Perhaps never before in NFL history has a player, who didn't suit up for a single game, made such an impact for, and been so deserving of the MVP for his team.
In 2011, Peyton Manning did just that. Though a neck injury sidelined him for the entire season, it has never been so apparent just how much a difference one player makes to a football team. In 2010, the Colts went 10-6, and won the AFC South.
In 2011, an almost unchanged Colts lineup, sans Manning, went 2-14, and ended the season dead last in the NFL.
Last year, when reviewing the Cardinals options at QB, I said the following about Manning:
From Manning's point of view, it's pretty simple. The Colts are not a good team, Peyton Manning is just an exceptional quarterback.
His ability covers over a multitude of frailties all over the field for the Colts, but, as he gets older, and his ability diminishes, he may relish the chance to play with some elite receivers who can keep him at the top of his game for a little longer.
I've made a lot of NFL predictions and comments, but few have been quite as on the button as that one.
At the time, I also said this;
For as long as Peyton Manning is your quarterback, it is practically impossible to develop anyone to replace him. No-one will step out from his shadow and become the next franchise quarterback, which has to be a concern for them.
Which also seems pretty apt, considering that Andrew Luck will have to do just that, if the Colts do not cut or ship Manning.
Finally, I closed with this statement.
Could the Cardinals be his home in 2011? It wouldn't be the first time they have signed a future hall-of-famer towards the end of his career. Do the names Kurt Warner, Emmitt Smith or Edgerrin James ring any bells?
All in all, the same is true today as it was in 2011, some of it even more so.
At the time, I gave Manning a 100-to-1 long shot of leaving the Colts, today, those odds seem a lot shorter.
Andrew Luck will be a Colt in 2012, but the Colts need to make a whole lot more improvements than that. Manning's contract and cap hit are significant hindrances to that rebuilding process, especially to keep around a player who probably won't play—Luck will likely start whether Manning is a Colt or not.
The Cardinals have difficulties at QB, with both Kolb and Skelton struggling to establish themselves as more than a backup.
Though Kolb has a sizeable, $63 Million contract in Arizona, much of that can be avoided by cutting him before the beginning of 2012. By cutting Kolb, the Cardinals would save the remainder of his contract, plus a $7 million option bonus, which would free up enough cap space to land someone like Manning.
The biggest hindrance, it would now seem, is whether Manning would ever suit up again, for anyone. Only Peyton Manning himself knows how his neck injury is really doing. Only he knows if he really intends to play football again. Unfortunately, the signs now seem to be pointing at somewhere between 50-50 and probably not at all.
Assuming for a moment, however, that Manning does suit up, the Cardinals could certainly make use of a player of his ability. They would, of course, need a dependable backup, a bill Skelton fits quite well, and would need to believe that he has the ability to develop into a starter in the not too distant future—Manning has, at most, two seasons left in him.
Skelton would need to take nearly as many snaps in practice as Manning, knowing that he could be called upon to play out the remainder of the season on any given week, but for a player of Manning's considerable experience and quality, that wouldn't be too much of an issue.
With Haley's return appearing increasingly likely, it would seem that Manning, like Warner before him, could be a quick route to NFC West dominance, but, like Warner is, at best, a stop gap until the Cardinals find their QB of the future.
If they don't believe that Kolb is that man, and Manning is fit to play in 2012, the Cardinals may want to seriously consider discussing terms with the Colts, or waiting to see if Manning is cut.
Manning may be a quick and dirty route to another Super Bowl—the Cardinals are a much more rounded team than the Colts, where Manning was able to achieve a great deal of success—but at the cost of an uncertain future.
Impact at Cardinals: A+
Fit for Cardinals: C+++ (A good fit, but short term solution, at best)
Odds of signing for Cardinals: 25-to-1 right now, 8-1 if he announces his intention to play in 2012 soon.