brandon Stokley's best season came in 2004 with the Colts where along with Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, they became the first NFL team to have three 1000-yard receivers with 10 or more touchdowns in a single season. That season also marked the year Manning broke Marino's single-season record for passing touchdowns, throwing for 49.
So what would Peyton Manning bring to the Dolphins?
It doesn't matter that receiver Brandon Marshall is a Chicago Bear, because he'll make stars out of Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano. Running back Reggie Bush already knows what it's like to be in a pass-heavy offense, from his time with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. As long as they solidify the offensive line to protect him, Manning will hard to beat even at 80 percent of his capabilities. He is a cerebral assassin with his audibles and quick release.
He'll, in the very least, improve production of the primary receivers by 50 percent of what was last season. While no current Dolphin receiver topped 600 yards receiving this season, you can guarantee that Manning will change that. While the Dolphins don't need to draft a Justin Blackmon, a Michael Floyd or a Stephen Hill to put them over the top, Manning could make do with a Kendall Wright, Juron Criner or an Alshon Jeffery - and make any of them a true No. 1 receiver.
With Manning entrenched with the passing attack, it should better aid in the development of running back Daniel Thomas and improve the rushing stats of Bush into a 1,500-yard back as Manning will have no problem leaning a little more towards the run to protect his surgically-repaired neck.
There is also a matter of Indy expatriates in running back Joseph Addai and tight end Dallas Clark that may help improve the Dolphins through their familiarity with Manning. Both Addai and Clark combine for 94 touchdowns and 15 years of NFL experience. Who wouldn't want to see Manning and the Dolphins against Brady and the Patriots go at it every year for AFC East supremacy twice a year? (No offense to the Jets).
To rephrase the earlier question, how do you replace a Hall of Famer? With the one who broke his records.