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What if the Arizona Cardinals had actually won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes?

Arizona Cardinals v Denver Broncos Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

As the offseason continues, SB Nation and their football sites will take a look back at some of the biggest “What ifs” for each team.

We talked about the NFL Draft and what if the Cardinals had taken my best player available, and now today we look at a different what if.

In the 2012 offseason, coming off an 8-8 record with John Skelton finding a way to win five games and Kevin Kolb hobbling his way to three wins, the Arizona Cardinals were in the thick of the hunt for one of the most prized free agents in NFL history.

Peyton Manning.

In fact, it was all but sewn up that the Cardinals were getting Peyton Manning:

Gambo: Peyton Manning is Arizona Cardinals’ to lose

Arizona Cardinals Are Reportedly Likely Winners Of Peyton Manning Sweepstakes

Reportedly Only A Bidwill Screw Up Will Keep Peyton Manning From Joining Arizona Cardinals

It was happening. The Cardinals would find a way to overcome the incompetence of the front office on the quarterback front again, they would find their next Kurt Warner, and they would again be ready to run under Ken Whisenhunt.

Of course, it never happened, but what if?

In 2012 Peyton Manning threw for 4600 yards and 37 touchdowns, both would be franchise records, in helping the Broncos to a 13-3 record.

The Cardinals, finished 5-11 and Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves were fired.

If the Cardinals land Manning, there is a very real and likely chance that Bruce Arians in Arizona never happens.

Manning and Whiz would likely mesh well, as Whiz has called some prolific offenses when he has a veteran to lean on.

Look at his work in Arizona with Kurt Warner and with the Chargers in San Diego and LA. His offenses are dynamic.

Manning would have afforded Whiz and company a three-year run like few we have ever seen.

Yet, would it have been enough?

Without Whiz being fired and Bruce Arians brought in, there is no Todd Bowles. Would Ray Horton have ever done enough to give the Cardinals a shot to win it all?

The Cardinals offense with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd at wide receiver would have been dynamic with Manning at the helm, and we know players would flock to come play in Arizona, at least offensively.

The question was always, would there be enough defensively?

The bottom line would have been, unless the Cardinals had a Denver like ride, four winning seasons and a Super Bowl, would Manning’s presence have been worth the extension of Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves for another five seasons?

Or, was the missing on Manning worth the resulting hiring of Bruce Arians and that three year run?

Does Manning in Arizona guarantee a Super Bowl? I don’t feel like the answer is yes, but I definitely would have been okay with finding out.