In 2012 Pete Carroll flew to Denver to try and sign free-agent Peyton Manning, and Manning wouldn't go see him

Imagine if Pete Carroll’s recruiting style, which was always a hit at USC, worked on Peyton Manning in 2012.

Manning was a free agent, having been cut by the Indianapolis Colts, and the Seattle Seahawks wanted him. We hear a lot about the San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos chasing Manning that offseason, but not as much about the Seahawks. They really tried.

And had Carroll’s flight to Denver to woo Manning worked out better, maybe Russell Wilson never would have played with the Seahawks.

Peyton Manning refused to meet Pete Carroll

Peter King of NBC Sports recalled some stories about Manning’s free agency for “The Record,” SI.com’s podcast.

The wildest part of the story includes Carroll flying to a small airport in the Denver area that is a couple minutes from the Broncos’ facility. Manning was staying with old Colts teammate Brandon Stokley in Denver as he weighed his options. Manning told Carroll “he really didn’t want them to” fly to Colorado, King said. Carroll flew out anyway. It didn’t go well.

“Manning didn’t go meet Pete Carroll,” King said on “The Record.” “Pete Carroll flew to Denver chasing Peyton Manning and Manning never met with him. He got back on the plane and just flew back to Seattle. It was really kind of a crazy time.”

King said Carroll came on his own, and that didn’t help.

“[Manning] almost put off by the fact that you spent all this time and energy and fuel and whatever to come down here when I told you, ‘It's not going to happen. I'm not doing it,’ ” King said.

Carroll tried and failed. And it turned out really well.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll couldn't land Peyton Manning as a free agent. It worked out well for them both. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll couldn't land Peyton Manning as a free agent. It worked out well for them both. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seahawks won a Super Bowl anyway

The Seahawks in 2012 were a rising team in the NFC. After striking out on Manning, the Seahawks drafted Wilson. King said he believes Seattle would not have drafted Wilson had Manning signed.

Even if the Seahawks still would have used a third-round pick on Wilson, he wouldn’t have started as a rookie. Wilson easily beat out Matt Flynn in 2012, and the next season, Seattle won a Super Bowl, beating Manning and the Broncos. Wilson has had a remarkable career that will likely end up with him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Manning and the Seahawks might have won multiple titles with the “Legion of Boom” defense from 2012-15, when Manning played for the Broncos, but it’s impossible to know that for sure. It’s fair to assume Seahawks fans wouldn’t trade Wilson’s career and the Super Bowl title for whatever is behind the mystery door with Manning starting in 2012.

Carroll’s “Say Anything” moment backfired, but it couldn’t have worked out better in the end. The same can be said for Manning, who had four memorable Broncos seasons including a Super Bowl 50 win.

Manning’s decision to pick the Broncos led to a bunch of “what ifs?” A few franchises had to go in different directions after being turned down by Manning. The Seahawks are one of them, but they’re not complaining.

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