It’s Jim Irsay and Bill Polian’s worst nightmare coming true, starting a season without Peyton Manning in an Indianapolis Colts uniform. For the first time in his career, he is unable to play for an extended period of time, as Manning had his third neck surgical procedure in the last 19 months.
Everyone in Indy is hoping this is the solution that gets him back on the field within the next two months…or should the Colts simply take their lumps this season and get the first pick in next April’s NFL Draft to select his heir apparent, Stanford QB Andrew Luck.
Many might soon be suggesting that the team deliberately lose games to set themselves up for the future. Why struggle to win seven or nine games and receive only a mid-level pick in the first-round, when you can select a bona fide replacement for your Hall-of-Fame quarterback. Sports Illustrated and NBC’s Peter King counters that coaches and players aren’t wired to purposely lose games. But, the same cannot be said for a club’s front office.
Clearly, teams make roster moves with an eye on the future. Front offices won’t tank a season, but they might not be aggressive in acquiring players if the odds aren’t in their favor to make the playoffs. If football was strictly about winning, then we wouldn’t have contract squabbles that turn into holdouts with players.
A healthy Peyton Manning has covered up a lot of chinks in the Colts armor, as his near-flawless play puts them in the upper echelon of the league. The front office has done very little to build a complete team around him. They never drafted, signed or traded for a legitimate backup quarterback and it has finally caught up with them this season.
Yes, it was a silly notion to suggest the Colts should tank their season after one game. But, now they’re staring at a 0-3 start, as the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming to town this Sunday. The San Antonio Spurs used a similar approach to rebuild their franchise after David Robinson missed an entire season due to injury. They struggled and were awarded with the top pick in the NBA Draft. The Spurs chose Tim Duncan and their dynasty continued for another decade.
If put into this situation, every NFL team would select Luck with the No.1 pick in the draft. But for the Colts sake, too many variables need to happen between now and April for this to occur. Right now, their season’s fate will be determined in the next six games.
It makes no sense to put Manning back on the field this season, as the team could out of playoff contention by Halloween. Let him rehab and hope some good will come out of this mess for next year.