A team that was once was the crème of the football crop has turned into a quarterback controversy that exceeds all definitions of what a quarterback controversy is. I am, of course, talking about the great Peyton Manning who, even though he didn’t play all year because of a neck injury, should have been given this year’s Most Valuable Player award because without him playing behind center (or in shotgun) the team absolutely stunk it up. It really was easy to see the Colts had talent, in one man, and that man is Peyton Manning.
At 2-14, with no road wins, the Colts stunk it up so bad this year that they now have the number one draft pick and are poised to go with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Yes, the Colts won the so-called “Suck for Luck” campaign, but with Manning supposedly healthy and ready to return the question remains, should the Colts look to the future with Luck or should they hold onto their past with Manning? Or can they afford both?
It’s a decision Colts owner Jim Irsay must make by March 8 when the four-time MVP is owed a $28 million roster bonus. Irsay can either pay him the money or cut him loose.
It must be said that neck injuries, particularly like Manning’s, are often big mysteries. Will he actually be healthy and ready to play the game of football? What are the risks Manning is submitting himself to if he takes some sort of nasty shot to the neck? Should Manning even be on the playing field after several neck procedures?
With a full season of rehab behind him, Manning’s doctors are saying he’s cleared to play and I guess Manning and his doctors know best. The Colts training staff, however, have not yet cleared Manning to play. Whether this decision is under the direction of Irsay or not, nobody really knows for sure. One thing that is for sure is the notion that Irsay is caught between a rock and a hard place with the whole Manning thing.
If he is being completely business minded, and, as an owner in the NFL he should be, Irsay should look to the future and find a way to dish Manning out to another team and start fresh with the young legs and throwing arm of Andrew Luck. This is a business decision; it should be that easy.
On the other hand, this is Peyton Manning you’re talking about. This guy has been the Colts franchise for the past decade. Originally drafted by the Colts in 1998, Manning hadn’t missed a single game until he sat out last season. In those 208 starts, he threw for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdown passes. This is the guy the Colts have been married to, and I’d say most of their success is due to the playing ability of Manning. In a way, he’s the guy who revolutionized the audible-driven offense. There are many quarterbacks who mimic what Manning does but can’t do it with the poise and efficiency that’s Manning’s signature.
So to say that the Colts must make a business decision by throwing Manning to the curb for a young punk out of Stanford is ludicrous, too. You know if Manning were to start next year he’d win at least eight games, and these days that’s all the winning you’d need to make the playoffs. It would be like (maybe not to this extreme) the Denver Broncos deciding to get rid of John Elway just after he won his second Super Bowl. I know he retired after that but what if that wasn’t his decision and he wanted to continue to play? Would Denver want to look to the future or would they stick by the guy who is and has been the team’s franchise for so long? In Denver, it would be a simple decision. Elway could have started as long as he wanted to, even if they had to wheel him out to the huddle in a wheelchair. No way Denver would have ditched Elway if he didn’t want to go.
On a side note, I have to say I love the notoriety the Denver Broncos have right now with Tim Tebow. I wore a bright orange Broncos hat during a long (very long) weekend in Las Vegas two weeks ago and I must say its been a long time since I’ve had that many positive reactions to a Broncos hat from random people. I had people screaming across casinos in the middle of craps, “Go Broncos!” or, “Tebow!” People are excited about the Broncos, and win or lose with Tebow Denver’s football organization is relevant everywhere. Hell, I even had a Las Vegas cop give me a high five on my hat, knowing full well that had I just robbed a bank, he would have let me go just because of the hat.
Never underestimate the power an exciting quarterback can have on fans. I think it’s only prudent for us Denver fans to keep in the back of our minds that what’s happening in Indy right now can very easily happen in Denver at any time. Denver needs a backup to Tebow, and when they get one the question will be, is he better than Tebow. I don’t want to be embroiled in a quarterback controversy any more, and the possibility of there being one is all too real in Denver.
OK, enough of that tangent, back to the Colts. So what does Irsay do? If there is any way he can have both quarterbacks, he’d better find a way. Make Manning your starter next season and see what his level of playing ability is. The team owes it to Manning. Plus, if his playing ability comes back, you know he’s going to be good. Manning has never been just a mediocre quarterback. Let Luck ride the pine a few years, learn from Manning and then send him out to retirement with a flourish. The Colts cannot get rid of Peyton Manning. It wouldn’t be right. Of course, not doing so wouldn’t be a savvy business decision.
Best of luck to you Indy. No pun intended.