When the Indianapolis Colts released Peyton Manning in March of 2012, the quarterback became arguably the highest-profile free agent in NFL history. Manning would end up signing with the Broncos and have a storied second-act of his career, leading Denver to a Super Bowl title in 2015.
But before Manning ultimately decided on signing with the Broncos, he visited with other clubs, including the Redskins. The quarterback had a history with then-Washington head coach Mike Shanahan and said in an oral history of his free agency in The Athletic that he was interested in playing for the Burgundy and Gold at the time.
After taking his initial visit to the Broncos on March 9 and 10th, Manning had some extra time before he left Denver. Then, he went to Shanahan's house, where the head coach and then-Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan broke down the team's offense.
Manning was intrigued and interested in signing with Washington. That feeling was mutual, as both Shanahan's wanted the Pro Bowl quarterback to come to the nation's capital.
"We were very much interested in Peyton at that time," Mike Shanahan told The Athletic. "I mean, I followed his career. I know him quite well, so I feel like we had an excellent chance to get him. But knowing that Eli [Manning] was in the NFC East, it surely wasn’t a slam dunk."
However, any chance the Redskins had of landing Manning took a significant hit the day prior to the quarterback's home-visit with the Shanahans.
On March 9, the Redskins traded up from the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to the second selection. With that pick, the Redskins would select the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
With the Redskins moving in a different, younger direction at the quarterback position in Griffin, signing Manning didn't make sense for Washington.
"I had known Mike for a long time, played for him in a Pro Bowl, and we’ve stayed in touch, and so I felt comfortable talking to them," Manning told the Athletic. "But they had made a trade for the second pick of the draft, which they ended up taking Robert Griffin III. So as soon as they made that trade, even Mike kind of knew that eliminated them. It just wasn’t going to make sense. Kind of like the Colts, they were obviously going to go with a quarterback in the first round."
Griffin's tenure with the Redskins started off incredibly, as the quarterback led Washington to their first division title in 13 years as a rookie. But over the next three years, between injuries and other factors, Griffin would never return to his rookie form. He was released by the Redskins following the 2015 season, the same year Manning won a Super Bowl with Denver.
It may be unfair to play the what-if game eight years after the fact, but it's surely worth wondering how different things would have been had the five-time MVP come to play in Washington instead of Denver.
"I think Peyton was disappointed. Kyle and I were kind of surprised that he still wanted to meet with us," Shanahan told the Athletic. "I can remember talking with [Broncos GM John] Elway one time not too long ago, a few years ago. He said, 'Mike, do you realize that Peyton, I think, was going to go to your place? I think he really wanted to go to your place more than our place.' I said, 'Really? I didn’t know that.' And that came from John. I knew we were fairly close."
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