It has been a charmed decade for the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL’s winningest team during that stretch, but fortunes can change in an instant. This is one of those times. The team that just a few short years ago won a Super Bowl and narrowly missed winning another, is now the worst team in the league. These days the Colts appear inept and literally defenseless.
And to make matters worse, the aging superstar quarterback, Peyton Manning, who until this season never missed a game, might never play again. His surgically repaired neck has kept him off the field this season, and may end a certain Hall of Fame career. The most recent surgery in August, was the third on his neck.
Peyton Manning is the NFL’s highest paid player. He will make an average of $23 million each of the next three years. Make no mistake, based on his accomplishments, he deserves every penny. He has thrown for more touchdowns and more yards than all but two quarterbacks in NFL history.
No one commands his team like Manning. He is a virtual coach on the field, directing the actions of his teammates with a sort of frenzied precision. But with Manning gone, the Colts look lost, and so too does the real coach, Jim Caldwell, whose job is clearly on the line.
But losing sometimes brings benefits. At this rate the Colts will land the top pick in the draft, which many say should be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, according to most so-called experts, will be the best quarterback to come out of college since – Peyton Manning.
Even louder than the grumbling about a lousy team, is the speculation about what the Colts should do with the number one pick, should they get it. Peyton Manning started his very first game in 1998 evolving into arguably the best quarterback of his generation, and winning a record setting four league MVP awards along the way.
If Andrew Luck is indeed the second coming of Manning, shouldn’t he play right away too? I think it is foolish to expect a player of the presumed star quality of Luck to sit on the bench and bide his time waiting for a possibly healthy Manning to finally call it quits. This is especially true since the top four quarterbacks picked in the most recent draft are all now starting for their teams this season.
Carolina’s Cam Newton has so far had the most productive year of any rookie quarterback in NFL history. He’s playing even better than Manning did as a rookie. Andrew Luck and his “people” know this too and will not want Luck to sit and wait, possibly for years to play.
This is why the woeful Colts will soon have a decision to make. Should Peyton Manning recover will the Colts simply hand him the ball and ask him to work miracles for what might be only a few more years at best? Or should the Colts pick Luck and trade Manning while he still has perceived value?
This is tough stuff. Green Bay faced this dilemma several years ago with an aging Brett Favre. At first it was unpopular to get rid of Favre. But Favre’s replacement Aaron Rodgers has already made fans forget about the unpleasant time when Favre was let go. Rodgers won a Super Bowl last season and is leading the Packers to what might be yet another Super Bowl run.
But it may not be that simple in Indianapolis. Peyton Manning is the city’s greatest ever player in any sport. He made Indianapolis matter to the rest of the nation, he’s even bigger than the Indy 500. Without Manning the Colts might be in Los Angeles, and the beautiful new domed stadium, which will host this season’s Super Bowl, might never have been built. Do you kick Peyton Manning to the curb for the next possibly, maybe, great player?
In sports, if you are smart, yes you do. That’s if you want to be successful. Sentiment lasts only so long. Losing can last a lot longer. It hurts for a while when a great player is cast off, just ask the folks in Green Bay. But if you play your hand right, like the Packers did, then another great player might be just around the corner. At least you hope so. Indianapolis might just Luck out.