Editor's Note: This is purely hypothetical fun. Olly was bored, which generally is when our most interesting things get done. If we get any angry comments/tweets/emails about how we hate Luck and need to let go of the past, blah, blah, blah I will never photoshop (ok, paint) Jim Irsay onto a fire-breathing stallion again. This is like using ESPN's trade machine and building a basketball team to rule all basketball teams. IT'S NOT A COMMENTARY ON HOW THE COLTS SHOULD HAVE KEPT MANNING. Are we clear? Ok. Good.- KJR
Last week on Twitter, I very casually floated the idea of playing a game. Former Browns GM Mike Holmgren admitted last week that he offered Ryan Grigson his entire haul of picks in the 2012 draft, in order to move up from the No. 4 spot and draft Andrew Luck.
Of course, your mind begins to wonder. What if we'd kept Peyton Manning? What if we'd got all those picks? Who would/could we have drafted?
Never fear, as my boredom and frightening love for the NFL Draft means I've put together a “What might have been” for the Colts. For the purposes of the challenge, we'll be assuming that the picks made by the Colts in 2012 will remain.
Colts selections in a “Keep Manning, Trade Luck” scenario: #4, #22, #34, #37, #64, #67, #92, #100, #136, #160, #170, #206, #208, #211, #214, #253
Round 1, Pick 4: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Here, we assume that Luck, Robert Griffin and Matt Kalil went in the first three picks, leaving a stud defensive back in our laps. The Colts desperately needed a cornerback in the 2012 draft but the Packers selected Casey Hayward just before Grigson was able to. In this scenario, Indy drafts Claiborne – therefore erasing the need to trade for Vontae Davis. He's flashed ability in Dallas already, and would have been a much needed boost to our secondary.
Round 1, Pick 22: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Another much needed addition to a pretty terrible team. DeCastro was the top guard prospect in the 2012 draft, and – barring an injury suffered like he did with the Steelers – would have consigned Mike McGlynn to backup role...where he belongs. Strong in the run and pass game, DeCastro would have improved our line immensely.
Round 2, Pick 34: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Round 2, Pick 37: Kendall Reyes, DE, Connecticut
With Pagano in charge, we'd have still moved to a 3-4 defense – meaning more pieces needed. Reyes was a natural fit as a 3-4 defensive end and has already racked up 5.5 sacks for the San Diego Chargers from that position.
Round 3, Pick 64: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Round 3, Pick 67: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
Hindsight is a wonderful thing...or is it? According to Adam Schefter, Grigson wanted to draft Russell Wilson to play backup to Andrew Luck. Luck hasn't been drafted in this scenario, but with an aging Peyton Manning coming off a bunch of neck surgeries, you have to think that Grigson would've actively sought a future starter...right?
Round 3, Pick 92: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International
Round 4, Pick 100: Frank Alexander, OLB, Oklahoma
The fourth round has been a bit of a disappointment, with very few players impressing from those selected. Regardless, this pick goes on Alexander, who would've added valuable depth at outside linebacker in our 3-4 scheme. Has featured sporadically for the Panthers, where he has 2.5 sacks as a backup to Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.
Round 5, Pick 136: Josh Chapman, NT, Alabama
Round 5, Pick 160: Marvin Jones, WR, California
I loved Marvin Jones, and couldn't believe he went in the late stages of the fifth round. With Pierre Garcon gone, the Colts could've added Jones alongside Reggie Wayne, Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton. Though he has just 18 receptions and one touchdown for the Bengals, Jones has flashed ability in his time with Cincinnati.
Round 5, Pick 170: Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State
Round 6, Pick 206: LaVon Brazill, WR, Ohio
Round 7, Pick 208: Justin Anderson, OG, Georgia
Round 7, Pick 211: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Controversial to some, I know...but I'm a major supporter of taking troubled players in the seventh round. Barely any seventh picks make the roster anyway...see Fugger, Tim – so in that case, why not take talent and see if you can turn them around? I wanted Burfict at the time and still feel he could've added something at linebacker under Pagano.
Round 7, Pick 214: Tim Fugger, LB, Vanderbilt
Round 7, Pick 253: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois
So after all that, we'd have come away with...two quarterbacks, a running back, three wide receivers, two tight ends, two guards, a defensive end, a nose tackle, two pass rushers, and an inside linebacker...oh, and Peyton Manning.
Of course, much of this is based on hindsight. Manning is in scintillating form and having al those picks could have made us an instant contender. Despite this, I still believe Ryan Grigson made the correct decision in letting Manning go and drafting Luck. I do also realise that it's almost impossible to hit on every draft pick, and it's easy to sit and say "we could've drafted player X" once you've seen them in the league...but sometimes, it's fun to wonder.
