Offseason 2011, The Indianapolis Colts disclose information that Peyton Manning is dealing with severe neck pain caused by a bulging disk that will require surgery to repair. Colts owner Jim Irsay provides very little concrete evidence as to how or when the injury occured but speculation is made that it happened very early at some point during the 2010-11 season, possibly even week 1 against the Texans. It's worth noting that Peyton Manning failed to appear on the teams injury report for every single game played in 2010-11. For any devote Colts follower this is very surprising as signs of injury were present as soon as week 2 against the Giants as Manning is seen wearing a sleeve over his left elbow, one similar to the one he wore after recovering from a march 2010 neck surgery. As the season progressed, Manning struggled with his accuracy and saw the team lose 4 out of 5 games from week 9 through week 13. Following a week 12 blowout loss to the Chargers, a game that saw Manning throw 4 interceptions, Manning admits to CBS sports that he's dealing with a "stinger" injury in his right shoulder. Week 13's injury report is released and once again, Peyton Manning is not on it. Did Peyton Manning play all or most of 2010-11 injured?!
Entering the 2011-12 NFL season, most people including Colts personnel, NFL insiders, and fans never thought they would see an entire year without Peyton Manning. As the season clipped along, negative progress reports continued to flow through the media and it became apparant that the Colts would be without their unquestioned leader for the whole of the year. As Indy played quarterback roulette with the likes of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky the loss of Manning proved more severe than most had anticipated. Over the course of the 16 game season, the colts would win just twice and star players Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie saw their production drop off exponentially. To say the Colts need Manning in order to succeed is a gross understatement. Manning is the engine that runs the Indianapolis Colts locomotive. The fall out from the disaster of 2011-12 saw Owner Jim Irsay give out pink slips to vice chairman Bill Polian, general manager Chris Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell.
"The night is darkest just before dawn." - (The Dark Knight)
With the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft the Indianpolis Colts select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford. Born in 1989, Andrew Luck is widely considered to be the finest NFL Quarterback prospect to come out of the college ranks in quite some time. In 2011, Luck won both the Maxwell Award as well as the Walter Camp Award as college football's player of the year. Luck was also runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in both his Sophomore and Junior years. The 6'3" 210 pound gunslinger from Houston, Texas threw for over 9,400 yards with a 67% average completion percentage, connecting on 82 touchdowns to only 22 interceptions in his 3 years at Stanford. He finished college with a combined quarterback rating of 162.8. Luck shattered pretty much every significant record at Stanford as well as the entire Pac-12 conference. In both 2010 and 2011 Andrew Luck was a finalist for the Manning Award given to the nations top college quarterback. Ironically, this brings us full circle to this offseason's most intriguing debate.
At quarterback, who is manning the colts?!
The case for Andrew Luck.
The case for Peyton Manning.
Can Manning and Luck co-exist? The easy answer to this is yes, in the short term. Perhaps a better question to be asked is should Manning and Luck co-exist? As far as the Colts are concerned, drafting Luck is a commitment to Luck so having both would not be in the best interest of the team should a suitor for Peyton Manning surface via trade. If Manning's progress looks legitimate, would you consider trading the top pick, presumably Andrew Luck, and cash in on the incredible value he would return via a draft day trade? If a team were to offer 3 or 4 first-round picks for right to draft Luck, the Colts could potentially solidify their team for the next decade. The same would hold true if a desperate team like the Jets or the Redskins decide to move all-in to acquire Peyton Manning. One thing is certain, having both QB's on the roster in 2012 would prevent either senario from being realized.
Regardless of what happens this offseason, Peyton Manning has had and will continue to have a brilliant career. I think there's some good football left for Peyton Manning. By Brett Favre terms, Manning is still a rookie! I'd like to always think of Manning as a member of the Indianpolis Colts but if he were to switch teams, there'd be no shame in doing so as some of the games very best players have done such and achieved at a very high level. The Colts have an incredible opportunity to press the reset button 14 years after drafting what many believe to be the ....Greatest Of All Time....