Namath Says Manning Would Snub Jets Because of Team Dysfunction

Joe Namath
Former NFL player Joe Namath on Aug. 30, 2011 in New York City. Photographer: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The only quarterback to lead the New York Jets to a Super Bowl championship said he doubts Peyton Manning would be interested in trying to match his feat.

Joe Namath told Bloomberg News that Manning wouldn’t want to join the Jets with their present roster and locker-room dysfunction, and said current quarterback Mark Sanchez has the ability and work ethic to be the signal-caller of the future.

Manning, 35, was released two days ago by the Indianapolis Colts after 11 Pro Bowl appearances, four league Most Valuable Player awards and a Super Bowl title following the 2006 season. The Jets finished 8-8 in 2011, the end of the season marred by locker-room controversy including verbal altercations between Sanchez and receiver Santonio Holmes.

“The Jets have to get things together on their own turf before someone with his background would be interested in coming,” Namath, 68, said yesterday in a telephone interview from his Florida home.

The Reno, Nevada-based Cal Neva sports book gives the Jets a 9.5 percent chance of signing Manning. The Arizona Cardinals are favorites with a 19 percent chance, followed by the Miami Dolphins at 16.5 percent.

“We appreciate Joe and he is entitled to share his opinions,” Jets spokesman Bruce Speight said in an e-mail.

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, a free agent after two years in New York, told the NFL Network that Manning could help the Jets win. He called the team’s locker-room issues last season the worst he’d seen in his 11-year National Football League career.

Sanchez, 25, will be entering his fourth NFL season.

Desirable Free Agent

Manning’s release by the Colts made him one of the most desirable free agents in NFL history. He won 141 games in Indianapolis, where he helped the Colts become one of the league’s elite teams with a $720 million stadium.

Manning turns 36 on March 24 and is working his way back from at least three operations on his neck that kept him sidelined for all of last season. He said he has no plans to retire and is eager to play again.

By cutting Manning, the Colts avoided having to pay him a $28 million bonus. The team has said it will select Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft.

Namath said that with Manning’s absence last year, the bonus and Luck’s availability, he wasn’t surprised the quarterback was released.

“Your heart might be in one place, but business is business,” he said. “The No. 1 question is, ‘Is he going to be satisfied with the strength in his throwing arm?’”

Namath’s Prediction

Namath led the American Football League in passing in 1966 and 1967, and became a national celebrity after he delivered on his prediction that the Jets would beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the 1969 Super Bowl. He retired after the 1977 season and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

Namath changed teams late in his career. In 1977, at age 33, he was waived by the Jets and signed with the Los Angeles Rams, where he played four games in one season.

Namath started eight games for the Jets in 1976, and said yesterday that he didn’t think he would have regained the starter’s spot and wanted to play with a contender. He said the process of leaving New York was “excruciating,” and that he struggled to adjust to the new life and team in Los Angeles.

‘Wasn’t Prepared’

“What was difficult for me, that I didn’t anticipate, was how much all the newness could get in the way and be a distraction,” he said. “I wasn’t prepared for that feeling. The new faces, new places, new system.”

Namath said Manning’s attention to detail and preparation may allow him to adjust faster to a new team.

“He’ll handle it much better than I did,” Namath said.

If he could do it again, Namath said, he would have stayed in New York. Due to knee and hamstring injuries, he found out in Los Angeles that he was no longer physically able to play to his satisfaction.

“I didn’t know that when I made the decision to make the move,” Namath said. “Knowing that I wasn’t up to par physically, I wouldn’t have left the Jets, absolutely not.”

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