Nate Dunlevy reviews the short- and long-term implications of the Colts loss in Jacksonville and rebukes suggestions that Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck could co-exist on the same team.
Happy New Year.
The Colts 19-13 loss yesterday secured the top overall pick in the 2012 draft, and extracted at least one dram of redemption from the carcass of 2011. Colts fans should be very careful about what they've wished for, however. The #1 pick though valuable has the potential to upend the franchise permanently.
The first clues about the future of the Colts could be revealed today as we await word of the fate of Jim Caldwell and his staff. Any kind of clean sweep of the coaching staff, especially one that extends into the front office almost assuredly means the end of Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and the close on one of the most successful runs in NFL history.
By now the Grinch should be happily digesting his roast beast, but today I'm going to play his part in the New Year. There is no "happy happy rainbow fun-time fairyland" scenario for the Colts surrounding this #1 pick. Fans should prepare themselves for it now. One way or another, things are going to get ugly in the coming weeks and months.
The following things are not going happen all at once:
- The Colts fire Jim Caldwell and hire a big name coach (Cowher! Fisher! Vince Lombard!)
- Peyton Manning cheerfully renegotiates his deal so the Colts don't owe him a $28 million bonus.
- Dwight Freeney signs a below market value extension allowing the Colts to bring back Robert Mathis.
- Reggie Wayne signs a reasonable deal, playing for the $2-4 million a year that the Colts can afford for a 34 year old wideout
- Andrew Luck happily consents to come to Indianapolis to ride the bench for 2-5 years.
- Manning and Luck become best buds, cheerfully pushing one another as Peyton mentors him, graciously giving up practice reps, and a few drives a game so the young man can become the next great quarterback.
I've been accused of being homer who shoots rainbows out his butt, but there will be no ass rainbows today. No matter what the Colts do, it's going to be messy. I've been saying since September that the Colts absolutely cannot play Luck and Manning on the same roster, and nothing has happened to change my mind.
Consider: Peyton Manning is a fanatical practice player who doesn't like to give snaps to other QBs. He never wants to leave games. He already gave the team a health related escape clause after this season. Now fans expect him to happily renegotiate his deal so that the Colts can draft another quarterback. It's not going to happen. Manning and Luck are expected to share an agent (Tom Condon). Condon's goal is to get as much money as possible for both his clients. He's never going to agree to a situation that allows them both to be on the same roster. It's a fantasy. Peyton Manning, injured or not, is going to be able to extract more money as a free agent that the Colts would have to pay him under his existing deal. The Colts have to sink or swim with Peyton on the deal they have with him now. There is no way Peyton renegotiates unless there are iron-clad assurances the team is not taking Andrew Luck.
Consider: Andrew Luck would be a fool to come to Indianapolis if Peyton Manning is on the roster. How long does anyone think that arrangement would last? One year? Two years tops? First of all, if Luck is the kind of guy to happily accept sitting on the bench the Colts don't want him. Who wants a franchise quarterback so docile that he just accepts his fate? If Andrew Luck doesn't sit down with the Colts and say, "If you don't dump Manning, I won't play for you. You have to trade me", then he's not the right guy for the job. No one as competitive and driven as a franchise QB in the NFL is going to be ok with riding the pine for years. This isn't Eli Manning and Kurt Warner. Peyton isn't keeping the seat warm for Luck. Peyton Manning will never willingly pass the reins over to Luck. You'll have to pry the football out of his cold dead laser-rocket hands.
Forget roster maximization for a moment. There's no way a Luck/Manning roster works from a locker room standpoint. This notion that professional athletes should be magnanimous and cheerfully do what's in the best interests of the organization is just not reality. For a moment, stop considering what you think things should be like. Maybe Luck and Manning should hold hands and skip around the complex as a show of friendship, love, and loyalty to the fans and future of the team. Even if you think that's how they should behave, please be mature enough to realize that's not going to happen.
