There's no off-season in the NFL anymore.
As evidence, note that arguably the biggest sports story in America yesterday was about something that didn't happen — a trade of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning to the Houston Texans.
Among those weighing in on this hypothetical was ESPN radio host and TV personality Colin Cowherd, who said on yesterday's broadcast that while the Broncos didn't deal Peyton to Houston (and deny that such a course of action was ever seriously considered), they should have.
Indeed, Cowherd maintained that if another team offered a number 1 draft pick and a Pro Ball-caliber player — particularly a left guard — in exchange for Manning's services, he would take the deal in a minute, since Manning's arm is "cooked."
The whole brouhaha was launched by a pair of tweets on Tuesday by Benjamin Allbright of Mile High Sports. Here's the first....
...and here's the second:
This story wasn't new. As Allbright acknowledged in a subsequent tweet, Matt "Money" Smith discussed it in an NFL.com podcast three weeks earlier.
But for whatever reason, Allbright's tweets were the ones that stuck.
And as the tale circulated, Cowherd went into one of his trademark rants on the topic.
At the outset, Cowherd set up a classic straw man situation, declaring that certain elements of the leadership structure didn't want him talking about the report.
Instead of zipping his lips, though, he was going to "report" that Peyton Manning was finished as an elite quarterback.
Cowherd dismissed the idea that Manning's quad injury last year was the reason for his poor performance during the final part of the season and the Broncos' humiliating playoffs defeat to the Indianapolis Colts.
Rather, he argued that Manning's arm simply isn't what it used to be and he's completely ineffective by the time the cold weather starts to roll in.
According to Cowherd, a number of knowledgeable sources confirmed to him longstanding whispers that Manning has difficulty gripping the ball in chilly weather — and even if he could, he tended to wear down as the season grinds on.
As such, Cowherd declared definitively that Manning isn't a top-five quarterback by the time the games really count and the Broncos can't possibly win a Super Bowl with him.
Oh yeah: He also said that the story had been broken by some "local radio meatball" — or at least I'm pretty sure that's what he said. Allbright heard it differently.
Meatball, meathead or whatever, Cowherd's assertion that higher-ups at ESPN wanted to quash the Manning story (because so many people at the network worship the ground on which he walks) proved to be utterly false.
Note that the Manning report was the lead item on yesterday's episode of Pardon the Interruption, featuring substitute co-hosts Dan Le Batard and Jason Whitlock.
During the conversation, Le Batard speculated that the Broncos had used the possibility of a Manning trade to Houston as leverage to force him to take a pay cut — something he agreed to earlier this year.
In contrast, Whitlock argued that legitimate trade discussions may actually have taken place, since Manning is accustomed to playing for defensive-minded head coaches like Tony Dungy and John Fox who allow him to run the offense his way pretty much unencumbered, but new boss Gary Kubiak prefers the sort of roll outs and behind-the-O-line movement that isn't a part of Peyton's game.
Whatever the case, Manning is the man for the Broncos again this season — and if anyone doubted his motivation for the 2015-2016 season, they needn't do so any longer. You can bet he'll bust his ass to prove the Cowherds of the world wrong.