Who approached whom, the 49ers or Manning?
This one is key to the 49ers chances of landing Manning. If it was the Mannings who came to the 49ers, it's a good sign as far as the team's chances of landing Manning. That is, it means he was pursuing them and not the other way around. It also explains (somewhat) the timeline. Until Monday, all indications were that the 49ers were pursuing Alex Smith, not Manning. Then on Monday or Tuesday morning, perhaps, the team got a call from the Manning camp. "We hear you're having trouble signing Alex Smith. Would Peyton Manning interest you?" Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman flew to Durham, N.C. Tuesday night, watched Manning throw presumably on Wednesday, which leads us to today.
Then again, the rumors that the 49ers were a "mystery team" have been consistent since Manning and the Colts parted ways March 7. On March 11, the Denver Post's Mike Klis wrote that the 49ers soon would be jumping into the fray, which came true. That information certainly began with Manning's representatives, who also represent Smith. That is Smith could have - should have - known about a 49ers-Manning interest for some time now, which might explain why no deal was signed.
How does Tom Condon fit into all this?
Great question. Condon is the agent for both Manning and Smith, which you might say creates a conflict. If, for example, the 49ers never would have gotten into the Peyton Manning hunt if Smith had signed the three-year deal the 49ers had offered, you have to wonder if Condon was advising Smith not to sign, a move that would favor his more high-profile client, Manning.
The other scenario has Smith not signing because he and Condon knew of the 49ers' interest in Manning. Perhaps Condon knew that Smith had no better options elsewhere and has advised him to sit tight while Manning makes a decision. If Manning chooses, say, the Broncos, then Smith is the de facto starter in San Francisco with only a bruised ego as injury. If Manning chooses the 49ers, then Smith hits the open market and competes for a job in yet another new offense in say, Seattle. That is, Smith's best chance to start is in San Francisco, so it's in his best interest to wait out Manning's decision, as painful as that may be.
Is the fact that Manning did not visit 49ers headquarters a factor?
Many readers have asked this. Manning had well-publicized visits to the Broncos, Cardinals, Titans and also met with Dolphins ownership. He has not - that we know about - been to Santa Clara. Again, the answer to this question depends on who pursued whom? If it was Manning doing the pursuing, then it doesn't appear to be a big deal. The Mannings are smart and thorough. They've done their homework on all of the possible destinations. They are familiar with the 49ers, who have been on an organizational hot streak for the last 14 months.
-- Matt Barrows