In today´s first installment of this series I promised to pierrezombie long ago, or so it seems now that the wheels of time have put concrete snaps with new players between us and the Peyton Manning era in Indy, we´ll visit another timeline, one where Jim Irsay woke up on the other side of the bed this 7th of March and decided there was no way he would part with the player that kept the franchise in Indianapolis and gained worldwide love for the Colts. What would have happened with the Colts if Peyton Manning had played out his entire career in Indy?
Obviously, this line of wishful thinking is purely an exercise in speculation made by a fond fan, and as such it harbors no pretention of being a truthful depiction of the future of a team. For starters, when doing this, I had to decide what kind of team Peyton would have had around him, and as longtime Colts fans know, it´s impossible to take this in any direction before deciding if in this imaginary world, Polian would have remained with the team. In the real world, let me state it quite clearly, I would have loved for the Polians to remain in place, because their record speaks for itself, added to the fact that Bill had a special connection with Peyton. Plus, predicting the roster moves and overall trajectory of the team would have been easier based on his long tenure, compared to the still unknown quanity that is Ryan Grigson. But here, in Alt18Coltsland, I settled on acting as if everything else had happened the way it did, except for Peyton´s release.
So this leaves us in quite a bind, really. This team is in reconstruction, and it´s hard to imagine that had Peyton stayed here, all the same player moves would have been made. No way would Irsay have parted with the whole lot of offensive weapons, including Pierre Garçon, Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez, Jeff Saturday and Joseph Addai if 18 was still our QB. But hey, I had to draw the line somewhere, right? There were, it seems, severe financial problems with the previous team, and I didn´t want this to become a trouble-free dream either. I´d like this series to draw a bridge between the young team we´ll be learning to love and my indefectible love of Peyton Freaking Manning, and in my opinion, it´s more interesting to deal with the flux than to choose a scenario where things would have had to remain completely static for the next 5 years (I didn´t want to have to predict Dallas´ marked drop in performance, nor did I want him to be able to replicate his 2008 season for the next few years). Plus, this means not dealing with Caldwell as the head coach, and I find it fascinating to imagine Peyton dealing with Pagano in his old turf. More aggressiveness allowed for Peyton in the Luke and elsewhere is enough to make me salivate, you know?
Imagine thus that the entire team that played against Chicago is the one depicted in this projection. Same defense, same receiving corps (no Austin), same OL... Imagine also the same Peyton we´ve been witnessing in Denver (would it balance things out? Let´s find out.)
I´m completely open to your input, though, and I´ll gladly reconsider if you drop me a word. After all, we could maybe have had a slower transition, and so ignoring financial constraints, this year´s team could have been a mixture of the old guard and new faces like Fleener´s. I´d really love it if you participated wholeheartedly in this, all of you, especially fellow Peyton lovers like DougEngland, since the idea is for this series to become a fixture (posted on Saturdays hopefully) as long as 18 is out there making us marvel at the way the QB position can be played provided you´re the GOAT.
Now that this has been (temporarily) established, let´s proceed to the Alt18Coltsland week 1 matchup against the Chicago Bears! Apologies for the delay, pierrezombie.
The first Chicago drive would have been the same.
13:08, Peyton´s first meaningful snap since the 2010 season and that last cursed pass! Even the Chicago crowd shows respect, aware that they´ve been given an incredible second chance. His first pass, to Dominique Jones, goes for 8 yards. Donald Brown loses 2 yards in the next play.
3rd down, 4 yards to go, Peyton drops back and finds an open Reggie Wayne with a quick slant for 6 yards. Looks like the Colts started well in their quest to keep up with their incredible 3rd down conversion rate in the Peyton era, folks.
Next snap, Samson Satele delivers the snap a bit low, Peyton finds himself in a bit of a hurry. Incomplete pass to the right for Dwayne Allen.
After a Brown rush to the left for 5 yards, we´re facing a 3rd and 5. Allen stays in to block this time, and buys Peyton enough time to find LaVon Brazill for 9 yards on the right sideline.
