There will probably never be a 'closing of the book' on Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, but given that the Andrew Luck era will officially begin on Thursday night, now is as good a time as any for one more look at the decision to let Manning walk.
A reader recently requested that I go back and reexamine the predictions I made in the 'Old Manning' piece I wrote before the 2009 season. In that piece, I tried to predict the end of Manning's career by looking at the quarterbacks who scored highly on the 'similarity score' metric on Profootballreference.com.
With three full seasons of 'Old Manning' gone, here's what I got right, wrong, and what we still don't know.
What I Got Right
- Manning appeared in another Super Bowl (2009). I said, "Should Manning's career continue to follow a similar path that of the 10 QBs he's most like, the odds are good that he will make at least one more Super Bowl appearance before he's done."
- Injuries could be an issue. I said: "The stunning thing about all the quarterbacks on the list, is that other than Unitas and Moon, the end came quickly. Eight of them posted a season of at least 430 attempts one year before retiring. Staubach, Montana, and Favre all posted at least 460 attempts in their final season...So, what can we take from this? We know that injuries can hit any player at any time. We also know that Manning has a suspect offensive line."
- He can return from an injury. I said, "Even if he does get hurt, he can still come back to have fine seasons. Many QBs in the modern era have done so."
- His touchdowns would stay high. "It's safe to assume that by volume, we won't see much decrease from Peyton Manning in the touchdown department. It's reasonable to assume that barring injury he'll still throw between 20-30 TDs a year. He's similar in many ways to Favre and Marino, so the 'Soft Landing' label fits nicely."
- His interception totals will climb. "Unfortunately, the odds are high that he'll fall into the trap of the 'Old Gunslingers' as well. It is possible that as his arm deteriorates, he'll change his game and protect the ball better. This list has shown that Elway certainly elevated his game and became a better QB at 35-38 than at 25-28. More likely, his pick rate will rise with time. In fact, if the Colts have a down season, I would expect it to rise dramatically as he'll have to throw more to keep his team in the game. The good news for 18 is that because his INT levels are so low now that even a modest increase will keep his numbers at respectable levels. We might see a few more seasons like 2003 (19 ints) late in his career, but are unlikely to see a Favrian number of picks."
- His YPA would dip (I was a year off): With uncertainty surrounding the Colts line this year as well, no one should be surprised to see Manning's YPA dip below 7 (where it stood for a good portion of last season). Having said that, he still should be able to post some strong seasons before he retires.
- This piece of eerie: A best case scenario would be a John Elway set up. Manning gets paired up with a strong run game and a stifling defense and the Colts don't need him to throw as much. In such a selective situation, Manning could see his YPA move back up toward 8 or 8.5, though his overall yardage would still fall, perhaps even lower than the 3500 yard plateau.
- Passer rating: That makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions, but it's a good bet that Manning will have several more years over 90 and even one or two over 100 before he retires. Toward the very end, he'll likely settle into seasons in the high 80s. Of all the categories, this should remain Manning's strongest until the end.
- The windows closes because of Peyton. What does this mean for Peyton Manning? It certainly should reassure Colts fans that 'the window' isn't closing. There is no "window" for victory by older QBs. Now, the Colts' window could close because Freeney or Wayne got old, certainly. It will not close because of Manning's age. There is every reason to expect the Colts to continue to be a playoff caliber team as long as Manning is under center.
What I Got Wrong:
- I flipped 2009 and 2010. I thought that 2009 would be rough for the Colts, but they would respond with a huge 2010 season. That was exactly the opposite of reality.
- I didn't forsee anything like the crazy high volume of 2010. That year was so out of line with anything rational, that I don't blame myself.
- The whole, "He got cut and is playing for Denver thing".
What We Still Don't Know:
- How he'll respond to a more run heavy offense in Denver.
- If he can physically recover from a whole year off.
- If his YPA can recover. I saw a more gradual decline, but thanks in part to his cast of characters in 2010, it dropped of more suddenly.
Off topic, per Phil B: "The Colts have also given the OK to have the iPhone in the locker room, so I’m free to tape locker-room interviews and post videos from now on. In the spirit of this new technological age, this should be fun." I wish someone had gotten a phone cam video of Bill Polian's head exploding when he heard this.
"If he can physically recover from a whole year off."
wasn't the year off for the specific purpose of recovery?