The Colts aren't keeping Manning without paying him the $28 million bonus (unless perhaps they assure him they won't take Luck). If they do pay him that money, that's it. There's no going back. That's a decision. You cannot trade or cut Manning any time in the next three years without setting off a massive salary bomb that would cripple the team. You can't have two years of Peyton. You can have zero years or four years. Otherwise, are going to give Andrew Luck a team with a huge pile of dead money on it. It just doesn't make sense. Why bring Manning back at all if you aren't trying to win right now. If you are trying to win right now, what sense does it make to spend the most valuable #1 pick in ten years on a guy who doesn't help you win right now?
Likewise, you cannot possibly draft Andrew Luck unless you plan to play him in 2013 at the latest. This is not an Aaron Rodgers situation. Rodgers was a late first round pick. He had no leverage. He couldn't force his way out of Green Bay. Andrew Luck has all the leverage in the world, and he'd be a fool not to use it. Colts fans drool over the prospect of the next Peyton, but consider for a moment how the first Peyton would have dealt with this situation. Do you think the guy who taunted Polian and Irsay that he'd kick their ass for a decade if they didn't draft him would have been ok riding the pine for a few years? Luck's dad is a successful man. The family doesn't need the money. He can sit out the year if he has to, and he'd be nuts not to threaten it.
I can understand those who want a tabla rasa for the Colts. They want rid of the whole Manning era. While I think most of those people are in the media and are advocate that course for their own purposes and selfish interests, there's a logic to it. If in fact you believe the Colts are irrevocably broken and the only path to glory is to start over, then it makes sense. In fact, if Peyton Manning isn't an option, I can buy into that line of thinking quite easily.
If Peyton Manning is healthy, the Colts should deal Luck. This isn't a choice between 4 years of Peyton Manning and 15 years of Peyton Manning Part 2. This is likely a choice between 4 years of Peyton Manning and 15 years of Drew Bledsoe, Carson Palmer, or Vinny Testaverde. Given that, I'll take the four years of Peyton Manning, thank you very much. Luck might be a special once-in-a-generation player...but the odds are very much against it. If he's any of those guys I mentioned, then he'd be a very good #1 pick. A nice 15 year career with a handful of Pro Bowls is a good solid haul for the top pick.
What's that even mean, by the way, "once in a generation"? There are four of those guys playing in the NFL right now at least. Brees, Brady, Rodgers are easily in that category along with Manning. There has never actually been only one 'once in a generation' player at a time. There are always like four of them in the NFL. They actually come along every five years or so. That's because five years in the NFL IS a generation. It's an eternity. So forgive me if I'm not ready to throw dirt on the Manning era for the sake of a guy who will come back around in a different form in just a couple of years.
No matter what happens, expect it to be messy. If Jim Irsay fires Bill Polian, expect every player you love from the Colts to be gone within a month, and that very much includes Peyton Manning. If the Colts fire Jim Caldwell, know that the same thing could well happen. Even if everyone is back upstairs, I still expect an extensive roster turnover. The salary cap is not going up. Everyone cannot be signed who should be signed. Accept that now.
The next few months are not going to pretty one way or the other. Whenever jobs are on the line there will be distrust. The Colts' best course of action is a clear, decisive one. Anything else will be chaos.
You keep Luck and Manning. You build a strong offense around the money that's left. When Manning retires, you immediately build a strong defense to go with the strong offense you already have. It will fit and make us a better team for the next 17 years!
Luck learns from the greatest quarterback ever for a year or two, coming in when he can during about every game. He was in Peyton's camp and analyzed as the best of the bunch. One does not come into the draft as the best of a generation very often. I say one trusts that analysis. From what I see, Luck meets the criteria. Do it, only do it much better than Favre could with Rogers.
Everyone wants to talk about what happens if the Colts don't take Luck and he haunts them for years. How about you people actually READ Nate's article. It is significantly less likely that the #1 pick will become a superstar than the chance he will become something other than a superstar. If you get rid of a healthy Manning for anything less than a superstar, you've failed to benefit the franchise, short or long term. The odds are better that a healthy Manning for 4 years is going to be worth more to the Colts than whatever Luck turns out to be.