We´re nearing midfield. On the following set of downs, an overmatched Seth Olsen has no choice but to commit a blatant holding penalty against Julius Peppers. 10 yards backwards. 1st and 20, Brown picks up a Hayden blitz, but Wootton slips through, a hurried Peyton steps sideways in the pocket and finds Reggie for 12 yards in the middle of the field!
On 2nd and 8, Peyton passes to Coby Fleener for 6 yards after the TE shakes off the linebacker that was trailing him.
3rd and 2 is the kind of crucial distance the Colts need to be able to convert. What will it be, a pass, a run? It´s a draw for Brown on the center-left side of the line. Brown barely converts, gain of 3 yards.
At the Bears 42 yard line, Peyton continues his slow dismantling of the famed Bears defense. Justice lets a defender blow by him, and Brown loses 2 yards, but Peyton instantly finds Coby Fleener for 6 yards with a quick strike. 3rd and 6, Peyton takes it from the shotgun. Reggie is well-covered by two Bears, and so Peyton hangs on until he finds Donnie Avery for a good 14 yards on the left side of the field, until he´s taken out of bounds.
24 yards to go for the Colts´ first TD of the year. Donald Brown escapes for 9 yards after escaping a tackle. 2nd and 1... And Peyton goes for the kill. Kris Adams on the post route hauls in a beauty of a pass. 15 yard TD pass, the Colts faithful fans erupt in joy, Peyton is mauled by an ecstatic Reggie Wayne. While Vinatieri kicks the extra point, the camera pans out to a slightly smiling Peyton conversing with Austin Collie with a pleased Donald Brown hovering by.
The drive took 6 mn and 43 seconds, and so the Bears have approximately 5 mn before the first quarter ends. Hester doesn´t try his luck. Bears at their 20 yard line.
Cutler and Forte manage to engineer a good drive. The defense can´t quite get to Cutler. However, at the Colts 32 yard line, Cutler is hurried, and tries to pass to his safety blanket in the middle of the field while running towards the left sideline. Jerrell Freeman intercepts, and returns it for 26 yards. The Colts offense is now in Bears territory!
Peyton Manning incomplete pass to Allen to the right. Then, Peyton finds Reggie for 7 yards with another slant. 3rd and 3, Peyton finds Allen for 4 yards next to the right sideline, and Allen escapes a tackle for another 3 yards. We´re now at the Bears 32 yard line.
That was the last play of the 1st quarter, by the way, so we now begin the 2nd quarter.
Donald Brown run that only gets 2 yards, after Samson Satele failed to hold his ground against the Bears interior DL. Then a Peyton 5 yards pass to Mewelde Moore. 3rd and 3, Peyton is sacked for 5 yards by Julius Peppers. Castonzo´s lone mistake of the game, and it costs the Colts 4 points, since they have to settle for a field goal. Vinatieri brings the score to a pleasing 10-0, though.
Alas, the following Bears drive gashes the Colts run defense like MJD circa 2006. No Bob Sanders, and Zbikowski can´t hold a candle to him. With 3 mn 58 seconds remaining in the 1st half, Forte gets a 6 yard TD run.
10-7 Colts, Peyton back to his old no-huddle ways, with a little time before time expires. 1st and 10 on the Colts 20 yard line, and an Olsen false start later, 1st and 15. Peyton drops back 7 steps, and finds Donnie Avery for 9 yards on the right. 2nd and 6, Peyton goes for a 25 yard bomb to Reggie, who in typical Reggie fashion, ran a wonderful route on the left side of the field before sprinting back to the middle.
We´re now at midfield, and 1 mn 37 seconds have already expired.
Bears 49 yard line. Brown runs for 6 yards . Then a Peyton incomplete pass to Kris Adams. The Bears know they must fear Peyton´s play-action skills and they´re unusually cautious. 3rd and 1, and Peyton see LaVon Brazill open 6 yards past the marker, but Brazill drops the pass. However, there´s a defensive pass interference, and so the drive continues. The crowd boos loudly, but it doesn´t change the call. 42 seconds only remain, the Colts are at the Bears 34 yard line.
Peyton finds Fleener for 5 yards in the middle of the field. Fleener has trouble getting up after being clobered by Urlacher, but he manages to join the sideline without help. On 2nd and 5, however, another holding penalty against Justice, and it´s now 2nd and 15, with 29 seconds left. Peyton finds Reggie for 8 yards. 3rd and 7, Peyton finds Kris Adams again, but just shy of the marker this time, for a 7 yard gain.
