With the 2011 regular season concluding today, the 2-14 Indianapolis Colts have nothing left to do this season but start preparing for the next one.
The top pick in the 2012 NFL draft is theirs, and they could do several things with that. If they decide to use it on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, they would likely try to trade Peyton Manning to another team and secure some high draft picks. If they decide to stick with Manning at quarterback, however, they could utilize the top pick to secure some extra talent.
Despite their options, I think their best bet is to stick with Manning, and if they don't, he may not be playing anywhere next year.
Manning's whole career has been played in Indianapolis, and he seems to have a genuine attachment to the franchise that he has grown into a Hall-of-Famer with. Just a year ago, nobody would have dreamed there would be a tangible chance of Manning leaving the Colts.
But with the Colts drafting first and the supposed next great franchise quarterback available, Indianapolis may be inclined to draft Luck and start rebuilding.
However the Colts decide to do it, Manning will not likely be playing for anyone else next year, and he certainly won't be content to sit behind Luck. In other words, Manning will either start for the Colts next year or decide to call it quits.
It may seem crazy to say Manning would give up playing football when he's seemingly in his prime, but as I said before, he's been with Indianapolis since his rookie season and he has started every season for them before this one.
The drama that has surrounded Brett Favre since his departure from Green Bay may discourage Manning from going elsewhere and trying to play for a different team at this stage in his career. If the Colts decide to part ways with Manning, he very well may decide to end his playing career and get into coaching or commentating, both of which he would be great at.
We must not forget, however, that before Manning's neck injury sidelined him for a season, he was still going strong. He had an outstanding season in 2010 despite having little to work with at receiver, and even if Luck is drafted, there's still a chance he sits behind Manning for awhile before taking the reigns.
With that being said, we can't forget about Archie Manning's comments that Andrew and Peyton would not want to play together.
Regardless of what happens, it's hard to see Manning doing anything but starting for the Colts or retiring, and he might feel the same way.