@OllyDawes Yeah,I can understand why folks aren't over him yet.Hindsight is always 20-20, but #18 now is not #18 of old. You had to cut him.
Nice work, Olly, but... Yeah. I loved Kyle´s disclaimer, and I really appreciate the way you went about this, so I hope you´ll understand that I´m not dissing your post when I say that I wish it had never had to see the light of day.
I personally always thought Irsay should have dealt that washed up scrub, so I've never even considered what they could have got in return for the #1 pick. And we all know Polian would have wasted the extra picks and Manning would have choked in the playoffs. Am I right? (Head Explodes)
In all seriousness, the Skins gave up more to get RG3. We're talking the next couple years of first rounders as well. There is no doubt about it that the Colts could have stacked the roster with those picks, but it is what it is.I've probably spent as much time as anyone wondering "what if". I'm going to go do something less painfull, like claw the eyeballs out of my skull.
Yes, I agree this is an interesting exercise but I wouldn't call it nice because it kind of stirs some wounds in many people. I would say that there are other variables that are not taken in account such as the ones that were mentioned regarding other players that were cut. Would have Manning been OK with cutting Dallas Clark or others, etc, etc. ? I don't know.
Anyway, personally I do not regret that Manning was cut because I enjoy the prospect of having Luck for 10 or more years. I can't have my heart 100% into this team if I look back with regret.
I do however miss Manning , especially when I watch Broncos games and I do believe he is the greatest QB of all time. I do root for him to beat all the NFL records that exist and win another Super Bowl, although it would be painful to see him dressed in orange while lifting the Lombardi trophy.
... just kidding. ;) Interesting exercise, this. Anyway, I'm not sure things would've worked out to where Indy essentially had a double-draft because, remember, they would've had serious cap issues with all the veterans still around. There's no way to know what would've happened - stockpile picks, simply settle for the first and seconds for a couple of years, trade down, or what - but I'd see things as being way different than simply picking twice for several rounds.
Of course, that's not a criticism of this at all. Rather, I'm just adding an opinion to the mix.
A fun exercise that really rides on two things: 18 being healthy and actually picking Wilson to replace him in 2-3 years (bitter Rodgers/Favre scenario if 18 is still healthy and dominant in 2015? Maybe.).
Team would have been pretty awesome... if we could have afforded to pay 18.
I understand the rationale behind the editor's note (imagining you've received your lifetime quota of hate mail on this topic). And it's hard to argue with the conclusion that "Ryan Grigson made the correct decision in letting Manning go and drafting Luck." But of course, Grigson probably never really had that decision to make; Irsay made it pretty clear that it was his call, and once Polian was gone...
I've been in the camp that they should have traded the pick all along, and still am. Even with as great as Luck will be (and already is); the completely unexpected success of last year; and the signs of a quick rebuild in the works, like last Sunday's game. Manning is doing for the Broncos what I believed he would do all along. And maybe that was too big a gamble for an owner and a franchise, but as a fan, who can afford to keep the faith and believe in things like football karma, I still wish it's one they'd taken.
This is interesting to look at, what could have been. I sort of doubt the Colts would have taken Fleener if they didn't take Luck. Then again, I also don't think Ryan Grigson would have been the GM if the Colts had kept Manning either. And they probably wouldn't have cleaned house on the roster either so guys like Dallas Clark and Saturday probably would have hung around for another shot at a title with 18... They might have made a change at Head Coach still but even that kind of makes you wonder. If you are keeping Manning and trading the rights to Luck, you are going in total WIN NOW mode, so making drastic changes in the organization might not have been the plan.
Before the Colts fell to #1 I was kind of hoping that they would be able to keep Manning and get Wilson in the 3rd or 4th rounds. He was so good in college, his success in the NFL is no surprise to me at all.
Thanks for the effort. I'd thought about this too. Nice job working through the draft and roster. Personally, I think they would have required 2 #1s and 2 #2s at least.
@AJ_ Yeah, I have to admit that's where my "Peyton plus a million picks" fantasy falls apart. Not sure even Polian could have managed the cap well enough to steal more than a year out of that scenario. Of course, in that one year we'd have magically won seven super bowls, but... heh.
@pierrezombie Agreed on all accounts.
@pierrezombie Agreed. I like Andrew, but Manning is/was something really unique. Good personality, harsh competitor. After seeing the Manning history show on ESPN, I started missing him again. Still, I will cheer for Luck - even more so when Manning retires.
@jimfix Agree about the changes. I think this exercise would be more "accurate" if we presume that the Old Regime had stayed in place. In which case Polian, god love him, would have drafted at least 5 O Linemen, and maybe even hit on one of them.
