Manning, once considered the top QB in the NFL, sat out the entirety of 2011 with a neck injury. To say his team struggled in his absence would be a massive understatement.
The Colts, used to being perennial Super Bowl favorites, used three quarterbacks and dropped to 2-14, tied for the worst record in the league.
Due to strength of schedule, Indy won a tiebreaker with the St. Louis Rams for the top pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Andrew Luck, a quarterback from Stanford and a two-time Heisman trophy finalist, seems like the logical choice at No. 1 for the Colts. That, along with the fact that team Vice Chairman Bill Polian and General Manager Chris Polian were fired on Tuesday, have cast clouds over Peyton's future in blue and white.
If the Colts decide to move forward with Luck and release Manning's whale of a contract, the Jets might be primary suitors.
Mark Sanchez, a third-year QB from USC led the Jets to back-to-back runs to the AFC championship but faltered to a disappointing 8-8 record last year.
With a relatively strong supporting cast, more was expected from Rex Ryan's team this year, and the big-mouthed coach might think that it's time to move past the Sanchez experiment, or at least postpone it a few seasons.
Here's a look at how this would affect the teams and other people involved:
Whoever ends up being the Colts next GM, he will instantly have to make some huge decisions.
Andrew Luck is the relatively clear No. 1 choice, even if former Indy coach Tony Dungy thinks the mobile Robert Griffin III might be a more clever choice, and with the Colts owning that pick, it will tough to pass up on Luck, who is probably the most hyped college QB since...Peyton Manning in 1998.
If the Colts make Luck the fourth consecutive quarterback to go No. 1, it leaves a quandary in that department if Manning is healthy.*
The first option could be to postpone the rebuilding plan and sit Luck for a year, giving Manning and his veteran teammates a chance at trophy. If Manning doesn't look like his old self, the rookie would always be able to relieve him.
It seems very unlikely that Manning would be thrust down the depth chart, due to the facts that he has an enormous contract, and that that alternative doesn't seem fair to a guy that carried his franchise to a Super Bowl victory.
If the Colts decide to start blowing up their aging roster, the Colts may have to part ways with Peyton.
If Luck is truly as good as advertised, he would be a great addition, but the rest of the roster may want out (more on that later).
Coach Jim Caldwell, who is not a great NFL coach (his AFC champion team was basically coached by Manning), and probably wouldn't last very long in a rebuilding process.
This move would most likely involve more than letting Manning go, it would see many other Colts greats headed towards the exits and probably a couple of losing seasons.
*Other options could see the Colts trade the top pick (not very likely) or draft a defensive prospect at No. 1 (highly unlikely).
In Rex Ryan's first two seasons at the helm of the Jets, his team made the playoffs and played for the AFC championship twice.
These runs have been credited to Ryan's creative and aggressive defensive schemes. Mark Sanchez was considered a decent quarterback being carried by a bruising defense and doing just enough to deliver his team some victories.
With the NFL rabidly becoming an offense-centered and pass-happy league, the Jets' heralded defense took a huge step back in 2011, as it tumbled to 13th in scoring defense (down from 6th in 2010 and 1st in 2009).
More pressure was placed on third-year QB Sanchez, who finished with career-highs of 3,474 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also threw 18 interceptions, good for fifth in the league.
The "pretty boy" was unable to produce down the stretch, and his Jets finished 8-8, missing the playoffs fort the first time in the Ryan-Sanchez era.
Manning, who is clearly on a whole other planet than Sanchez, would benefit all aspects of New York's team.
The defense would be less pressured to make the big play, and would be playing with a lead more often than they have before.
Defenses would be kept much more honest and would have to drop back to cover a scary-looking passing game, that would include big-play receivers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. This would free up running lanes for guys like Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson.
Manning is quite old, and as he proved this year, actually injury-prone. Unless NY can somehow hold onto both Manning and Sanchez (more than $35M in cap room), they would lose there quarterback for a future, and hope that Peyton can deliver a Super Bowl before he is too old.
Rex Ryan, a very outspoken coach, would have to regress a little in his aggressiveness because Manning has never really been around controversy, and he has basically coached most of the teams he has played for.
Other Jets who are always shooting attacks at opponents would also need a change in mentality.
This deal would be only if the Jets believe they are going to win right away--and if the entire team is on board.
Clearly, this entire move will eventually hinge on Manning.
If the 35-year old wants out of Indy, he will probably be granted; however, if he would rather stick around and mentor Andrew Luck, he will be welcomed.
And of course, Manning will need to prove that he is 100% healthy before any move of any kind takes place.
If Manning elects to leave the Colts, and ends up in a Jets' uniform, he will be entering a very solid team. He will have a nice group of pass-catchers with receivers Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes, as well as dependable tight end Dustin Keller. The team also has more stellar a defense than Peyton has ever played with before.