With the half about to end, Vinatieri kicks another FG.
Colts 13, Bears 7. End of the first half.
Back in the 3rd quarter, we start off at Indy´s 20 yard line. 1st and 10, Brown rush for 3 yards. 2nd and 10, Peyton incomplete pass to LaVon Brazill. It would have been a 16 yard completion otherwise. Bad timing between the two of them, and Brazill turned half a second too late. 3rd and 10, incomplete pass from Peyton to Reggie. A very small window was open, but deflected pass by Tim Jennings.
13 mn 20 left, Bears drive, several intermediate passes to Brandon Marshall, a few Forte rushes, and 6 mn later, Bears TD.
The kickoff allowed Cassius Vaughn to return the ball to Indy´s 34 yard line. Peyton goes no huddle, of course. 1st and 10, blitz by Chicago, but Peyton sees it and changes the play at the line of scrimmage. 18 yard pass to Donnie Avery on the right side of the field, after a Bear breakdown in coverage.
Then Peyton sees the Bears safety hanging back in coverage, so he diagnoses a run. Brown for 11 yards in the middle of the field, with a Mike McGlynn block springing him free. At the Bears 39 yard line, Peyton to Reggie for 6 yards on the left sideline, with a superb one-handed catch. 2nd and 4, Peyton goes for the play action, 24 yard pass to Coby Fleener, who juggled a bit the ball but stiff-armed DJ Moore. 2 mn remaining, Indy at Chicago´s 9yard line. Brown run for no gain. 2nd and 5, Brown run for 2 yards towards the right.
3rd and goal at the 7 yard line, the kind of situation Peyton lives for. He signals for a play, then when Chicago tips their hand, goes to the line of scrimmage and changes the play. Play clock is down to 13. The defense tips their hand again. Peyton changes the play again, and with 1 second left on the play clock, he throws a soft pass 1 yard before the end zone, that Coby Fleener takes in for the TD.
20-14. There are 35 seconds left in the quarter. Hester returns the ball to Chicago´s 31 yard line. Cutler again mixes in intermediate passes to the middle of the field that the defense can´t stop with Forte´s runs, and the quarter ends at Chicago 44 yard line.
4th quarter. Chicago ball. With 11 minutes remaining in the game, Chicago´s drive stalls at the Colts 13 yard line because of a Robert Mathis pressure and a Jerraud Powers deflected pass. Robbie Gould kicks a 28-yard FG, and we´re now 20 to 17.
Peyton Manning takes over at Indy´s 20 yard line. First play is a Brown run that goes for 4 yards behind a masterful Castonzo block. 2nd and 6, Peyton sees 8 players in the box, he fakes the handoff to Vic Ballard, and launches a beautiful 36 yard bomb to Reggie Wayne, who catches it with the tips of his fingertips and runs it till the Chicago 30 yard line on the left side.
9mn 46 seconds left, Peyton to Avery for 6 yards. 2nd and 4, Peyton to Allen on the left for 3 yards. Allen has good hands, you can tell. 3rd and 1, Ballard gets 2 yards behind Justice´s lone good play of the day. Chicago 19 yard line, 7 mn 29 left. Peyton to the right for a 2 yard gain to Mewelde Moore.
2nd and 8, Brown gets a 4 yard rush that he miraculously salvaged after Satele and Mc Glynn let him be touched just at the line of scrimmage. With a wiggle, Donald Downtown Brown turns lemons into lemonade. 3rd and 4, Peyton pass to the right. Dominique Jones can´t haul it in, but a DPI is called on the Chicago CB who wrapped his arm around his shoulders. The penalty was at the 7 yard line, so 1st down for the Colts.
On the next play, Wootton lays a solid hit on Peyton, who just manages to get rid of the ball on time. No harm, no foul. Peyton gets up and has this intense look of concentration on his face. 2nd and goal, and Olsen is called for holding Julius Peppers, who was this close to sacking Peyton. It´s now 2nd and goal at Chicago´s 17 yard line. Peyton finds Fleener for 8 yards on the right sideline with a nicely run drag route. 3rd and goal with 9 yards to go, with 4 mn 17 on the game clock, and we get the perfect TD pass to an exulting Reggie Wayne who ran the nicest curl route you´ll ever see.