@muncie_in_this Doesn't mean that he he'll bounce back after it. He could. He probably will. It's not a given.
I am not saying he is in the same league as Peyton, but in 1998 Jim Harbaugh was jettisoned so the Colts could draft Manning just as they did this year with Manning/Luck. So it happens to open up the position for the new guy.
I am not angry at Irsay at all. I think this whole thing is about something bigger than Manning. I think Irsay got tired of no fire from the coach, the inability to run or stop the run, Chris Polian taking over for his retiring dad, and watching a team that won so many games bounced from the playoffs almost every year. So much money was tied up at only a handful of players that the depth was terrible. And I think he simply had no faith in Chris Polian or Jim Caldwell. Plus, I think he was tired of Bill Polian being the face of the team. He wanted to take a bigger role and be more of the face.
Unfortunately, that meant Manning would have to come back to a team with a new offense and defensive philosophy, many veterans cut, and likely the inability to complete for the Super Bowl for 2-3 years. I think Manning could have still got them to the playoffs, but likely couldn't have won it all. So for a guy like Manning who worked so hard to come back, it has to be hard coming back to a situation where you know you likely are not good enough to win the Super Bowl. And Irsay likely saw that investing that much money in a veteran QB who doesn't have a Super Bowl caliber team around him really was counter productive.
I will always be a huge Peyton Manning fan. But I am first most a Colts fan and have been since Bert Jones was our QB. I didn't like it when Jones was traded to the Rams either and Art Schlichter was drafted to replace him. It is always going to happen. But I really believe Luck can be a great QB and this team will turn around very quickly.
@heavywoody Yeah, no. Irsay wasn't tired of any of those things. He was tired of letting Bill Polian run his team because Polian is an ahole.
@heavywoody I don't think Jim Irsay was "tired" of the string of 12+ wins per season that Bill Polian put together. And I don't think he had a problem with the "no fire" coaching, which he got used to with Tony Dungy. No, I just think that Irsay didn't have faith that Chris Polian was an adequate replacement for his father, or that Jim Caldwell was an adequate replacement for Dungy.
Sure, we all would have loved another Lombardi or two, but overall, we have NOTHING to complain about from the Polian/Manning era.
As for the new era, I have complete confidence in Luck. It's Grigson and Pagano that I'm not so sure about. And ultimately, they're going to be the ones to define the era.
I still predict that the twilight of Manning, like his whole career, will be unpresidented.
Despite his neck, I still believe that Manning is in much better physical shape than any other great QB at this age. First of all, he is bigger than all these other guys. Secondly, he has never taken a lot of hits and in today's NFL QBs are protected like they have never been before. Thirdly, he has had a whole year off for his body to recover. And finally, Manning's success has never really been about his atheticism.
I believe that Manning will play at least the fives years of his current contract. The reason is... he still LOVES it. I always thought that Manning would lose the desire to mentally engage before he physically couldn't play anymore. In a way, this late change of scenerary may make him play even longer.
I believe that the next three years of Manning's career will be as good statistically as any he has ever had. Then after that, he will still be outstanding in relationship to the rest of the league.
#18 will continue to reestablish the bar of what is possible.
@DougEngland You think there will continue to be a vacancy in the office of President of Manning? Sorry couldn't resist... I know you mean "precedent". Actually, I agree with this post entirely.
I don't care how many times I read the logical breakdown of how this "had to happen" and try to convince myself of that. The further away I get from it, the more bitter I become at Irsay, and the more I rewrite things in my mind, that this didn't have to play out this way, starting 5-10 years ago. I know it's mostly irrational, but I feel jilted. Time is not healing s***.
I wonder how many others feel the same, and how losing will exasperate things.
@TroySI'm totally there with you. I well remember when Bud Adams yanked the Oilers out of Houston after crying about a new stadium (wonder how he liked them building Reliant Park for the Texans under a 1000% better owner!) He's still not welcome back into town. Of course it didn't help our fondness for him when the Titans went on to win a Super Bowl and Adams very blantantly and verbally gave the finger to Houston!! Bonehead moves by owners are never forgiven or forgotten (kind of like pulling the starters in that dang Jets game to take a perfect season from the Colts!). Gotta remember I'm first and foremost a Colts fan, not an Irsay proponent. The Blue will come back despite Irsay!!
