The Indianapolis Colts tied the NFL record with the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2008 Detroit Lions for the worst start in NFL history at 0-12. What makes this Colts team different than those teams is that neither team saw the success this Colts franchise saw before these horrid starts, and neither team had this much talent on the roster.
Another thing that makes them different than the Colts is that neither the Bucs nor Lions could say their future will become clearer in the last four weeks of the regular season (the Bucs were 0-14 in the 14-game season).
If franchise quarterback Peyton Manning can practice by the end of the year and prove to be 100 percent healthy by the NFL draft in April, and if current quarterback Dan Orlovsky can play the last four games like he did Sunday against the Patriots, will the Colts avoid taking the probable No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft Andrew Luck?
That will decide the Colts' fate.
For the sake of this article, let's say both of the previous paragraphs' "ifs" come true.
If these are true, the Colts must decide to either blow this team up and release or trade the best player in NFL history in Peyton Manning and draft Andrew Luck, keep Manning and let Luck sit, or keep Manning and draft a player to fill a position they honestly desperately need.
If they were to release or trade Manning, they most likely will cut ties with Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, Donald Brown, Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie, Robert Mathis and Gary Brackett, just to name a few.
That would rebuild this Colts franchise and regenerate some cap room, but it will leave the Colts with no real weapons on offense for Andrew Luck to even use. Why would they re-sign any of those aging or injury-prone guys if they're going to try and rebuild?
I think if Manning were healthy, though, they'd definitely rethink taking Luck.
Think about it: Manning is getting up there in age, but he's not old yet. I mean he really doesn't have much wear and tear on his body besides the shoulder/spinal fusion, but if we're saying he's healthy that will be fixed and we aren't worrying about it.
Out of Manning's 13 NFL seasons, he's only been sacked on an average of 1.1 times per game. That's remarkable. Out of those times he's been sacked, rarely has he been hit hard like we see other quarterback's get hit. Manning usually feels out pressure and just drops to the turf to avoid taking the big hit.
He's also not a scrambler at all so his legs are never a problem.
By missing this whole season he actually will have one less year of wear and tear on his body, so if we're saying he's going to be healthy then he's actually in better shape for next year than any other year.
Also, how can you turn your back on the best player to ever play the game?
Manning is a record four-time MVP, holds the record for most consecutive seasons of 4,000-plus passing yards, the most total seasons of 4,000-plus passing yards, the highest single-season passer rating and the sixth-most accurate passer in NFL history.
Manning also is an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, five-time All-Pro first team selection, 6-time AFC player of the year, Pro Bowl MVP, Super Bowl MVP, fastest ever to reach 50,000 passing yards,and fastest ever to 4,000 completions.
Manning holds Colts records for career wins, career passing yards, pass attempts, pass completions and passing touchdowns.
One key stat the Colts have struggled on this year is converting third downs. Well, the seasons prior to this season since 1998 when the Colts drafted Manning, the Colts ranked first in the NFL in third-down conversions.
How can you trade or release this franchise player especially when he's healthy?
How can you get rid of a guy with 399 career touchdowns who has thrown for 54,828 yards?
I'm going to be the first to say you absolutely can't. Don't tell me about Joe Montana in the early '90s when San Francisco traded him to the Chiefs, and don't tell me the 49ers, Bills, Dolphins and Broncos are still trying to find their quarterback replacements.
Those teams weren't built like the Colts are. In fact, no team in the history of sports is built like this Colts team. No player has meant more to a team than Manning.
I know some of you will say it's time to flip that around. I agree, but we can do this while winning now.
Who is to say Andrew Luck is going to be a franchise quarterback anyway? He's good, don't get me wrong, but he will never be a Peyton Manning.
Who's to say if we keep Manning there won't be another quarterback two or three years down the road we're not anointing to be the next Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees?
This league is a passer's league now. The team with the best passing game and a great defense wins games in January and February. They can trade the No. 1 pick down and get immediate help in the top five for a receiver or defender that can help fill a void for years and years to come.
They can stock up on future high draft picks by trading Luck and help rebuild this thing for a future quarterback.
They can use the rest of the picks to solidify the future in receivers, cornerbacks, offensive line and defensive line.
This can help Manning as well in the next few years by doing this, and then draft a quarterback in two or three years with weapons already intact.
Where would Rodgers be right now if the Packers didn't already have Donald Driver, Greg Jennings or Jermichael Finely when he took over?
Where would Luck be with rookie receivers, rookie tight ends and a bad offensive line? He'd get exposed quickly.
If Manning is healthy and the Colts can keep Orlovsky going like this, this team to can be built for the future still, and not have to take Luck.