Peyton Manning: The Road Forward for Manning and the Colts

Rodney LayContributor IIIJanuary 25, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 4:    Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action in the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are at a crossroads. It doesn't happen too often in the NFL these days because of free agency, but Manning has played his entire fourteen-year career as a Colt.

Not only has Manning turned the Colts into a perennial playoff team, he has forged a record that will be viewed as one of the best in the history of the game.

All of that came to a halt before the current season began as Manning was forced to undergo surgery on his neck. 

It ended his chances of playing this year, even though there was hope for a return to playing before the season ended.

Now, with a disastrous year for the Colts behind them, that leaves the team with the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, and decisions have to be made. 

And there is only one easy way for those decisions to take place: Manning should retire!

I am sure that Manning could continue to be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL for several more years.  The skills he brings to the position are unparalleled. 

He has one of the most accurate throws in the game.  He can pick apart a defense before he ever takes the snap.  His ability to find every receiver in the pattern is among the best that has ever been.

What Manning is missing is a healthy body.  I am not a doctor or a prophet, but I think that the risk to serious injury is too great for him to step back out on the field. 

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December  26, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In all of the comments I have seen and heard, and the multiple stories about his surgeries and recovery, there just seems to be an undercurrent of doubt as to whether Manning can come back and play like he did before the surgery.

And what is the most telling sign about his recovery?  Nearly a year after the surgery, he was still not participating in team practices.

Manning is a competitor and I believe that he would already be back to work with the team if he was physically capable of doing so.

The upcoming draft holds one of the best quarterback prospects in a number of years, and the Colts have the No. 1 pick in the draft. 

Even if Manning wasn't hurt, it would be a mistake in my mind for the Colts not to draft Andrew Luck. 

Manning will turn 36 well before the next season gets going, and even if he was healthy, the Colts have to think about the future.

Would the Colts have the No. 1 pick if Manning was healthy and played this season?  No!  Opportunity presents itself and you have to take it. 

Now, if Manning holds on and tries to come back, do the Colts still take Luck at No. 1?  Maybe! If Manning retires, that decision becomes a lot easier, financially and otherwise.

If the Colts draft the No. 1 pick in the first round and let Manning go into free agency, does it make sense for another NFL team to roll the dice and pay him the huge salary that it would take to get him?  It wouldn't happen on a team that I was managing!

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 09:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts gives instructions to his team during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans  at LP Field on December 9, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There's no way that any team can know what will happen if they pay the salary to get Manning and play him. 

If he goes down, that is quite a payout for someone that will either be on the sideline or in a wheelchair.  Again, I'm not a prophet, but that's really a big financial risk to take for any team.

Pick a number, lay the money down and spin the wheel.

Manning is, by most accounts, the best quarterback in the history of the game.  That is a legacy that should be preserved and not tarnished the way that Brett Favre wrecked his image.

If Manning tries to come back and fails, especially if it's with another team, or goes down to injury again, it just seems like a waste to me.

Manning doesn't need the money.  And with his personality, he could have a long career as a broadcaster. 

He could probably do what John Elway did and become something like executive vice president of football operations for the Colts.

Manning is one of a kind.  He took the job of quarterback in the NFL and made it unique, playing it like no one else will ever play the position.  His legacy is almost bigger than the game.

Everything written above is strictly opinion and in no way a suggestion for Manning, the Indianapolis Colts, or anyone else.  Maybe it's just a hopeful thought. 

Too many great players have not had the foresight to walk away from the game before their skills began to fade, and sometimes fade drastically. 

I mentioned Favre above.  What would his legacy be had he walked away three years earlier, or even a year earlier?

Manning and the Colts will do things the way they see fit to do them.  But I'll raise my glass and say, "Thank you, Peyton.  You were the best who ever played the game!"

Manning should retire.