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Seahawks can thank Manning for spurning them; will he regret it?

Quarterback Peyton Manning passes against the Seahawks on Aug. 17, 2013, in Seattle
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Nearly two years ago, John Schneider and Pete Carroll made one of the few seemingly silly moves of their tenure: They tried to sign a 36-year-old quarterback coming off several neck surgeries.

Fortunately, Peyton Manning declined their unscheduled overture and the Seahawks had to come up with a new flight plan.

Now here they are, poised to face each other in the Super Bowl, and the Seahawks have a chance to make Manning regret his decision while also thanking him for forcing them to gamble on a rookie who now has become one of the best young QBs in the league.

Remember the scene in March 2012? As Peyton took his tour of teams, Schneider and Carroll decided to fly to Denver in the hopes of catching Manning before he left to visit Arizona. They called him from the tarmac, asking him to talk to them before flying out or even on the plane to Arizona. But Manning reportedly didn't like the pressure they were applying and ignored the request.

It was a desperate move by Schneider and Carroll, who embarrassed some fans by joining the teams that were genuflecting before the future Hall of Famer and hoping he would honor them with his presence and provide a quick quarterback fix.

The Hawks were quite obviously scrambling to find a quarterback after realizing Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst were not the answer for their rebuilding team, which had just finished a second straight 7-9 season. Carroll explained the Manning pursuit as just another adherence to his "competition" mantra.

"It’s kind of just classic for us -- just competing to try to find a way -- and we just couldn’t pull it off at that time," Carroll told reporters in 2012. "We had to take a shot at that. It didn’t work out for us there.”

After Manning ended up signing with the Broncos, the Hawks signed Matt Flynn and a month later drafted Russell Wilson in the third round.

With a little assist from Flynn's tired throwing arm, Wilson managed to win a clumsily orchestrated quarterback battle and start for Seattle as a rookie. He set a team rookie record with 26 touchdown passes and an overall team record with a 100 passer rating, making Schneider look like a genius for drafting him and Carroll a savant for allowing him to challenge for the job.

Manning, meanwhile, rebounded from his neck injury to have another brilliant season -- throwing for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns. Manning (105.8) and Wilson were second and fourth in the league in passer rating in 2012.

A year later, Manning -- at age 37 -- has had the greatest season by a quarterback in the history of the league: 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns.

He has validated the Broncos for signing him -- and the handful of other teams, including the Seahawks, that were willing to gamble on his health.

And now that the Hawks will face him for all of the marbles, the what-if game has been played: What if he had decided to sign with Seattle?

He would have joined a team with a strong defense and powerful running game, and it's logical to assume the Hawks would not have done any worse than they have. It's also quite possible that the Hawks might have had a chance to advance to the Super Bowl in 2012 rather than losing in Atlanta. They might have won an extra game early in the season, when Wilson was still learning and the offense was still seeking its footing, that would have given them better than an 11-5 record, earned them a home playoff game and altered their postseason destiny.

Of course, if Manning had become Seattle's starter, Wilson would be riding the bench right now (Carroll said the Hawks were going to draft Wilson no matter which veteran they signed). Wilson would not have posted back-to-back seasons with 26 TD passes and a passer rating over 100 and he might be stuck on the bench for a couple more seasons (Manning said this week that he has no immediate plans to retire).

Rather than live on borrowed time with someone else's aging Hall of Fame quarterback, as the Hawks once did with Warren Moon, Schneider and Carroll were forced to build their own franchise QB.

Schneider's determination to draft Wilson and Carroll's willingness to let him challenge Flynn for the job (Jackson was never really in it, and everyone knows it) has paid off.

Now, rather than patching their offense with an aging future Hall of Famer, the Hawks are building for the long haul behind a young passer. And Wilson's quick emergence has provided the Hawks financial flexibility to add players such as Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett -- players they would not have been able to afford if they were paying Manning $18 million a year.

Of course, the Broncos could have had both Manning and Wilson, who met each other when Wilson made a pre-draft visit to Denver shortly after Manning had signed there (it was actually their second meeting, although Manning did not recall Wilson as a teenager at his passing camp).

The Broncos ended up drafting Brock Osweiler in the second round of the 2012 draft, and the Seahawks eagerly snatched up Wilson in the third round.

Carroll told reporters he hasn't thought about the Manning episode since then, although he did admit, "It's kind of interesting that we're playing at this point and we wound up with Russell and they wound up with Peyton. So it's pretty cool."

He'll probably think it's even cooler if Wilson can help the Hawks make Manning regret his decision to snub Schneider and Carroll in 2012.

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