It´s Peyton´s 402th TD pass, and it´s clear he´s back. The Chicago crowd is silent. 27-17, things aren´t looking good for the Bears.
And indeed, when Cutler gets the ball, he manages to get the Bears to Indy´s 25 yard line seamlessly, but when he faces a 3rd and 8, he can´t convert a pass to Brandon Marshall, who chooses the best of moments to drop a pass. Facing 4th and 8, with 1 mn 08 remaining, Cutler throws a laser pass to Earl Bennett, but it´s a bit high, and even though Bennett catches it, he´s just short of the 1st down. Chicago uses its last timeout to freeze the clock, but two kneeldowns later, it´s over.
The Colts are 1-0.
Peyton´s numbers: 3 TD passes, 26/31, 1 sack, 268 yards.
Here´s for last week´s installment. I hope you enjoyed it, and that it was realistic enough no to read as wishful fantasy. Tell me your thoughts, please, and see you next Saturday for the Minnesota Alt18 version.
@GregC Thanks, Greg!
@GregC Goeland's onto a great idea for a series, eh?
See the comments below, where I actually implied nice things about you for a change, for an idea for either a CA article or a podcast topic. (That is, assuming you guys will venture into 18 territory again... maybe on a slow news week?)
@pierrezombie This is such a tricky topic. I love Peyton Manning. I started writing at CZ because of Peyton Manning. The podcast was, at one point, a weekly shrine to the greatness of Peyton Manning.
Every time we (CA) write about Manning or we (the podcast) talk about Manning there is guaranteed blow back. Some just not wanting to discuss it (too painful), some who believe it's good that Manning is gone (???), and some who just don't want to deal with the drama and merely want to focus on *Colts* football.
Now, of course, there are people who love Manning, want to hear about him, want the comparisons, stay up to watch every Broncos game, etc...
I'm focusing on setting CA's direction on purely focusing on the Colts, their growth and development, but on the back burner of my mind is deciding just how much Manning coverage is the right amount for the fan base.
@GregC @pierrezombie For what it´s worth, Greg, I think you´re choosing the right approach. Let the fanbase show exactly how much Peyton content they (we) want. After all, things evolve, so letting it happen organically makes sense for everybody, as pierrezombie says above. Anyway, I think you´ll be seeing a lot of Peyton-related content on the Reader Blog in the future.. Oh, and I second the willingness to read any and all content (blog, podcast, zombie-AI medley) dedicated solely to 18, so if you ever wanted to put something out there, you´d have at the very least two rabid readers. Three, if you yourself as a semi-sentient creature also count.
@GregC I totally get that, and don't envy you having to navigate all those competing interests in your audience. Believe me, if I didn't already see the trickiness and understand why you guys chose to go in the direction you have, I'd be *demanding* more 18 stuff, instead of merely suggesting it. Hey, I know! You should just start a second blog (and podcast )dedicated to 18! Just imagine the pennies to be had for your efforts! I would totally read that.
@pierrezombie @GregC For a change? PZ, did you really have to shoot him down so forcefully when he was only trying to perfect his romantic approaches to try to blend in with the human world? If there´s one thing I´ve learned watching all the Terminator movies and the series, it´s that even wandering AIs have their sensitivity.
@GregC @goeland Re: liquid metal: See, Goeland?! This is exactly what I'm talking about! Now imagine having to listen to it in that sultry radio voice of his... So creepy.
@Goéland @GregC Oh sure, easy for you to say. You try politely resisting the advances of a semi-sentient, AI podcast host! Once he goes into liquid metal mode, it's game over.
@goeland OK, first, this is great! A fine idea for a series, especially putting specific detail and counter-historical spin on this year's schedule. It's like a public service for fans like you and I who will inevitably be living in this fantasy world from week to week.