And consider this, even if you leave Manning out of the equation, getting 3 - 4 #1 picks plus 1 - 2 #2 picks from a team who's desperate enough to mortgage their entire short term future for Luck is probably going to be worth more to the Colts than taking Luck. Yes the Colts need a franchise QB to take over for Manning when he's done, but if you look at the superstar QBs in the league - Manning (#1 pick), Brady (6th rnd), Brees (2nd rnd) and Rodgers (24th pick), you'll notice that only Manning was a top pick - the other guys didn't require a top pick to acquire.
So here's a suggestion I haven't seen anywhere else yet - trade the Luck pick regardless of Manning's health. If we gut someone like the Dolphins or Browns to acquire 4 #1s + 2 #2s, then I'm pretty sure we'll have all the opportunity we need to find our franchise QB somewhere in that mix. And from a Risk / Reward standpoint, having 6 picks from a bad team plus our own picks over the next few years gives us far greater value than taking Luck in every scenario except in the one where Luck turns out to be a superstar (unlikely) and the Colts fail to land another superstar with one of those other picks (more likely than Luck becoming a superstar).
If you do the trade and Manning comes back, you win both ways. You have the greatest QB of all time behind center for 4 more years and you get a massive infusion of young talent through the draft to help the team both short and long term.
Ah let's see if I can comment on the new system... I don't have much faith in Manning's health. I think the odds spreadsheet I sent Nate a couple months ago terminated at 4 years and really had decent odds for a healthy Manning (as we all know and love him) for one year, 50% for two years and maybe 25% odds that he'll be the tytpical Manning for three years. So even without Luck champing at the bit (Which I don't think would be a disaster), we need a backup plan--if Indy drafts Luck and trades him, we could get a good backup that way, or if indy trades the pick pre-draft, we'd end up with a high 1st rounder this year, maybe another next year (in addition to our own) or if the goal is to maximize the roster pre-2012 Training Camp, we'd want a slew of picks this april, one of which could yield a decent QB... but another rookie who would get no reps. Basically, no backup. (more coming)
first of all, nothing will be decided until the colts are.positive manning will be able to play at a high level again - irsay mentioned this on the nfl network prior to the houston game. irsay has a great relationship with manning, they will talk privately over the coming months. second of all, i believe it isplain wrong to definitively say that the colts WONT keep manning and draft luck. i realize it's not the most likely situation but it is far from impossible, especially considering the high character of both qbs and the fact that they already have an ongoing friendship (it has been reported that luck even contacted peton for advise last year when declaring his return to college; their families are friends as well). Additionally, i could care less what tom condon wants -peyton had made a fortune and restruction of his deal is certainly not an impossibility by any stretch of the imagination
Mortreport - http://twitter.com/mortreport
Filed to ESPN: Irsay cleans house, including Bill and Chris Polian, per league source
Ahh, HERE'S the livefyre thread. Wasn't loading for me earlier today; no idea why.
Anyhoo: I don't know if I'm as cynical about coexistence as Nate here is, but I'm still on the same side of the line as him: Either Manning or Luck, but not both. Getting both isn't a Solomonic decision, it's a recipe for decline. I'd hate to pass on a QB like Luck too, and if he does indeed end up being Manning v.2, then I and everyone else here will have egg on our faces. But the real question is: If Manning is healthy, why discard him?
Of course, that all depends on Manning being healthy, but everyone including Nate's been setting that condition for a while now. If he's done, then Luck is the no brainer choice. If not, then you don't rid yourself of him. It's that simple.
First comment at Colts Authority!! Wheeee!!!!! :)
Nate--I think your thoughts are right. I assume Peyton will be okay, so I'd opt for trading the picks for a huge bounty, and re-tooling at WR, TE, and the secondary positions.
That said, I disagree with the certainty of your feelings on keeping both. I also think it's a bad idea, but I'd leave room for the possibility that we're both wrong on this. Who knows--maybe the Colts re-sign Mathis, get lucky on some late round talent, and put together a run next year. Maybe Manning gets re-injured? In other words, I think we agree that of all outcomes, keeping both has a small chance of not failing, but it's not a zero percent chance.