@Music Man I agree that if you put it up for auction, you get more. But we can't prove it 100%, so... I appreciate the hard work Olly did :D
@Music Man Yeah they could probably have got more from Cleveland anyway but I guess all we can say is that we'd have got their whole class. I still think we made the right call but it's always fun to think what could have been.
@ZackRakes Don't get suckered in by Shanahan RBs, especially if they are used in a heavy read-option scheme. The Broncos had a ridiculous string of 1,000 yard RBs for a reason.
@GregC (Yes. GregC, I am indeed baiting you again.)
@buymymonkey @pierrezombie I like Luck, too. A LOT. He's unique in ways that make him as good a candidate for "the next Peyton Manning" as anyone, and I have no doubt that he'll eventually win a championship. Once the GOAT retires -- hopefully four years and three more rings from now -- I'll go back to being 100% for the Colts. (At least, until Irsay cuts Luck...)
I wish I could "start missing him again", but I'd have to stop first. I've watched every snap he's played for the Broncos, and each success he has there is tinged with a lingering regret for what could have been if he'd been allowed to stay here.
He drafted 2 in 2011 (or 2010, or whatever. I'm NOT looking this up). He got Castonzo and Ijalana in the same draft. I would say he "hit" on both. Castonzo is a mainstay at LT and Ijalana looked good before his career was cut short by freak knee injuries. If Ijalana stayed healthy, for instance, the OL - and people's perception of Polian's desire to fix it - look completely different.
@OllyDawes This is far too personal for me to even play. (But if I did I agree with Music Man, the Colts could have held out for at LEAST 2 #1s and 2 #2s and probably much more.)
Hey, PFP, you too! I was afraid we'd lost you to some Broncos site. (Not that I haven't looked... sheesh, I have a much greater appreciation for what they're doing here with CA after seeing how paltry the options are elsewhere.)
As miserable/fascinating as this topic still is, it's nice that it brought the old gang back together. You, me, Goeland, Doug E... now all we need is Nate telling us that: a) Irsay will never cut a healthy Peyton Manning; and b) Peyton Manning isn't healthy.
@pierrezombie @GregC Well, remember, from what Eli and Archie said, I think **Peyton** harbored some private doubts about coming back himself. It was definitely sooo unclear he'd make it back at the time. Looks obvious in hindsight, but many things do.
That said, yeah, I *do* wish Irsay had made the gamble. :(
In all seriousness, I think there's a potential book here, for some aspiring writer who's willing to do some digging.
G.O.A.T.: How the Indianapolis Colts Cut the Best QB Ever.
Like with that Holmgren quote that came out, presumably because he has no ties left to the Browns and nothing to lose on that score, I'm vastly curious to hear the stories that will come out in a few years, after the people close to that episode move on or decide they can spill their guts. There's no way it was ever as simple as the press conferences made it out to be.
Now I want a book-length feature, "If Irsay Hadn't Lost The Faith". With detailed cap breakdowns, draft predictions, roster moves, records broken, and a fictional rendering of how much fun it would have been to watch. That kind of thing. Sort of like OJ's "If I Did It", but with a much happier ending.
@pierrezombie @GregC Also, I really find it hard to believe that Polian put a team together in such a way that he'd be forced to cut everyone the year after signing Peyton to that extension. No one knew - and manipulated - the cap better than Polian. He had a plan for 2012 and beyond.
Giving him 6 draft picks in the first 3 rounds only makes the cap work easier.
Don't forget, the Colts just spent $150MM or whatever. They didn't *have* to do that, and if the Colts had "a double draft", they likely wouldn't have needed to.
@pierrezombie Most indelibly meaningful.
@DougEngland Agreed on all counts. Olly did a good job with the premise he had, and it´s a nice post, but...This will always hurt, even if Peyton wins the next 3 Super Bowls and the Colts with Luck become the next great team of the NFL in the decade to come. Peyton´s last conference as a Colt engraved that pain on my heart.
What's up Doug. I can see you're still schooling folks. I add my 2 cents. Doug drops dimes. Lol. Nice to see you man.
@pierrezombie I understand the author's premise and he did a great job with the "what if". Alas, the topic for many reasons is still too "raw" for alot of us.
I know most fans can't wait for the Colts/Broncos game. Me, I'm already sick about it.
@GregC LIKE! You know I agree; was just making a joke at His Majesty's expense. I'll never pass up a chance to get you talking about the Old Regime.
@DougEngland Wouldn't the Colts have taken Washington's three #1s and a #2 (what they gave St. Louis for the second overall pick) instead of Holmgren's offer?
And in that case, they probably would have been able to squeeze out even more for the overall #1, right?