@TroyS Trust me I totally understand what you mean. When Bud Adams yanked the Oilers out of Houston, over a stadium issue (wonder what he thinks of the Texans Reliant Park now!) it was traumatic. He's still not welcome back in town. When an owner pulls a bonehead move, he is NEVER forgiven and it is never forgotten!! Of course we also remember the Titans went on to win the Super Bowl when Adams blatantly gave the finger to Houston during his post-game interview. Got to remember, I'm a Colts fan first and foremost, not an Irsay proponent!, or ever will be!
@TroyS You know, the more I think about the whole release situation, the more I begin to think that is was Peyton who wanted out. I think there is a strong possibility that Peyton didn't want to be part of the two-three year rebuild and/or didn't want to have an entirely new coaching staff. I think it's possible, even probable, Peyton chose to leave rather than stay.
Everyone seems to want to blame Irsay for releasing Peyton, but I think Peyton is the one who chose to leave.
@TrueBlue87 I believe in that scenario also.Peyton also saw the aging veterans around him
( It's no surprise for me that Addai, Brackett, Clark didn't get an offer from any team)
Less talent + new system + new coaches + Luck threat equals ... "Try somewhere else where I'll have the chance for a serious SB run."
@TrueBlue87 I believe that Irsay fell in love with Luck during the 2011 season and never came off it. I believe that when it became clear to Peyton that regardless of his health, the Cotls were still going to draft Luck, that yes he did want out.
But if you watched #18's press conference when he was cut by the Colts or have read about how much he hated the whole deciding on his new team proccess, there is no way that staying with the Colts was not what he really wanted. Just not with Luck also on the team.
@DougEngland @TrueBlue87 I totally agree. I believe that Peyton would still be a Colt if the team had the eighth pick in the draft. It would have been really interesting to see what happened if the Colts had the second pick in the draft. Luck has always been the apple of Irsay's eye. I would have seriously considered trading the pick.
@TroyS As I still believe that Peyton is going to be Peyton for at least another five years, I totally agree with you. (Especially with all the picks we could get by trading the #1 pick.)
And I do believe Luck will be a great player. But it is still like losing the Super Bowl to the Saints. Instead of getting better over time, I become more bitter about it.
@DougEngland @TroyS Even if Peyton is going to be Peyton for another five years, if I was Jim Irsay I would take Luck for fifteen years. Is it the right decision? Only time will tell. I hate to say this, but Luck is going to have to win a Super Bowl and get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame to justify the decision.
@TroyS Irsay put aside the sentimental reasons for keeping Manning and made a decision based on what's best for the team in the long term. In my opinion if you can put sentimentality aside, it's really a no brainer. Luck is 14 years younger than Manning. If you believe the Luck hype, you can't afford to pass up this once in a generation opportunity.
@UKColt He made a decision based on what's best for the team in the long term after making years of decisions based on what was best for the team in the short term. They set themselves up for cap hell by betting the farm that the cap would continue to increase and things would be awesome.
The further I get from the situation, the more angry I get at Irsay for letting things come to this starting 5+ years ago. We all recognized what we had in Manning then, every precaution should have been taken to preserve it, and instead they played Russian roulette with the cap, betting that "the perfect storm" wouldn't happen. It did, and the Colts blew their brains out.
@UKColt @TroyS I agree with Troy. I look at it like this. Is it worth it to trade Manning for THE CHANCE of having a younger, great, QB. Too many people (not necessarily you - UKColt) are deluded into thinking this is an even swap of one great QB for another.
To give up Manning and make this worth it in the long run - and not be one of the most colossally bad football decisions ever - Luck needs to be great - not good - great. One of the top 5 QB's while he is playing. Also he needs to better than RG3 - or any other QB drafted this year.
@TroyS That's fair enough. I can see the logic behind Irsay's decision, but I can't categorically say Irsay made the right decision until Luck proves himself worthy of the hype.
@UKColt I appreciate your positivity. That sounds sarcastic, but it's not. I'm just not prepared to say that Luck for Manning was a good deal yet.
@TroyS Despite mortgaging the future for short-term success, Irsay has landed on his feet with a once-in-a-generation franchise quarterback. We're in salary cap hell right now, but we'll be in salary cap heaven next year. It worked out pretty well if you ask me.