Nothing lasts forever.
While this generation of NFL fans doesn't know of the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning at quarterback, the harsh reality is that a 35-year-old quarterback has three or four more years to perform at a high standard.
Looking ahead, the Colts will eventually need to find Manning's successor.
I can but assume I'll be thrown under the bus again because of this article by loyal Peyton Manning fans—I understand.
Anyway, if the Colts wanted to have the best of both worlds, one player stands out as a perfect option with their first-round pick.
Andy Dalton to the Colts in the first round isn't beyond the realm of possibility.
Recently, the Colts kicked the tires on Dalton. As such, Indianapolis is somewhat intrigued by the former Texas Christian star.
He may lack scout-able commodities, such as body build and arm, but Dalton could be an effective quarterback in Indianapolis for a number of reasons.
Which late-first round or below graded quarterback would be the best fit to take over for Peyton Manning?
The Colts are a "lunch pail"-type of team. To be successful in Indianapolis, a player is going to have to bring in his lunch pail and prepare to work every day. Peyton Manning has success because he knows his playbook inside and out.
Moreover, Manning's receivers run crisp routes and know the playbook too. The same can be said about the Colts offensive line—particularly their center, Jeff Saturday.
Saturday is a special player who deserves as much recognition as Manning does for the Colts' continued success.
At the beginning of the 2010 season, the internet was abuzz with speculation and debate over whether or not JaMarcus Russell, in a backup role, would be a fit in Indianapolis.
It was the eventual general consensus that Russell didn't have the work ethic to be successful as a Colt.
Andy Dalton does.
It was not that he had prodigious throwing power or excellent accuracy in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. On the contrary, Dalton showed his improvisational skills and resourcefulness to pull a win out of the hat.
It's more that Dalton steadily improved with every year at TCU, having a better touchdown-to-interception ratio with each season. For the most part, he increased his completion percentage on a yearly basis as well.
Such can be attributed to Dalton's countless hours of playbook study. He simply wouldn't have been able to conclude his collegiate career with a win against stingy Wisconsin if he hadn't been extremely well versed in his playbook.
The former Horned Frogs QB's intangibles help him to stand out from other quarterbacks in the draft. If nothing else, Dalton would be a fit for the Colts because he is so prepared to work and learn.
He's a natural leader, inspiring his teammates at TCU and helping to guide the program to national respect.
If Dalton has three or four years to sit behind Peyton Manning, one of the most cerebral passers in history, he could step into the Colts offense and the transition wouldn't be terribly rough.
Dalton is a likable quarterback and can make all of the throws he has to. He's not going to wow anyone with his arm, but he can be an efficient passer, who completes a good amount of throws and keeps the chains moving.
Manning has never suffered a truly severe injury, and with all of the money invested in stars like Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark and others, it would be silly for the Colts to not have a true backup to Manning in case of injury.
Should Manning be lost indefinitely, the season would be a wash for Indianapolis, which would be both unfortunate and unnecessary because of the immense amount of talent on the roster.
For example, the Vikings had a roster full of talent last season, but were severely crippled by their lack of quarterback play.
Curtis Painter is not going to lead this team to the playoffs.
Andy Dalton, on the other hand, would be an effective backup in the worst-case scenario.
In the best-case scenario, of course, he'd sit behind Peyton Manning for four years and get to pick the brain of one of the smartest passers in NFL history.
The Colts would reassure Manning that he is, in fact, their guy by giving him a huge contract, but he'd also take on the role of teacher because Dalton would be the next in line.
Andy Dalton may not be the most talented quarterback in the draft, but he's a smart, efficient passer, who can lead. He will study the playbook inside and out and when he takes the reins, he will know all he has to know to lead the Colts offense.
A non-prototypically built quarterback with just about adequate arm strength and accuracy taking over for one of the best quarterbacks in history?
It just might work.