Peyton would garner huge storylines, becoming the second Manning at MetLife (brother Eli is the QB for the Giants), as well as having to deal with the always hungry New York media.
The Colts usually remained under-the-radar during Manning's prime, but with a coach like Rex Ryan, players like Holmes and Darelle Revis, as well as big city attention, this team will be one of the most followed in recent history.
With Ryan continuously guaranteeing championships to the Jets faithful, the Manning-led version will instantly be dubbed as a Super Bowl-or-bust type team.
Manning would benefit from a great core surrounding him, but he is one to stray away from the limelight, so this proposed move to the city that never sleeps might not be quite so beneficiary.
After his first season, Mark Sanchez seemed like the logical QB of the future for the Jets.
Sure, he suffered relative big rookie bumps (second in league with 20 interceptions), but he came into stride in the playoffs, leading the Jets to the AFC championship game.
However, Sanchez has made only little strides in his past two seasons, and his turnovers have not seen big improvements.
New York's front office has assembled a talented group of players to surround Sanchez, but all the QB could muster was an 8-8 record.
Making a move for Manning may drive the 25-year old out of the Big Apple.
Due to cap penalties for keeping both quarterbacks, trading away Mark may be in the cards.
If possible, Mark may want to sit on he bench for one or two seasons (until his contract is up), and then male a decision on weather or not to return to the Jets.
No matter what, he will either join a rebuilding team or be second on a depth chart, so this deal will not be a favorable move for the three-year veteran.
The Colts have been a veteran-laden team for a while now.
Besides the 35-year-old Manning, the offense is anchored by 33-year-old wide receiver Reggie Wayne, 32-year-old tight end Dallas Clark and 36-year-old center Jeff Saturday.
This quartet has led Indianapolis' franchise for some time, and if Peyton is to leave, the veterans may not all be happy with the changes going on around Lucas Oil stadium.
Some of these players may want to stick with Manning wherever he ends up, but in New York they have two qualified wide receivers, even if Plaxico Burress will be a free agent next season. The squad also has a young, quality tight end in Keller and one of the league's top centers in Nick Mangold.
So with relatively little room to welcome in new stars, Wayne, Clark and Saturday may try to find their way onto another contender.
Wayne, a free agent, was rumored away from Indy earlier in the season and is almost sure to follow suit if Manning ditches the franchise. The Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings are potential suitors.
If Manning elects against re-signing, Saturday could retire or get a one or two-year deal with virtually any team in need of a quick fix at center.
Clark is under contract with the Colts, so unless he is dealt, he will be in an Indianapolis uni for a few more seasons—perhaps until he retires.
Although Ryan has adamantly denied rumors of bringing in Peyton Manning, some still believe that the QB is on the Jets' radar.
Third-year head coach Ryan has consistently called Manning the best quarterback in the game, and the Colts QB is one of the only opposing players that Rex has praised.
If the Jets do bring in the calm, collected star, Rex may find that it is time to back off a little bit.
He is known as one of the most brash, loud-mouthed coaches in the NFL, while Manning is considered to be just the opposite. If the Jets continue to be one of the teams that is most-followed by the media, it might interfere with Manning.
Also, if this move goes down, Ryan's annual Super Bowl guarantee would have to prove true—or else it might cost this coach his job.
This is one of those moves that simply puts extra pressure on a coach, and with Manning's remaining skill sets relatively unknown, it could completely backfire for the Jets coach.
This move would absolutely shake up the NFL.
For starters, in the NFC South, the champion Houston Texans would be the only team without a rookie or sophomore starting quarterback (Locker, Gabbert, Luck), and enter the season as huge favorites.
The Patriots' AFC East dominance would be in serious jeopardy, and they would now get to meet rival Manning twice per season. The Jets-Pats rivalry would be nasty, joining together two former foes.
New York would add a second Manning, and the battle for MetLife stadium supremacy would be on from day one, as the Manning brothers would battle it out.
It would also probably see the end of a great franchise: the Saturday/Wayne/Manning-led Colts would be blown up and reconstructed.
The Jets, already one of the most highly-followed teams, would be a drama-filled high-wire act from day one until, hopefully, the Super Bowl.
The NFL would hope that in 2014, both Mannings are still in NY unis and face off in the Super Bowl at MetLife, which would be arguably the most hyped Super Bowl in quite some time.
Prediction for All Involved Parties:
Colts: Will struggle to 5-11 in rebuilding season.
Jets: Will go 11-5, which is good for second in division and wild-card berth. Will then lose in divisional round of playoffs.
Manning: Plays well in New York, but is nowhere near peak form.
Sanchez: Traded to Seattle, where he struggles mightily.
Wayne: Signs with Vikings.
Saturday: Will re-sign with Colts if the new GM wants, or else inks a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.
Ryan: Will not win a Super Bowl with this core and get replaced after the 2014 season.