Nate, first of all, congratulations for nailing the outcome of the game yesterday. Saved you the emotional turmoil of thinking maybe the Colts would be spared an offseason of heartwrenching uncertainty. Of course, things turned out differently than I had kinda hoped.
Great article to start off the year and the site. One aspect of your post I think is hugely important to discuss is the "once in a generation" thing. As you pointed out, the odds are good that Luck, while having good value for a 1st pick, goes on to be a good to occasionally great QB, not on the level of the 4 talents you highlighted. And QBs as good as those may be hard to find, but it´s simply not accurate to think Luck is the only chance the Colts will have of finding a good enough QB in the future. Every few years, there are QBs around whom you can build in the NFL if you do it the right way.
Seems to me Colts fans should reconcile themselves to another down season in 2012, come what may. If Manning is back, even if fully healthy he'll surely be rusty at best, and that'll cost the Colts some games. If Luck is the QB he'll likely struggle like most (if not all) rookie QB's.
I'm thinking that Wayne will probably be gone, as well as Brackett. I think they will work to retain Mathis and Saturday (although I expect a short term contract for Saturday), and Clark will remain as well, and possibly Diem, but I think they will most likely cut ties with Gonzo and Addai. If Manning is healthy, I believe it would be in the Colts best interest to trade the first pick (for a king's ransom). My guess is that the Colts know that they can receive an enormous amount for Luck (especially if Griffin stays in school), and they can potentially fix a lot of weaknesses with what they can get for him. As Mr. Dunlevy has so aptly pointed out, it would be impossible for them to co-exist - plus it just shouldn't happen for four years which is what Manning has remaining on his monster contract. The Polians will probably stay, although I'm not so sure that can be said for Caldwell. All in all this sets up for a very interesting off season and may be a pivot able point in franchise history. Good luck guys!
I believe Irsay cleans house and keeps "his" players when possible. Manning, Saturday, Mathis, Garcon and Wayne. Clark, Diem, Gonzo, Addai and others to be jettisoned. New Front Office and Coaches likely to auction off Top Pick for an obscene package of picks and players. Browns are a possibility. If Manning is healthy, he WILL be in Indy for 3 or 4 more years. I hope for McKenzie as GM/President and Fisher as Coach. No more Amateurs!
I agree 1000%. The Colts have to make a choice between Luck and Manning. I remember last year when Manning was negotiating his contract, it was made public that he was meeting with Irsay to make sure if he took less money that they would do the right thing and pay other players that could help the Colts win. How does Andrew Luck help the Colts win with Manning on the roster? I highly doubt Peyton is going to be OK with playing another year or two just to be asked to go somewhere else and start over with only a year or two left in his career. If the Colts want Luck, I'm fine with that. I get it. I'll still be a Colts fan. If they want to keep Peyton. Even better. The one thing that will piss me off like nothing ever has before is to try to keep both, and cut Manning's career short in doing so. Peyton deserves better.
So with Manning, we win 10-12 games this year, make the playoffs. Winning in the playoffs is one team having more luck on their side. If you're saying draft with the win now mentality, do we not have a win now mentality if Manning is kept without the draft even being a factor? If this team is a 10-12 win team as is with Manning, how would you draft to win now? Our needs our in the secondary, which has been pointed out that those needs can be filled in the later rounds of the draft. If we draft at a different position other than QB, the amount spent is going to be the same. If we trade down, the needs for the win now mentality do not change. As i stated before, those needs can be filled in the later rounds. If I'm Andrew Luck, I would not want to play for a team that would give a kng's ransom for me. How is that team going to build for me without the draft picks they traded to get me? I understand what your saying about Luck willingly sitting on the bench but you could look at it as a chance to learn behind one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Manning would not have to teach or mentor in a one on one fashion but just being around greatness has its advantages without the mentoring or teaching. You could also make an argument that you don't want a guy coming in demanding to take the starting job away from a once in a generation QB. The only thing I am certain of is the uncertainty of the the whole situation. Will Manning be Manning? Will Luck be the next once in a generation QB? If we trade the pick, will those players step in and help win us another superbowl or will they not live up to expectations?
To the whole Manning health issue:
Let's assume that by March Manning has regained all of his physical abilities.
