By Kyle Soppe
Say what you will about me, but if I am the Colts, I am announcing Peyton Manning as my 2012 starting QB. In addition to sticking by Manning, I am dealing the number one overall pick (essentially the rights to Andrew Luck) to the highest bidder.
Let’s assume that Manning, whose past would indicate nothing but an honest person, is telling the truth when he says he could have played in the Colts final two games this season. I realize that my suggestion would include paying a large bonus for a 35 year old QB coming off of three neck surgeries, but he is an elite talent with plenty left in the tank. Would he have gone through numerous procedures if he didn’t think he could still contribute at a high level?
Peyton Manning is an experienced quarterback with a super bowl ring and hall of fame credentials, not something that is easy to come by. If Indy can sign a veteran backup (maybe David Garrard), they should let Manning play out his career with the team that drafted him. Success after the age of 35 isn’t a rare as you might think.
Dan Marino went 31-25 after he turned 35. He averaged over 3,000 yards per season and tallied 68 TD’s in those four seasons.
But Marino wasn’t banged up like Manning. He aged more gracefully. Point well taken. Let’s look at a few “tough guys” after turning 35 years of age.
Steve Young wasn’t all that young when he had his best season, statistically, of his storied career. In 1998, at the age of 37, Young threw for 4,170 yards and fired 36 TD’s. In fact, #8 torched defenses for 72 TD’s after his 35th birthday (ask the defenses in the late 90’s if he was too old to produce). The legs may have been tired, but the winning spirit didn’t die, as Young won 34 of his final 45 games.
But Young could run around, it’s not the same thing. Manning is a one dimensional QB who hasn’t ever been a threat to run. The simple threat of Young taking off exposed defenses, and Manning won’t have that luxury.
OK, then we can take a look at Brett Favre. He posted three 10 win seasons after turning 35, not to mention he gunned at least 28 TD passes in each of those seasons. He led the Vikings to a 12-4 record, and was one pass away from a serious super bowl run. Take into account that the Packers only won six games, and the impact of Favre was a great one.
For every argument, there is an exceptional QB who bucked the trend. Assuming that Manning is finished is a mistake, as he is the elite talent that may have the ability to overcome all odds and continue to produce. Manning’s absence crippled the Colts this year, but this is not a two win football team. By bringing back Manning, the Colts can sell free agent Reggie Wayne on a “win now” mentality. If they decline Manning’s bonus, it seems unlikely that the aging Wayne will want to stick around to see Andrew Luck progress. Also, by stock piling high draft picks from trading the 2012 top pick, the Colts are also building for future success.
Lastly, while Andrew Luck has been super impressive and has done nothing to lower his stock, he is still an unknown commodity. I don’t care how “NFL ready” a player looks, I just care about if the player is actually ready for he NFL. I don’t think Luck will be a bust, but the perception of him as the greatest thing since sliced bread will land the Colts tremendous value come the April draft.
Worst case scenario would be a Manning injury, which would effectively end his career. However, if this were the case, would it not be possible that the Colts have the 2013 top overall selection? If that is the case, Matt Barkley (USC) would be there for the taking, along with all of the picks acquired from this trade.
Best case scenario would be a return to respectability, and possibly the playoffs. If Manning can offer up three more solid seasons, Indy will have the opportunity to rebuild around a competitive football team.
Thoughts? How should the new Colts brass handle this unique situation?