In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Bill Polian indicated that quarterback may be a bigger need in the 2011 NFL Draft than it has been in the past.
"Quarterback's an issue, probably not a front-burner issue, but an issue nonetheless because while Peyton's not at the end of his career, it's approaching faster than it has in the past. I wouldn't rule that out in the right situation."
Indeed, quarterback hasn't been something pressing for the Colts. Manning has been spectacular—a four-time MVP, 11-time Pro Bowler and even the QB of the NFL's all-decade team for the 2000's. Meanwhile, he hasn't been injury prone—starting all 208 games of his career.
During that time, the Colts have invested little in a replacement. Early in Manning's career, the team did not even carry a second QB on the active roster.
Jim Sorgi was drafted in the sixth round and spent 2004-2009 as the Colts clipboard-holder. Now, Curtis Painter—another sixth-rounder—is the only other QB on the Colts roster.
Simply put, Bill Polian knows quarterbacks (or, at least, he has been very lucky).
With the Buffalo Bills, he brought Jim Kelly over from the USFL. Kelly led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances (an impressive feat, even without a victory). With the Carolina Panthers, Polian selected Kerry Collins, who would go to a Pro Bowl in his second season (before giving up on the team and asking to be traded).
Polian appears to be making his next big QB decision.
All of those quarterbacks have a chance to be drafted in the first round and the Colts may need to pull the trigger with pick No. 22 if they have one specific target in that group.
If Polian is just doing due diligence and this is all a smoke screen, the Colts could have a chance at quarterbacks like Ricky Stanzi, Greg McElroy or Pat Devlin later in the draft.
However, with the possible exception of Stanzi, that tier of talent has not drawn the same rave reviews as the group Indianapolis appears to be interested in.
If the Colts want their next Peyton Manning, Polian will need to invest in the position like he has in the past.
Clearly, he does not want to wait until his team has the first overall pick again—which would likely mean he wouldn't be making the pick anyway.
For Colts fans, the thought of drafting a first-round quarterback may not be the most palatable. Trading short-term success for long-term planning is rarely done in the NFL.
The Colts have more immediate needs on the offensive line and on a defense that has been riddled with injuries in the past few years.
With Manning, the Colts are always a threat to make a deep playoff run.
In the 2011 NFL Draft, the goal may be less about putting pieces around Manning and more about preparing for life without him.
Michael Schottey is an on-call editor for the Bleacher Report College Writing Internship, as well as an NFL Featured Columnist and an NFL Labor/Draft Expert.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, he has professionally covered the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions, as well as NFL events like the Scouting Combine and the Senior Bowl. Follow him on Twitter.