In 13 seasons since then, he's started every game, led the club to a 141-67 record, 11 playoff appearances, along with two trips to the Super Bowl. One of which they took the Lombardi Trophy home. He's thrown for 54,828 yards, 399 touchdowns and has posted a superb passer rating of 94.9. By the time he hangs up the cleats, he may even hold every major passing record in the books.
Needless to say, he's been an integral key to their success which is probably why he's seized four MVP awards during that time.
However, he's 35-years-old, so let's be real. Even though he's fortunately never suffered a major injury, he won't play forever. Who knows? Maybe he will surpass Brett Favre and play into his mid-40's. On the other hand, he may only have three or four years left in his prime. With that said, the fact of the matter is that they will eventually have to bring in a successor.
"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," Colts general manager Bill Polian told the Indianapolis Star.
Manning had the franchise tag placed on him in February prior to the CBA expiring, but Colts owner Jim Isray has often stated that he plans to make his prized quarterback the highest paid player in NFL history.
Who Should The Colts Draft?
Still, despite an imminent contract extension, it's never too early to plan for the future.
The best method of doing so is by picking up someone through the draft, and this year the team has already held workouts with TCU's Andy Dalton and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.
Both are a bit of developmental projects but have the potential to be solid starters at the next level. By sitting on the sidelines for a few seasons and learning behind arguably the most cerebral player in the NFL would certainly speed up the transition process.
Taking a look at the Green Bay Packers, they did a phenomenal job moving from the Brett Favre era and handing the reigns over to Aaron Rodgers. While Favre continued to command the huddle, Rodgers had a golden opportunity to learn from one of the all-time greats during his first three years in the league. Yet, while it may seem like a genius plan, do realize that Favre did face a rough patch for a couple years after Rodgers was drafted.
In fact, his passer rating dropped from 92.4 in 2004 to 70.9 in 2005.
So, of course, its probably in their best interest to communicate with Manning as to whether or not he wants to deal with grooming a young player and how it would affect his performance on the field.
If everything clears out, I'd certainly take a look at the two draft prospects. Both are considered amongst the top five at the position in the class and will likely be drafted in the second round, if not before.
Kaepernick is an intriguing talent as he presents the dual threat of being not only a passer, but a runner as well. His incredible athleticism provides him with mobility in the pocket and the ability to extend the play on the move by using his cannon arm. While I think he's the better overall prospect, I don't believe he'd be a good fit for the Colts system which is predicated on making intelligent reads and precision passing.
As for Dalton, he was a pure winner in college that has demonstrated the work ethic and leadership required to be a top-tier quarterback. Interestingly enough, he's displayed some of the traits that Manning has, such as calling audibles at the line of scrimmage and fitting balls into tight windows with pinpoint accuracy. Sure, he struggles with multiple reads and has not played in a traditional offense, but those are issues that will fix with time and with Manning's mentoring.
That said, I think taking Dalton potentially with the 53rd overall selection of this month's upcoming draft will be a wise investment for the future.