How will Peyton Manning fit into head coach Gary Kubiak's new offensive system? Will the Denver Broncos become a run-first, pass-second team, focused on zone blocking schemes and rollouts? Will Manning be asked to snap from behind center, as opposed to out of the shotgun? Or will the philosophies behind Peyton Manning's NFL offenses remain in tact, with The Sheriff running the show, playing no huddle, pre-snap Jedi mind tricks and airing it out?
Peyton Manning would love to know. The thing is, he can't talk with his head coach about it.
The NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits players from meeting with coaches until a certain point in the offseason. Under Article 21, Section 2(a)(ii), players "are not permitted to participate in . . . group or individual meetings with coaches" prior to the start of the team's official offseason workout program. It's the same issue that got Manning in hot water when he bumped into Adam Gase at the University of Alabama last offseason. Manning was only able to avoid a violation because he and Gase were careful not to talk football.
Those are the same stipulations underlying any conversation Manning can have with coach Kubiak this year.
"No, I haven't made a decision," Manning said at his Bart Starr Award Breakfast Friday. "I'm still trying to take some time to evaluate some things, to talk to some people. Obviously the Broncos have been quite busy hiring a staff, but I have had some dialogue with Coach Kubiak and did have a chance to see him in person the other day.
"These NFL rules are a little different," Manning continued. "You're not allowed to talk football so it was a chance for he and I to really kind of get to know each other and I really enjoyed my visit with him."
Manning said he's looking forward to a subsequent visit with Kubiak, and is also looking forward to meeting with Broncos President Joe Ellis and Vice President/GM John Elywa.
"There has been quite a lot of change since our last game, so I want to hear what they have to say and get their thoughts on some things and share some thoughts of my own with them and get their feedback," said Manning. "I have great respect for all three of those men. Obviously I don't know Coach Kubiak as well as Joe and John, but I'm looking forward to conversations I'm allowed to have with him. It's difficult to sit and talk to a football coach and not discuss football. We had dinner and you eat and you sit in silence for a little bit until you think about what you're allowed to talk about (laughing). But I did enjoy getting to know him, a little bit about his family and his history and sharing a little bit of mine with him. I look forward to doing that again."
But then Peyton answered the question that mattered. Does he need to talk about football to decide whether to come back?
"If I choose to come back, I feel pretty comfortable aside maybe from Tubby Raymond's Delaware Blue Hen Wing T offense, I feel pretty comfortable playing in any offense," Manning said. "I really do. So I don't see that being really a factor."
There's the answer. Are NFL rules getting in Peyton's way? No; not completely. He knows he can run whatever schematic tweaks Kubiak throws at him.
But these rules still have to be frustrating Manning. He talked about one of the other big factors in his decision-making: building relationships.
"Really the relationships-when you talk to ex-players-is what they remember the most," Manning said.
Manning was speaking of friendships, of course, but there's something to be said for the importance of developing a working relationship with your coach. Manning was closer to Adam Gase than anyone on the Broncos staff because their football minds were so in-tune with one another. Knowing that his mind and his colleague's mind are on the same wavelength on Sundays is going to be paramount for Peyton. And Manning can't determine whether he and Kubiak mesh in this regard.
These offseason rules, argued for by the NFL Players Association for their presumed benefit, are now a hindrance to one of the NFL's highest profile players.
Just let Peyton and Kubes talk football so Manning can decide whether he'll play it in 2015.