Peyton Manning: 7 Reasons Why Indianapolis Colts Had to Cut the 4-Time MVP
Everyone knew this day would eventually come, but it felt weird when it actually happened. Franchise quarterbacks are supposed to never leave. They get drafted by a team and they stay there their whole career. But like Brett Favre and Joe Montana before Manning, things never work out as planned.
As Manning said in his press conference, "We all know that nothing lasts forever. Times change, circumstances change and that's the reality of playing in the NFL."
The Colts had no other choice but to cut Manning. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Unsure About Peyton Manning’s Future
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The Colts are unsure about Manning's future.
Manning missed all of last season after having his third neck surgery in 19 months. Without Manning, the Colts finished with the worst record in the league.
Manning was cleared to play by Dr. Robert Watkins, who performed the single-level cervical fusion. But even though Manning has been cleared to play, it was too big of a risk for the Colts to bring him back. Especially with the current state of the team.
Even if Manning plays again (he turns 36 later this month) he will be near the end of his career. The risk of bringing back an older quarterback who has had three neck surgeries in the past 19 months is huge. One the Colts weren't willing to take.
2. The Colts Are Nowhere Close to Being a Contender
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The Colts stink.
If the Colts finished the year with a .500 record, there's no doubt that they would have brought back Manning.
But they didn't.
Years of bad drafting has brought the Colts to this point. Without Manning's brilliance, the team was terrible and lost their first 13 games. In the past, Manning was so good that he masked all of the Colts' shortcomings.
Losing Manning for the year has made it evident how far the Colts have fallen. It would make no sense to bring him back now because the Colts have an opportunity to draft his successor with the No. 1 pick.
3. The Colts Have an Opportunity to Draft Andrew Luck
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If there wasn't a clear-cut No. 1 pick, then the Colts probably would have brought back Manning.
But Andrew Luck is special. And so is the likely No. 2 pick, Robert Griffin III.
Luck showed at the combine that he's got a special skill set that isn't found in the draft every year. His combine results were nearly identical to last year's No. 1 pick, Cam Newton's. Luck is the perfect size for a NFL quarterback at 6'4" and 235 pounds. He's got a strong arm and is very accurate—two skills that make NFL coaches drool.
The Colts lucked out. Of all the years to be a bad NFL team, this was the year. If things go as planned, the Colts will lose one franchise quarterback and replace him with another franchise quarterback. Not many teams have that luxury. Just ask the Miami Dolphins.
4. The Colts Would Be Doing a Disservice to Manning by Bringing Him Back
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Bringing back Manning would have been a disservice to him.
Not only are the Colts unprepared to contend for a Super Bowl, but Manning would also have to play with his successor lurking in his shadow.
The idea of Luck learning from Manning for a year is nice in theory. But why would Manning want to do that? At this point in his career, Manning only wants to do one thing—win Super Bowls. That's not possible for the current Colts.
5. It Would Have Been Too Expensive to Keep Both Luck and Manning
Despite what Manning or owner Jim Irsay said, Manning was likely cut because of his $28 million roster bonus that was due March 8.
Assuming the Colts draft Luck, they will probably give him a four-year, $24 million all guaranteed contract. Newton, last year's No. 1 pick, received a four-year, $22 million all guaranteed contract from the Carolina Panthers.
There's no way the Colts would spend that kind of money on two quarterbacks, especially when it's evident that the team has major needs elsewhere.
The Colts need to give their money to players who will actually be playing. If Manning stayed with the Colts, he would prevent Luck from playing right away, thereby wasting valuable money the team could have spent to improve other positions.
6. Manning Deserves a Chance to Compete for a Super Bowl
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The Colts are nowhere close to returning to the Super Bowl. As Irsay said in the press conference, the Colts are "rebuilding" and are a "few years away." Irsay went on to say:
I want to see him come back and play great, no question about it. Here, just like in 2001, we didn't have everything to surround him. I want him to succeed at the end of his career.
By cutting Manning, the Colts gave him the opportunity to sign wherever he pleases.
In the press conference, Manning said:
I haven't thought about yet where I'll play but I have thought about where I've been. I've been blessed.
Manning has a tough decision to make. Does he want to sign with a team like the Washington Redskins, who can offer him a lot of money but were a bad team a year ago? Or does Manning not care about money at this point in his career and only want to win Super Bowls?
If that were the case, the San Francisco 49ers would be the easy decision. Of all the title contenders, they are the only team without a bona fide quarterback. Signing Manning could be the final piece to push them over the top.
7. The Colts Need to Start over
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Irsay made it very clear—the Colts are a few years away from being a good team again.
When a team rebuilds, they have to go all in. By bringing back Manning, it would have prevented the Colts from fully rebuilding. If Manning were healthy and were to return, the Colts could probably finish the season above .500.
That's not necessarily a good thing.
Manning is not a long-term solution in Indianapolis. Luck, if he pans out, is a long-term solution. Manning would have improved the Colts next year, but he also would have ultimately hurt them in the future because the team wouldn't get as good of draft picks to rebuild the team.
The Colts need to be bad to rebuild. Just like in the NBA, the best way to rebuild in the NFL is to be bad and get good draft picks.