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The ins and outs of the Manning situation

January 30, 2012

If Colts fans were told a year ago there’d be a good chance the Colts would trade/release Peyton Manning, the man who literally put the Colts on the map for 13 years, most fans would laugh or call it an absurd proposal. A year later and what a situation the Colts stare at. Those times when Irsay was thinking ‘what would we ever do without Peyton?’ are the present.

What Jim Irsay is facing is likely one of the most difficult and chain-reacting decisions for not only the Colts and NFL, but for American sports in its entirety. Do you cut your Hall of Fame quarterback because of three malign neck injuries? Or opt to keep Peyton – foreseeing a few high-level quarterbacking years from the man who took “ailing franchise” to “Super Bowl contender” in a short time?

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) talks with owner Jim Irsay before their game in November. (Sam Riche/MCT)

Positives of Keeping Manning:
A healthy Peyton Manning is a security blanket for any NFL team. Manning is one of the most consistent quarterbacks the league has ever seen. The last time the Colts didn’t have a double-digit winning season or make the playoffs with Manning at the helm was 2001—both NFL records.

It’s respectable to keep a healthy Peyton Manning because he is a proven commodity, but only for a few seasons (I’ll give him three seasons at the most if he stays).

If the Colts keep Manning, it’s also likely that they’ll pick Andrew Luck with the first pick of the NFL Draft. The optimistic outcome of the master-apprentice combo the Colts could sport is the Montana-Young and Favre-Rodgers instances, where the proven Hall of Fame quarterback mentors the upcoming talent. It would be a stretch to see Manning and Luck coexist on the same team, but it’s doable.

It may be out of the question, but imagine seeing Manning play one more sensational year with the Colts winning the Super Bowl, handing the keys to Luck and watch him win a Super Bowl in the next three years. “Luck” would have to be on the Colts’ side, obviously, but that’s the big picture.

Keeping Manning would also be great for the fan base. Paying respect to Manning would seem natural and compassionate for any player who has given so much to a franchise. A disgruntled and unhappy franchise would pressure an organization to make unreliable moves.

Take the Denver Broncos, for instance. When their fans were begging for Tebow to go in to start for Kyle Orton, the staff and organization were surprised. Weeks later, the organization gave in to the fan base’s desire and started Tebow and released Kyle Orton.

For starters, Tebow is inconsistent with his passing and suspect at times with his decision-making. It’d be hard to fully convince anyone that Tebow is the man of the future in Denver. Seeing Tebow start the next season 2-7 isn’t out of the question, either. The possible root of this happening is the unsatisfied fan base.

Keeping a healthy Manning would ensure a couple more good seasons with the franchise and could possibly guide Andrew Luck in a similar direction.

Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson have one of the NFL's best franchises future in their hands on the decision of Peyton Manning. (IndyStar)

Positives of Releasing/Trading Manning:
It hurts to say this, but this is probably what the Colts should do and what they are telling us they are going to do — oust Manning. They’ve cleaned the organization out and have brought in new pieces and looks like they are starting to rebuild.

Cutting Manning by his bonus pay date would save the Colts $28 million. The new defensive-minded head coach, Chuck Pagano, could use that money to help an ailing defense that gave up 62 points at New Orleans. A franchise can do many things with that kind of money, but the slacking defense is what probably the money will used mostly for (and an offensive line).

Cutting Manning would help determine what’s better for the franchise much sooner.

Last year, the absence of Manning was 80 percent of the reason the Colts couldn’t post at least 10 wins. Holes were exposed: the offensive line, the defense and its horrendous secondary. Patching up those holes and optimistically starting Luck for years to come is the option the Colts are most likely eyeing. We all saw what kind of caliber of a team the Colts are with and without Peyton. Cutting him now may not be the solution in the short-term, but will benefit the franchise in the long run.

The Colts would also get the media off their backs as well. Hopefully this isn’t going to end in a dramatic Favre-Packers breakup. Everyone cringed when ESPN brought up a Favre story, in fact, they are still doing it today.

Saying goodbye to Manning would possibly ensure positive outcomes for the future of the Colts, given, that Andrew Luck is proven to be the next Elway or anywhere close to that talent.

Peyton Manning may be on his way out - right decision by Jim Irsay? (IndyStar)

Negative outcomes:
On either side of the keep/release coin are possible negatives that could haunt the Colts franchise for years to come. Tweet-happy Jim Irsay probably wouldn’t be too fond of reading his feed if the wrong move is made.

Let’s say the Colts release Manning and give Luck the call to be the No. 1 draft pick making him the starting quarterback. Boy does he have some shoes to fill. If Andrew Luck turns out to be a Matt Leinart or an injury prone Carson Palmer, the Colts will receive a lot of flack from the fan base.

A bad situation would be for first three seasons the Colts have Luck they go: 5-11, 7-9, and 6-10, not making the playoffs any of those years. While the Colts struggle with that, a jubilant Manning is slinging it to God-knows-who and wins a Super Bowl in that span. How idiotic would the Colts look?

On the other hand, let’s say the Colts keep Manning and proves that he is past his prime and plays for the Colts for two seasons, doesn’t attain 10 wins in either year and doesn’t record a playoff win. In a likely situation, the Colts would release him after those seasons and hand over the keys to Luck, who does a decent job but lacks the offensive line, defense and overall team support necessary to be a top AFC team because of the $28 million Manning was given. In some contract situations, the Colts would be in a hole trying to find pieces to patch up the holes respectively that could take years to build up.

Conclusion:
Try and find a person that could give any solid, convincing advice to Jim Irsay on the Manning situation. Never in the history of sports has one player meant so much to a franchise. A mistake made by Irsay could lead to years of reform by the Colts franchise. Just don’t do anything stupid, Jim.

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