I really like some of the conditions you laid out, like the idea that Irsay retained Polian, but that they dumped Caldwell for Pagano. (I'm 100% in on that one! Heck, they could have done that in 2009 and I'd have been cool with it!) Even if it seems more likely that Polian would have chosen a coach who wouldn't challenge his dictatorial power, that's a cool wrinkle.
I think you resolved the bind about the other roster changes well, and I like the idea of this being just a simple 18 for 12 substitution, with all the other variables being the same. And I sense that you're not taking this is the direction of a 16-0 season and an unfettered march through the playoffs to another Lombardi… that'd be too easy.
However -- and I don't mean this as a criticism -- I was expecting you to say the team took the "win now; rebuild later" approach; that with Irsay's hypothetical decision to keep Polian and PFM, they would bet the farm to win as many SB's as possible in the years #18 had left.
Can we stipulate this as 'Alt18ColtsLand, Scenario B'? The cool aspect of spinning it that way would be selectively choosing which "old heads" (to use Wayne's term) to keep around and which to dump. (I'd say they'd have kept Saturday and Addai, and perhaps given Brackett and Gonzo another shot, but let Garçon and Clark go in FA.) The obvious problem with scenario B is accounting for the salary cap issues that this hypothetical roster would have created. Even if it could have worked to some degree of realism, it might require an accounting degree to make the math add up. (Or, then again, wouldn't that be a problem in Scenario A, too? They couldn't have made the same signings and trades with #18 still on the roster, right? I forget what the cap implications of cutting him were. OK, actually, I blocked it out with therapeutic hypnosis and lots and lots of hallucinogens.)
But, to my mind, a huge plus with scenario B would be getting to revisit the fantasy scenario we all indulged in last season -- the serious HAUL they'd have received in exchange for the #1 pick. Imagine all the fresh talent they'd have used it on!
In his August 31 Grantland column, Bill Barnwell wrote:
"By all accounts, Luck is the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. He was a significantly better prospect than Robert Griffin, and the Redskins gave up three first-round picks and a second-rounder to acquire RG3. If that's the going rate for Griffin, how much would it have cost to pry the first overall pick away from the Colts? The Herschel Walker bounty — three first- and second-rounders, a third-rounder, and five players — would not have been enough to get Luck. Would it have taken five first-rounders? Two whole drafts?"
So even if we just round that down to, say, a mere three firsts and three seconds (!), I'd love to see this imaginary season play out with those theoretical roster additions. Assuming some of those would have been future picks, with some additional trades the Colts could have added, say, a WR, TE, DT and S from the top two or three choices per position in this year's draft! (Or… whatever -- this would be fun to debate, too.) I mean, Manning to Wayne/Blackmon/Collie? Crazy town.
Come to think of it, man, I wish we'd cooked this idea up during the offseason, so we could have fleshed out the AltWorld roster during the draft, etc. I guess we were still too busy crying about it back in March.
Finally, I'm afraid if you do play-by-play for every game you'll burn yourself out before the season's over. This is a big commitment if you keep it up for a whole season! Maybe it would be easier but just as fun to do each game like a "Five Plays" recap, emphasizing the highlights? (Even cooler would be to get someone to mock up the still photos from archival images, with new player names and jersey numbers. Or maybe do it in Madden? OK, this is rapidly turning into a Kickstarter project…)
Anyways, take all that for what it's worth. I'm more than happy with it as you've framed it, and will look forward to this each week wherever you take it.
@pierrezombie @goeland And yeah, you´re completely right, this would be a worthy offseason project. It´d require draft experts and cap experts (the fans on this site know so much I´m always amazed, even though they might be considered amateurs), but it would make for a fascinating hypothetical reality.
Have you seen anything like this? I haven't. Maybe we're in the minority of still carrying a torch for this idea, but the question of what Irsay's Plan B would have looked like -- keeping Manning and trading the pick -- seems like the kind of thing some enterprising blogger would have already addressed. (In fact, if DZ were still around these parts, I'd have expected this to be 100% in his wheelhouse.)
So yeah -- if one of the draftniks or capologists around here would write this, I would be eternally grateful. (Not that anyone but you and me are reading this, but it doesn't hurt to ask, right?)
