Peyton Manning now walks into alien territory, a man without a football team, but his former coach, Tony Dungy, believes it won't be long before he joins a contender.
"It's a very, very difficult day," Dungy told NFL Network on Wednesday, just minutes before Manning's teary farewell to the city of Indianapolis. The difficult nature of this breakup now gives way to Manning's highly anticipated next chapter, and Dungy believes that could take place in San Francisco.
"I can't speak for Peyton. There's a number of teams out there," Dungy said. "San Francisco, I look at what they did and whether they've made that commitment to Alex Smith yet, I don't know. I don't know where they stand, but that's a team that's got great defense, it has some young receivers, a very good tight end and a good back, that, you put Peyton Manning in that offense and people are going to be scared to play them."
This flies in the face of a report by NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora, who says the 49ers are focused on re-signing Smith and won't chase Manning, according to a team source. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh also voiced steady support for Smith at last month's NFL combine.
Wherever he lands, Manning is motivated to return to the field better than ever, according to Dungy, who coached the Colts from 2002 to 2008. Dungy said Manning has the ability to lift players around him the same way Joe Montana did for the Chiefs in 1993 and 1994.
"(Peyton) definitely feels like his arm strength is back," Dungy said, "and in terms of physically throwing the ball, he feels like he's good there, and he definitely wants to play. And the last conversation I had with him, he feels like doctors have given him the total OK to move forward, that he's not going to be in any health risk, and he really wants to get back out on the field.
"So, I think you are going to see the old Peyton Manning. I think you're going to see a guy who's really driven and he is going to be a benefit to someone."