No numbness in the arm, laser throws, etc,
But there is a flip side of that coin.
How is his mental constitution affected?
He must play with the threat that a wrong king of hit might result in paralysis.
Hes 35, he has twins at home. I don't think that under circumstances he will hold the ball to the last possible millisecond and take the hit.
He has to fight down hes fears continuously .
I know hes tough, but you never know.
if im trading to cleveland, im raiding them for joe thomas as a bare minimum, young proven great left tackle. work out which of castonzo/ilajana is a rt and move the other inside. that and a couple draft picks
@Geohdeis The Whole Post from Nate has kinda explained why not. Did you read? just wondering. But of course, one do not need to agree with Nate's viewpoints.
@ColtBlooded Peyton will not and cannot be traded due to his contarct specification & he is not dumb, he makes sure he will be released rather than be traded. So that 99.99% is not an option. Nate has detailed thata somewhere..
Hey David! Do u have twitter handle?? I have never thought this argument can come thru so clearly... your ideas have been lingering in my head for the longest time but probably reading Irsay's tweets for too long, can never materialize into something that makes sense like what you are writng here.
**Your points here co-incide with the other ColtsAuthority article by Todd Smith... re: Draftek's picks on Luck...
Affection for Luck honestly comes mainly from the previous affection for Manning, the MANNING EFFECT. As Irsay clearly says, how many SB teams actuallhy had the #1 top picks recently? See
@bluemark18 article on #1 QB picks in the history of the NFL... http://wp.me/p25Trt-m
Yes, David, hope to have your twitter handle so I can follow you!
If we all remember how "stupid" the Texans were for passing on VY and Bush in order to take Williams, we could also consider just not drafting Luck and taking the best guy whom we could plug in right away. But I assume we'd get more value by trading Luck or the pick to someone desperate and shaking them down for a lot, rather than just letting Luck slide by. We'd still want a top-5 pick I assume, and maybe their 2nd rounder as well, which would give us three guys in the top 37 picks. That should help the team in the short-term (as well as long-term), if Manning is back as Manning....
@brdirck Not sure why you'd say that he'd be rusty at best.
@klxiii Why cut Brackett? He's great in the locker room and you'll be wasting $7 million. Almost NO cap savings by cutting him.
@vbcolts "New GM" and Irsay keeping 'his' players don't go together.
No one worth having would sign on for that deal.
@keep_the_eraser Because 2012 is not 2011. The Colts are likely to lose Wayne and may well cut Clark, plus Saturday may be done and they might not be able to resign Mathis.
Next year's team has the chance to be much worse, talent wise, than this year's team. Just because the 2011 Colts might have won 10-12 games with Peyton doesn't mean the 2012 Colts will.
Who wants the chance to learn?
The chance to PLAY is much much more important. You learn by doing in the NFL. If the #1 overall pick isn't demanding to play and play soon (not sitting a year, but 2-3 years as would be required), then he doesn't have the right stuff.
His neck is not held together by a piece of metal. It was a bone fusion. They take a bone graft, and place it in between the vertebrae where they have removed the disk. Once the fusion has taken place, and it has, the same problem can never happen, because the origanal problem was caused from a bulging disk making contact and putting pressure on a nerve. The disk is no longer there. The one part of his spine that he doesn't have to worry about is the plase of the fusion. There has never been one case of a player having this surgery and then having reacurring issues. Not one. Just some food for thought.
@Macko My understanding is that he's at no greater risk of paralysis than any player is.
@masoncooperUKcoltsfan The point of drafting Joe Thomas was so they could protect their QB - same reason the Jet's picked Ferguson over a QB. Cleveland won't give Joe - plus, we may be able to get a better/younger OL in the draft.
@LibraColts the Colts should never...never deal Luck. They should keep the best of a generation to learn from the best that has ever played. I read. You evidently do not.
@LibraColts Manning could restructure his contract so that his bonus comes later and that's definitely a possibility considering his health. Then the Colts do Peyton a solid and trade him to a possible contender (Jets?). We could stockpile draft picks over the next 2 years and have a complete overhaul of talent in a short amount of time. Talk about maximizing your options! I know it's unrealistic but who really knows what is going to happen?