My guess, from looking at those dead money numbers yesterday, is that if they'd kept Manning, it would have been almost impossible to just fill out the roster this season unless they could get him to restructure his most recent contract. Which, if Irsay had approached the whole scenario with the kind of undying loyalty that he talked up but completely failed to act on, might have actually been feasible.
Another fascinating wrinkle would have been the pre-draft competition between the Colts and Rams to trade out of the top two spots. Has anything like that ever happened? That would have been like a feeding frenzy. In effect, by competing for top trade value, they would have diluted the value of both the Luck and Griffin picks, if they were both angling to get Washington's trade package, right? Or perhaps there were five other teams lined up to trade their entire draft plus future picks…? Seriously, somebody who knows something about this crap should really write about this!
And once the Colts had traded the pick, it would be cool to imagine the crazy roster management required just to sign their haul of draft picks this year. Would they have to trade a bunch of them back to next year, while waiting for current dead money to expire? Would Polian have been able to eat crow about his past decisions and cut his losses? And what about good ol' Jim Caldwell -- spared or skewered?
Maybe 2012 would have been a semi-rebuild year; a season to get Manning healthy, clear the cap, and prepare to restock half the roster.
@pierrezombie A part of me will always be in disbelief that we, yes we the Colts, cut a healthy Peyton Manning. There´s the fact in itself, but also the fact that it´s my team, you know? So we will always wonder about what could have been, because it would have been the perfect storm: GOAT, best GM in the league, a shot at maybe 8 of the best players in two drafts (assuming a Griffin-like bounty), already great players on the roster...
If we ever discover how to travel through the Multiverse, I know 1 parallel world I´m definitely exploring ASAP.
@Goéland Yeah, Nate would've killed it. Too bad there's better money in covering the Jags and Titans. I'm sure Kyle or that GregC fellow would do an excellent job of it, too; if I could manage to stay up late enough for the call in part of Check it To Living People, I'd ask them there -- I bet they could do a credible job just off the top of their heads, along the lines of what you just did here.
Yes, these are haunting thoughts. Especially now that you've reminded me of all that ways that IT COULD HAVE WORKED. For the love of Dungy, that would have been awesome; even to just see them try it, even if it didn't produce more rings. I guess Irsay made the smart decision for his franchise longer term -- in a cold, calculated, risk-management kind of way -- but I still wish he'd lived up to the crazy gunslinger image that he seems so desperate to cultivate.
Luck is already better than I'd let myself even hope he would be; having not watched him at all in college, some of the core things he already does well are amazing. And, as Colts fans, I think we won the lottery, in terms of NFL history and the likelihood of getting QB's of this caliber with only a year of the three horsemen of the QBpocalypse in between. Besides Montana to Young, has this ever happened before? Certainly not in the free agency era.
But speaking of DZ, how'd that line go? "You don't cut a healthy Peyton Manning" - ? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was it. The idea of 18 happily restructuring to the most cap-friendly deal in the league, and handing all those picks to Polian, and getting a decent new coach, and keeping a few more of the Old Era players around to make a run... aw fuck; there I go again...
@pierrezombie So here go my detailed thoughts. First of all, no, I haven´t seen it anywhere. You´re right, Nate could have made from this premise the best and most heart-wrenching series of articles ever. I really think it´s a worthy project, and I´d be willing to invest time on it provided there were other people with much more knowledge than me examining the financial and draft stuff. So if other people are interested, we could maybe make it happen.
Secondly, concerning the cap numbers you were quoting, I have no doubt Peyton would have restructured his contract in whatever way was necessary to keep the Colts competitive, especially being enticed by the draft bounty trading the 1st pick would have brought to the Colts. I don´t think its value would have been affected by the Rams´ choice, additionally. Look at how many teams in the league lack a decent QB. There wouldn´t have been 5 teams clamoring for the right to draft Luck, but besides Washington, there would have definitely been at least 3 teams willing to sell the farm for Luck.
I don´t know if the Colts would have managed to sign 10 drafted rookies, but there´s a reason why Polian is in the running for greatest GM of the modern era. I absolutely believe he´d have let go of the players whose financial value no longer outweighed their usefulness for the Colts (the Marvin lesson), especially if he´d had the chance to pick a lot of players with good potential through the draft. He´d have salivated over this, there´s no doubt in my mind.
