This has been one of the main questions since Peyton was released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 8. What if they had kept Peyton Manning? Where would the Colts be, and what would this team look like?
Currently, the Colts are 9-4 coming off of three straight wins and are winners of seven of their last eight games. Andrew Luck is in a fierce battle for rookie of the year with Robert Griffin III, but he's also in a battle with Manning for MVP of the entire league.
It's hard to compare whether the Colts' win/loss record would be similar because both are—believe it or not—two different quarterbacks. Luck is a more mobile player that moves around in the pocket and not afraid to run while Manning is a pure pocket passer that lives on finesse.
This may come as a shock, but I don't think the Colts would have a better win/loss record with Manning than they would with Luck right now. I do think some of the wins or losses would be different, but they would be 9-4 with either right now.
With Manning, the Colts would have started 0-2 with two losses to NFC North opponents the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. Both teams brought a ton of pass pressure and the only reason why the Colts beat the Vikings was due to Luck's mobility in the pocket. He escaped pressure numerous times and kept drives alive. Manning would have gone down a bunch with sacks and the Colts wouldn't have scored as much.
I do think the Colts would have beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars at home with Manning, and he would have led them to wins the next two weeks against the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets. Luck threw too many interceptions and was too inaccurate in the Jets game where Manning would have had a field day.
The only other two losses for the Colts with Manning would have been at home against the Cleveland Browns and on the road with the New England Patriots. The Browns game was won all due to Luck's scrambling ability as the only two touchdowns were on the ground with his legs. Manning wouldn't have done that.
The Patriots game would have certainly been a shootout, but this Colts team wouldn't be ready for that no matter who the signal-caller was. Other than that the team would be very similar.
Luck is on track to break every one of Manning's rookie records. We no longer can compare him to the Manning of 1998, but rather the Manning of now. Luck has very similar numbers as Manning this year as the Denver Broncos (Manning's team) is only one game better than the Colts right now.
With all of that being said, the Colts made the right decision going forward with Luck over Manning. If Manning was still the franchise player, the Colts would not have the pieces for the future that they have now. If Manning stayed then Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday would still be Colts well. That changes the entire April draft for the Colts.
They wouldn't have taken both tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in the second and third rounds. With Clark they only would need one of them if either. Then, say goodbye to T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill. Why draft those two with Wayne, Collie and Clark as the main options?
This team would have Luck as a backup with no help when his turn came. Would it really be worth a Super Bowl run one more time for a window that is nearly shut? The band would only be together for two-to-three years max, then what?
At least now this team would have the same record or something very similar with a ton of upside and youth. Mix that in with the most cap room next offseason and this team isn't just championship-caliber right now, but for the next 10+ years. With Manning, yes they would be title contenders now, but they drop off when him and everyone else left would have left them in the cellar for at least a couple of more seasons while they rebuild.
Enjoy Luck and what the Colts front office did. It was a difficult move, but they're set themselves up for a long run of greatness.