First I would like to start by saying that I am a Colts fan first and foremost. I love Peyton Manning and all he did for my franchise. Without him we would have been a mediocre at best team over the past 14 years. So I'm not writing this without prejudice.
That said I think that it's very nearsighted to claim that the 49ers were the best fit for Manning.
Were they the best team in the running for him? Yep, by a lot. Their defense is among the best in the league and their offense seems primed to explode given the right QB at the helm. The only issue seems to be the fact that they are a power run team... In fact that's Harbaugh's MO.
What I'm about to say, none of us will ever know for sure, that said these are logical assessments about the 49ers and their bid to get Peyton in San Fran.
#1. Anytime you have a 5-6 hour meeting with a franchise you probably cover basic salary requests. And since Peyton probably wasn't making up a new figure every ten to fifteen minutes it's likely that the same numbers/time frame were pitched to every team and the teams in the running were clearly okay with the price/time. If they weren't they wouldn't have been in the picture.
#2. The 9ers offense, while needing a QB, have an established system. It's really been no secret that Peyton will want flexibility in what he runs, and the 49ers don't seem to be willing to abandon that system for Manning or any other player, it's kind of part of Harbaugh's mantra.
For that reason alone I believe that Peyton Manning skipped out on playing in San Fran. It wasn't a good fit for what he wanted to do. He's 36 he doesn't want to learn a new system, he want's to import his own.
And the Titans, I believe that the Titans were only in the picture because the owner offered him everything he had, and any player would be an idiot not to at least consider an ownership option. When push came to shove, the Titans were a poor fit.
And here's why I believe he chose the Broncos:
#1. They changed their entire offense last season (mid season even) for Tim effing Tebow. The coaching staff has shown a willingness to modify everything to fit the strengths of their roster. Without an established "system" in place Peyton will have free roam over the offense just like he had in Indy.
#2. They have a decent, but not great defense that will be made far better by an offense that doesn't give the ball back every 3.5 downs. Peyton's ability to control the clock will go a long way to covering holes in the D.
#3. They have decent pieces on O. The guys they currently have will look very much improved with Peyton throwing it around, that and the Broncos have the cash to make a big move or two to give Peyton a new toy if they decide to do so.
I honestly believe that Peyton put word out what his salary requirements were and if you couldn't stand the heat you got out of the kitchen. So money, while totally a factor didn't change his mind one way or another as it dealt with these final three teams. I believe Manning's desire to bring in his system, and how well his future team would accommodate was paramount to him choosing the Broncos.
Reasons people who say Peyton can't possibly win a ring in Denver are wrong.
Argument #1. Denver isn't a good team, their roster has holes and isn't good enough to win a super bowl.
Reason this is an asinine argument: 2010 the Colts even though decimated by injuries manage to ward off the "super bowl hangover" and make the playoffs. Cut to 2011, with an improved Oline the Colts go 2-14. The difference? Manning. Manning is capable of taking a BAD team and making them contenders. He knows this. And I really thought that Colts fans knew this. Maybe some of you just forgot how good he is? Denver put a better product on the field in 2011 than the Colts did in 2010, with Peyton Manning at QB they challenge for the AFC title.
Argument #2. Who will Peyton Manning throw to? Blair White. Jacob Tamme. Two names that you know. The only reason you know them is because Peyton Manning was able to make them look respectable and at times really decent. Michael Jordan made Scottie Pippen look like a great player. Again this is a lack of acknowledgement of Manning's ability. Good players look great around Manning.
Argument #3. Peyton won't be 100%. True. No way will his arm strength be what it was before. He's 36, he hasn't been able to throw a football for a long time and he's only going to get back so much. The issue is, Peyton's arm strength has never been a huge factor in his game. He hasn't consistently thrown more than 40 yards since he was in his late 20's anyway. His game doesn't need a cannon to be great, he needs average to good strength and the cognitive ability to read a defense at the line, something he hasn't lost. His arm strength won't be the same, but the thin air and his pre-snap ability will allow Manning to play at an all pro level again.
In summary I believe the Broncos are the best fit for Manning despite the 49ers being the better team. Peyton's ability to elevate the play of those around him as well as the ability to run his offensive system makes the Broncos a superior fit for Manning. There are several reasons why the Broncos just plain make sense for Peyton.
I look around Colts nation and it makes me sad to see so many people who have forgotten how much Peyton was able to do with so little, the Broncos already have more in place than the last team that Peyton carried to the super bowl.
I will bleed blue forever and next year I'm hoping that Andrew Luck makes history, and brings home the Lombardi trophy as a rookie. But if he can't I'll be pulling for Denver to do what we couldn't.