One Last Request

Colts Authority reader Music Man wrote an excellent piece defending the retention of Peyton Manning, even if the team intends to draft Andrew Luck. We’ve brought it to the front page for our readers.

It’s hard to hold on to an idea when everyone tells you you’re nuts. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last. I read all I can on a topic. Try to listen to all sides, and then form an opinion. Once in awhile my ideas simply diverge from the group. This is one of those times.

If there is a better than 70% chance Manning can play football again, ever, the Colts need to resign him.

That’s right. I’m the crazy one. I’ve heard it all. “Do you want the Colts to be terrible for the next 5 years?” “You’re just emotionally attached.” “Can’t you see, Irsay and the Colts have already moved on.” I will not go quietly into that good night, and I’ll tell you why.

Let’s start with the obvious. We are not talking about a good QB. We are talking about a guy that everyone knew was headed to Canton early. They’re already talking about light placement so that the glare from his forehead doesn’t temporarily blind someone.

Manning is arguably the greatest QB of all time. He’s also been one of the most durable. He knows how to play through injuries and pain and has on many occasions. By not signing him, the Colts are not giving up on a great QB, they’re giving up on a legend. And by the way, when we last saw Manning play he was carrying this team.

I understand the fears against the Colts retaining Manning. The best ones are the fear of his injury and whether he’ll be able to play and the salary cap issues his contract might cause. I’ll address both at the same time.

The argument goes that since Manning’s cap number is so high, the Colts cannot possibly retain him unless they know for sure he can play. His cap number will kill the team if he isn’t able to play out his contract.

I have news for you all. This team will be terrible without Manning. His cap space isn’t going to make the difference.

I have no idea why I’m the only person that sees this. I guess that most people feel that if Manning can’t play because he’s injured, his cap number will kill the Colts for the next 4 years. No, if Manning can’t play because he’s injured, he’ll retire. His salary number will come off of the books.  Only his bonus number will be on the books, and that will go in 1 year.

The year after Manning leaves the Colts, whenever that is, the Colts will not be good. His cap number for that year won’t make a difference because a young QB will be throwing picks and learning the hard knocks of the NFL. As long as his deal goes away after 1 year in cap hell, its worth the risk. This also isn’t addressing that the salary cap will be going up against after next year.

The next argument is about talent. Specifically the talent on the Colts roster. Lets start with the Colts offense.

I don’t claim to be a salary cap guy, so I can’t tell you how they’re going to fill out the roster. I do know this. With the guys the Colts already have under contract for next year on offense, the 2012 offensive roster is just as good as the 2010 roster at every position but WR. If the Colts are able to sign either Garcon or Wayne, they’ll be just as good there as well.

The OL is improved, the RB are at worst equal, TE probably about the same (better if they re-sign Tamme). That offense wasn’t Manning’s best, but it was good enough to get to the playoffs in spite of massive injuries. The offense, if Manning leads it, will be playoff quality next year.

The talent on the Colts defense is much more in question. With the hiring of Pagano it is very tough to see what direction the Colts are headed here.

If the Colts are willing and able to re-sign Mathis the DE are taken care of for a 4-3 D. The LB’s in the 4-3 were descent. The secondary was terrible.

I have no idea of how they fit into a 3-4. But what is really important to understand is that it DOESN’T MATTER. The 3 “best” teams this year, NE, GB, NO were 31, 32, and 24 in total defense. The Giants were 27. The Colts, in this tragic season, were 25. Better than all but 1 of the top 3 teams.

The Colts defense should be better next year. If they aren’t, perhaps Pagano isn’t the defensive coach we thought he was. Remember that Wade Phillips took the Texans from one of the worst D’s in the NFL to one of the best in one year, without an off-season, without much significant talent upgrade, and losing his best defensive player.

