JERSEY CITY, N.J. – One morning in the offseason of 2012, Seattle coach Pete Carroll's phone rang early.
On the other end was perhaps the most coveted free agent in NFL history, Peyton Manning.
"He gave me a call, woke me up one morning," Carroll said. "Jumped out of bed and (said), ‘OK, let’s go. What’s up Peyton?’ So we started talking."
Like every other team that had a need at quarterback, the Seahawks were interested in Manning after the Colts cut him. Word of Seattle's interest reached Manning, who made the call to Carroll himself.
That's what led to Carroll telling the story about the Seahawks' pursuit of Manning a couple years ago.
"Well, it was brief," Carroll joked.
Seattle wasn't the right fit for Manning, and they didn't last too long in the race to land him. And strangely enough, it might have been a hidden blessing for the Seahawks. They drafted Russell Wilson in the third round that year. Manning has a $15 million base salary. Wilson made a little more than $526,000 this season. With that extra money to spend the Seahawks built a great roster and ended up in the Super Bowl against Denver, the team Manning eventually picked.
But hey, it was exciting to try to woo Manning for the short time he was listening.
"We tried to get involved with that to see if there was a next stage of the process, and there wasn’t," Carroll said. "It was very brief. It was fun for a while, with the magnitude of the player, and the background, and all of that."
Manning had his own Carroll story. Years ago Manning had to be in Southern California for a commitment during the summer and wanted to work out, so he asked then-USC coach Carroll if he could work out with his players. Manning figured that he would just jump into whatever drills the USC players had already planned to do. There were eight receivers, four tight ends and four running backs all stretched and ready when Manning arrived.
"I said, ‘What routes do you want to run?’" Manning said. "They said, ‘No, Coach Carroll said we are going to throw whatever routes you want to run. This is going to be your workout.’"
Manning appreciated it. It just wasn't enough for him to pick the Seahawks when they showed interest.
"You can only pick one team to go play for," Manning said. "It reminded me of college somewhat, that you would like to play for a lot of teams. Go play for this team for a year, maybe give this team four or five games and bounce around. It’s not the way it works; you have to pick a team."