Peyton Manning Had Surprising Role in Bears Drafting QB Mitchell Trubisky

QB Peyton Manning

Getty Quarterback Peyton Manning.

In her latest piece for Bleacher Report, Kalyn Kahler examines the wide-ranging influence of retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. Citing everything from multiple networks’ constant pursuit of him to be their next NFL commentator to the sway he still has amongst coaches, owners and GMs around the league, Kahler suggests that Manning remains prominently influential in a league he retired from in 2016.

After his 2016 retirement, Manning began taking part in numerous activities with different teams throughout the league. According to Kahler, Manning did everything from hang out in war rooms on draft day to sit in on various combine interviews. He also “attended preseason quarterback meetings with the Bears,” Kahler says, although she did not note which year(s) after retirement he did this. Kahler then shared an interesting story about the role Manning — inadvertently, no doubt — played in the Chicago Bears’ decision to move up in the 2017 NFL Draft to select Mitch Trubisky.

Bears Wanted to Know What Manning Said to Browns About Trubisky

In the 2017 draft, the Cleveland Browns had the No. 1 pick, along with the No. 12 overall pick in the first round. John Fox, who coached the Bears at the time, knew Manning well after coaching him in Denver from 2012-2014. According to Kahler, Manning, who was friendly with both Trubisky and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, played a key role in the Bears’ thinking during that draft:

“In the weeks leading up to the draft, teams go to extremes to gather information on what other clubs intend to do with their picks. In 2017, the Bears brass was interested in finding out what Manning was doing, even though he had been out of the game for a year. Manning had formed a relationship with North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who had sought Manning’s advice on whether he should declare for the draft or return to school. Chicago, slated to pick third, was in need of a quarterback, and had its aim set on Trubisky. The Browns, though, also were rumored to like him and had the No. 1 pick. They too had a connection to Manning through owner Jimmy Haslam, a major Tennessee booster and someone who has known Manning since his college days playing for the Volunteers.”

Kahler noted the Bears were concerned at the time that Manning, who had spoken to Trubisky about entering the draft, might be praising Trubisky to other teams. Apparently, Ryan Pace and company were fearful Manning was saying great things about Trubisky to his friend Haslam, and the Bears worried Cleveland’s draft capital and need for a quarterback would result in them either grabbing Trubisky with the first pick or trading up from 12 to snag him. Neither happened, of course, but the Bears feared Manning and Haslam were talking about Trubisky, and as it turns out, they were correct:

“A source familiar with the situation says the Bears personnel staff wanted to know if Manning was saying good things about Trubisky to Haslam. Enough to convince the Browns to go quarterback with the first pick? The Bears didn’t necessarily need Manning’s opinion on Trubisky (though then-head coach John Fox had already called to ask him that earlier in the process), but they feared the power that a recommendation from Manning might have in the hands of a draft rival. The Bears, who eventually traded up and selected Trubisky No. 2 overall after the Browns drafted defensive end Myles Garrett, never did find out what was going on in Haslam and Manning’s conversations, but they were correct that the two were talking. Haslam says they did discuss Trubisky that year, but more about his personality than his football traits. Manning, for his part, was oblivious to the cloak-and-dagger machinations going on behind the scenes. “It wouldn’t surprise me,” he says, laughing at the thought of it. “These guys leave no stone unturned.”

Manning wasn’t aware that his influence helped shape the Bears’ thinking during the 2017 draft, but it’s clear that it did, albeit slightly. Ryan Pace was already set on taking Trubisky, so it’s not like Manning changed his mind or shaped his ultimate choice at QB. But Pace’s decision to trade up to No. 2 when he already had the No. 3 pick due to fear other teams would draft Trubisky? Manning’s influence may have very well stoked Pace’s paranoia just enough to help influence that decision, and the rest is history.

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