The talent on the Colts roster is good enough to get into the playoffs. Once you’re in, if you have a great QB, you have shot to win it all. (Ask the Giants.) If you don’t, you have no chance, even if your team is more talented the the one you’re playing. (Ask the Texans.)

Luck may be great eventually. He won’t be great for at least 2 – 3 years. When he’s ready to be great, Manning will be ready to move on.

The future. “The Colts are ready for the future.” “Luck is ready to play day one.” “New coach, new GM, new QB. They are ready to start over completely.” Heard it. Don’t buy it. It’s fools gold.

Grigson and Pagano would have to be nuts or blind not to want Manning on the Colts. I know, his cap number is an issue. I get that. However, that contract was put together by Bill Polian. He may not be nice, but he’s not an idiot. There was a plan to make it work last year. I’ll bet that Irsay knows it and has shared it.

Putting that aside for now, both Grigson and Pagano have been on the receiving ends of Manning dismantling their team for years. How long has it been since the Ravens have beaten a Manning team? (Dec 2001) Manning is 6-2 vs. the Ravens all time and 3-1 vs. the Eagles. Grigson and Pagano have come in here and said, hard work, together, trust. If they really believe that, no player in the NFL exudes those attitudes more than Manning.

They don’t call the NFL the “Not For Long” league for nothing. If these two new guys want to find their way to the door quickly all they have to do is miss on a first round QB or struggle to develop him or a new offense for a few years. They could both easily be gone before Luck becomes established. (Ask Jim Mora Sr.) Why would you want that when you have the chance to have an NFL legend be your QB?

This is not even bringing up what both men have seen on their previous teams. They have seen the difference in QB play between Flacco, McNabb, and Vick. They are all good. None of them can hold a candle to Manning.

Andrew Luck. I love the idea of cheering for him. Just in a few years from now. All we hear from Kiper and McShay is how awesome he is. Everyone gushes over him. People say look at the success of Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Andy Dalton and say that Luck can play now in the NFL.  They’re right. But my question is, how many of those teams had another choice?

Waiting….

They didn’t. Starting a rookie is only the best idea, if you don’t have a better option. If you do have one, it’s simply not a great idea. Let him watch and learn how to be a real pro. Then give him a shot.

“But it worked out great for SF and GB to let their stars go.” Yes it did. After each of their replacements had a small internship. Oh wait. They both waited for 3 years! They watched, waited, learned. Once the 49ers and Packers were certain Young and Rodgers were ready, then they released/traded their aging legends.

How did they know they were ready? They saw them in practice, meetings, preseason and injury replacement against real NFL players. As good as the Pac 10 might be, they simply don’t hold a candle to any NFL team.

Don’t reinvent the wheel when we’ve seen 2 great franchises do it the exact same way. Let Luck come in and learn. He’ll be better for off for it and so will the Colts.

The final reason to keep Manning is one I don’t believe more people have noticed and commented on. The only teams not interested in trying to acquire Manning if he’s released by the Colts are teams that already have a ton invested in their current QB. I’ve read that there would be interest from: MIA, NYJ, CLE, DEN, KC, WAS, MIN, ARI, SF, and SEA. That’s nearly a third of the league. The bidding war for Manning will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the NFL. If he wants to, Manning will be able to demand a 3 year 100 million contract. He’ll get it too.

If all of those franchises are willing to pony up that kind of money for a CHANCE he’s gonna be healthy, why would the Colts let him go? The NFL is a QB league. The teams listed above are the have nots. They’ll do anything to become the haves.

I know I’m alone on this island. I know in my head, it is likely that the Colts and Manning will part ways. I know the salary cap is problematic, the coaches have changed, Manning isn’t happy, and Irsay isn’t either.

I also know that Manning is not a once in a generation player. He’s a once in a lifetime player. He is THE best option for the Colts to win games. Now, and for at least the next several years if he can play.

If the time comes when he can’t play, or the Colts have a better option at QB, so be it. Until then, I still don’t see why the Colts let him leave.

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