Two Quarterbacks, One Roster

Yesterday, I asked readers to make the case for carrying Luck and Manning at the same time. I’d like to respond to some of their points today. The main arguments in favor of keeping Manning and drafting Luck seem to be:

1. Manning would be better in the short run, Luck in the long run so why not carry both?

2. People are terrified of Manning playing for another team.

3. People don’t believe Luck can be trusted to be the next franchise quarterback. They see him as a gamble.

4. Manning would be a good teacher for Luck.

5. It’s good for a quarterback to sit for a year or two.

6. You can always trade Luck later (like Philly did with Kolb).

After the jump, I’ll address these one by one.

 

1. Manning would be better in the short run, Luck in the long run so why not carry both?

 

Simple, if you bring back Manning you are trying to win now, right? By definition, you’ve chosen to risk future salary cap problems for the chance to win immediately. However, drafting Luck doesn’t help you do that. Luck is all about the future, and Manning is all about the present. Keeping Manning actually HURTS the team in the long run because of the salary cap implications of not cutting him this year. Having Luck in the short run HURTS the team because of the cap he occupies and the opportunity cost choosing him represents. By taking him (and not trading the pick), you are surrendering multiple talented players who could help immediately. So are you really getting the ‘best of both worlds’ by keeping both, or just the worst of both worlds. Keeping both exposes the Colts to a future where Manning is a cap liability AND Luck is a bust. If both are great, the team is no better off than if they had just kept Manning because only one can play at a time. Keeping both risks putting the team in a situation where they have to decide to resign Luck without knowing if he can really play. It seems like too big a risk to me.

2. People are terrified of Manning playing for another team.

Me too. That’s why I say that if Manning can play you have to trade the pick. You don’t cut a healthy Peyton Manning. You don’t trade a healthy Peyton Manning. I believe this all to be moot because I honestly don’t believe he’s going to be healthy. If you stick with Peyton and Luck turns out to be amazing with another team, I can live with that ‘mistake’ a lot more easily than I can accept Peyton being awesome somewhere else.

3. People don’t believe Luck can be trusted to be the next franchise quarterback. They see him as a gamble.

Then the Colts shouldn’t draft him at all. If Luck is such a gamble, then trade the pick. This is simple. If you aren’t sure that he’s the next great franchise QB who will be at worst in the 6-10 range in the league, then you have no business taking him. You trade the pick. You certainly don’t take him and hope for the best. If he’s not a slam dunk, then his value as a potential pick is so high, you absolutely have trade him.

4. Manning would be a good teacher for Luck.

This is probably the worst reason of all. There’s no evidence for this. Manning is fanatical about wanting every rep. He’s notoriously tough on young players. You don’t keep Peyton to be a coach. He’s a Hall of Fame player, but there’s not much evidence he’s good at mentoring young QBs on the same roster. This is more of a wish or a fantasy than an actual reason.

5. It’s good for a quarterback to sit for a year or two.

Again, there’s not much evidence for this one. The research shows that elite QBs are basically elite within 2 years. Sitting one year has negligible value. Sitting two years is probably bad. The idea that Luck will get better without playing is just not realistic. “Punting the issue down the road” sounds nice, but you aren’t kicking it very far. This is an imminent roster crisis. Luck isn’t going to agree to come to Indy if it means he sits for three years. If he’s the guy for the future, there’s NO WAY he stands for being benched. This situation cannot exist for more than a season. So for one season of ‘safety’, you engage Manning’s massive bonus, and run the risk of losing out on Luck’s prime trade value. It’s just too much to risk.

6. You can always trade Luck later (like Philly did with Kolb).

True. But for less value than what he has now. The fact is that before the draft, Luck’s stock is at an all time high. Whoever drafts him wants to put him in their system with their coach from day one, and they’ll pay a premium to do it. The Kolb trade may well scare teams away from doing a deal for a guy who sat for a year. It didn’t exactly work out for the Cardinals, did it?

Ultimately, those who want to keep both players are punting the decision for one year. They expose the team to a situation where every single year (if not every week) we’ll have to ask the question of what to do with Luck. At the end of one year, the team will be no closer to knowing if he can be the guy or not, because if Peyton Manning is playing, we’ll never see Luck take significant snaps. The end result will be a year of security paid for in reduced trade value, a year without other elite players drafted with the bounty they’d receive, and lots of guaranteed money on the books for Peyton that can’t be wiped out.

Ironically, the best solution for the Colts would be for Peyton to retire immediately following this season. His money comes off the books, but they retain his rights. Then if he wanted to come back in a year or so (after the team had a chance to see Luck play), Indy would still have the option to bring him back or trade him. Trading or releasing Manning a year from now after he sat out would be far more emotionally acceptable to everyone than doing it this spring.

Just like on the field, I hate punting.

It’s a mistake. If Manning is healthy, you roll the dice on 4-5 years with the best quarterback ever.

If you don’t know, you take Luck.

If you are certain Luck is the next big thing, then you take him consequences be damned.

If you don’t know, you HAVE to trade him.

Either way makes sense.

The only thing that doesn’t is keeping them both.

Quantcast