Mr. Quarterback President

Bleacher Report reports:

After a photograph of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning departing the White House after reportedly golfing with President Donald Trump circulated over the weekend, some in the NFL, busy with OTAs and other offseason shenanigans, started talking about it.

When I asked one AFC general manager his thoughts about the picture, he texted back, succinctly: “Peyton Manning will be president one day.”

He suggested, as did others, that one day America could see a Republican nomination fight between Manning and Tom Brady. Another NFL voice even went so far as to predict a Manning-Brady faceoff against LeBron James for the presidency.

Sure, for now that sounds like science fiction, but it is a fact that some of Manning’s former teammates, and others around football, believe Manning would make an excellent politician. Pat McAfee, who joined the Colts before Manning’s last three years in Indianapolis and is now with Barstool Sports, said he believes Manning would be a great political leader.

“If he was to become a politician, I assume he’d be incredible at it,” McAfee told B/R. “He’s a leader, a tireless worker and a fabulous communicator. I don’t know much about politics, but I think if you have those three traits, you have a chance of being a real world-changer. I hope he gets into it someday; would be great for our country.”

Some of you may love the idea of a Manning presidency. Some of you may have just thrown up in your mouth a little. But before a fight breaks out in this edition of the 10-Point Stance, let’s back up a little to understand why this is even a debate.

TheHill.com reported over the weekend that Manning, Trump and Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, were seen returning from one of Trump’s golf courses. Other reports noted that Manning was later seen on the White House South Lawn with Corker.

As photos of the outing went viral, I texted various players and team executives to get their thoughts, and the responses basically were the same: No one was surprised. …

Around the league, one of the worst-kept secrets was that Manning would go into politics and eventually make a run at the presidency as a Republican. The Trump photo only bolsters that speculation.

Now it’s possible that all Manning was doing was showing respect for the office of the president by golfing with Trump when asked. Maybe it’s as simple as that. Manning has often publicly denied any interest in pursuing politics, and when asked in March about speculation that in 2020 he would run for the Senate, he said he had “no interest in the political world.” Even McAfee told me Manning never mentioned politics to him when they played together, and the two “shared a few beers back in the day,” McAfee said.

But few in football buy it. I’ve heard from former teammates how much Manning actually loves the idea of getting into the political world. Many feel as McAfee does—that Manning would be an excellent politician, and that one day he’d get into it not only to serve but also because it would appeal to his ego.

Republican leaders in the past have said that if Manning ran for office in Tennessee, he’d be a dominant candidate.

“He is a Tennessee hero, and if he should ever choose to use his legendary determination, knowledge and drive in politics, he would be an extremely formidable candidate,” Scott Golden, the Tennessee state party chairman, told the Commercial Appeal in March.

Manning is seen as someone who, in a locker room, united many different kinds of people from all different types of backgrounds. His backers think he could do the same with a city or a state or even the country. (Though he likely would lose the “idiot kicker” vote.) And with Manning’s smarts and leadership ability, some around the league argue he couldn’t do any worse than some of the politicians we see now.

I’m just relaying what I’m hearing. Don’t @ me.

There is, of course, a precedent for athletes getting into politics—Bill Bradley, Lynn Swann, Jack Kemp and former President Gerald Ford, just to name a few (and, interestingly, a lot of them are former quarterbacks). There’s even precedent for a former Tennessee quarterback doing it. Heath Shuler played for the Volunteers and in the NFL before he became a U.S. Representative from 2007-13 for the state of North Carolina.

What I think we’re seeing is Manning perhaps testing the political waters, using Trump as a temperature gauge. Another Michael Freeman (he’s the smart one), a speechwriter and communications consultant, made the point to me on Twitter—and I think he’s right—that Manning wanted the picture with Trump as a way of saying: “If he can do it…”

While a Manning run at the White House is what has some in the NFL talking, it seems unlikely he would start there. More realistic may be a run at a lower level, even for a statewide office, and to then build up, the way Kemp did.

Either way, we might want to start getting used to the idea that Manning may be on CNN a lot more than ESPN in years to come.

Brady vs. Manning, with the winner taking on James in a presidential election? Start writing the speculative fiction now.

Let’s remember, though, that the current president had never run for office before, and the most successful Republican president of my lifetime, Ronald Reagan, was an actor for most of his professional life, though he was governor of California for eight years before running for, then becoming, president.

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