@Bobman There are no defensive prospects considered worthy of the #1 pick. Mario Williams was projected as a possible #1 pick.
@chad72 Don't get your hopes up.
I would assume some clunkiness in his game as well--he's a guy who practices probably 10.5 months a year and may be losing Clark and Wayne in the offseason. He wouldn't likely be abe to get up to full work for a few more months yet--so rather than playing a full season, taking 6 weeks off and starting once more in April, he'll have taken about a year off, then will start in May. He's a year older and his legs/cardio/back may all be in great shape, but his throwing execution--especially if there are new targets--could well be a work in progress through Sept/Oct. (of course this year his offseason starts about 6 weeks sooner... but he's still not ready to go anway, so that hardly matters.)
$7M cap hit, regardless? Then I guess he becomes Rob "we owe the SB to you" Morris--an excellent fill-in LB where needed, team leader, etc. Who knows, maybe Angerer at Mike and Brackett at Sam by season's end. With Bullitt out there, that would be essentially three D captains providing leadership and insight on the field.
@Nate Dunlevy The "Pro Bowl Types" like Wayne, Manning and Mathis. NO COACH WILL SIGN ON FOR THE "NAPOLIANS"!
@Nate Dunlevy If Manning is back, will they cut Clark and will Saturday be done? I guess its an assumption that Manning will play 2-3 years. He could retire after next season. You learn by practicing which is why Manning wants all the reps. If Manning wants all the reps, you either tell him no or extend practice so the next guy gets a chance.
@Peyton for President Thanks for clarifying that
@Nate Dunlevy I don't know Nate. If my neck would be bound together by a piece of metal, I certainly would feel some fear.
@ColtBlooded @LibraColts No. You honor the man that built the house you live in. You keep paying him the money he is owed and build a better offense around him and Luck. When Manning's contract runs out, he retires, then you build a defense just like we had 4 or 5 years after we drafted Manning, except it's Luck reaping the benefits. In the meantime, you win for 17 years instead of hoping for a nice season or two. While rebuilding, you get a defensively minded coach to rebuild the defense you had to skittle to keep both Manning and Luck. It is exactly what Polian did the first time, and it can and will be done again.
@chad72 I think Fisher and Spagnuolo will command a high salary. I can see one, but not both, although it´d be interesting. With Mike Murphy doing a good job at the end of the season, it´s not certain the Colts are in the market for a new DC, besides.
To be honest, I can see the Polians working well with Jeff Fisher and hire, maybe a Steve Spagnuolos for DC, and a new ST coach, and leave the offensive side where it is.
@AJ_@vbcolts It seems every other month a new, unsubstantiated rumor pops up about Bill Polian, and now Chris. Where did this one come from? Actually, looking at Bill Polian´s history, you´d have a better case stating he wants straightforward coaches who won´t budge from a position. People confuse "soft-spoken" with "puppets", and "unlikely to usurp a GM´s responsibility" with "scrub of a coach with no clout".
@vbcolts This, unfortunately, is an unsupported meme started by the press and not backed by history. Actual history contradicts this. Look at what coaches worked under Bill Polian at Buffalo and Carolina.
Football is a business with a bunch of tough minded individuals. Having Bill Polian as your GM is nothing worse than having Jerry Jones as your team's owner and de-facto GM, or the late Al Davis. And it's considerably better than a lot of other teams with wishy-washy front offices. You know where you stand with Polian, and you know he's been associated with winning. Coaches believe themselves to be the toughest minded people out there, and they'd look at the personality of the GM as at best a minimal factor in deciding where to go. They'd consider franchise solidity and dedication to winning well before that.
I know the popular idea is that no "big name" coach will work with the Polians, but that's foolish thinking. And as Nate has said before, it's contradicted by actual history.
@vbcolts Why do you say no coach will sign on to work with Polian? He has no history of a bad relationship with coaches, despite working with a variety of high profile coaches ranging from the fiery to the placid.
@Macko Sure, I would too. I'm not a football player though. Playing QB is scary stuff.