Finally, regarding Caldwell, I want to believe he would have been let go, you know that. And actually, to be honest, after the 2011 debacle, I really believe even Polian would have seen that. I think the Colts would still have seen this as a chance for a new start, only they´d have kept 18 and his great goblin mentor.
Lots of speculation obviously, but these are thoughts that will be haunting us for a long time anyway, right?
@pierrezombie Lots of thoughts after your comments, pierrezombie. I´ll reply you in detail tonight, just thought I´d let you know.
@pierrezombie @goeland Okay, so first of all, a huge thanks for the comments, pierrezombie. As for your scenario A and B... I really thought about it, you know. I think it´s certainly doable, and that would definitely be a great counterpoint to this series. The thing is, what was most important to me was not falling into the dream scenario trap, because it just wouldn´t be interesting to pretend the Colts with Peyton Manning would have had no trouble at all. To be honest, it´s the financial situation that gave me the most pause. I´m no expert at all on roster management, and it would be incredibly complex to manage an imaginary roster with free agent additions and established stars needing new contracts.
I think your observation is an incredibly legitimate criticism, and I definitely think scenario B also deserves its own lengthy exploration. But in a way, in my mind envisioning this exact Colts team with these exact players (which means actual Colts games give me the blueprint) performing around Peyton´s brilliance (again, based on his week-to-week performances as a Bronco) feel more authentic, not to what could have been, but to what is. I really want this to be as realistic as possible, and it´s just more important to me to make it more realistic in terms of football play than of credible strategy, you know?
Another factor is that if you reread this, you´ll notice I actually decided Irsay HAD parted ways with Polian in this, and so even if they´d kept Peyton, with Grigson as the new GM, it think they´d would have gone all in on the rebuild. Why would that make sense, you ask? That´s partly about the money problems we were discussing, but also because as Nate endlessly repeated during the offseason, you get the feeling Irsay wanted the Polian era to come to its end, because of the atmosphere Bill´s abrasiveness had created or because of Chris´ shortcomings, who really knows.
But yeah, I´ll definitely think long and hard about where to take this. I´m loving your Five plays advice, by the way, and maybe I can adapt it to something close to what I envisioned, I don´t know.
Once again, thanks for your comments! And as you can surely see, don´t apologize for your long comments, they´re certainly not the longest... I´m really, really glad you enjoyed it.
1) No thanks due to me -- you're doing all the work!
I think you're right about the complexities of the imaginary roster, if you'd gone with Scenario B. That would have become convoluted and murky really quick. (See my other comment below.) And I see what you mean about the "dream scenario trap"; it would be too tempting to shave off the rough edges of the cap and changes to the draft and just give #18 a fantasy football roster to work with. (Which, also, would be a super fun Scenario C!)
On the other hand, even with a Monty Haul trade in this year's draft, when the real-world GOAT tossed up three picks in the first quarter like in that unbearable game last night, even the Alt18World-version C Colts would have had a hard time beating Minnesota. Ye Gods, that was tough to watch!
2) I really am on board with your approach -- I don't even mean these as criticisms of it; more just exploratory shooting of the proverbial shit. I see what you mean about wanting to retain authenticity and a degree of realism. The only catch to that, to me, is the an 18 for 12 swap on the roster ignores the fact that last year's team earned the #1 pick -- the Scenario A team has nothing to show for that in round 1 of the draft, just Fleener, Allen, etc. in the later rounds.
But I guess that works if we hypothesize that the cap implications of keeping Manning's full contract AND making all the other roster moves cancel each other out, so that he ends up with the other 52 players on the team this season.
3) Dang -- I read it twice yesterday and still missed your point about the FO change. Somehow I thought you meant they kept Polian, and got Pagano -- talk about wishful thinking!
I think I get it now. When you said, "I settled on acting as if everything else had happened the way it did, except for Peyton´s release", you meant EVERYTHING else. That works for me.
4) After last night, another hidden bonus of the Five Plays approach is that you don't have to relive those three picks in your Bizarro World version. Once was enough, right? Ha.
But speaking of which, now I'm curious to see how you reconcile the difference between Luck's stat line this week and Manning's. Does the AltWorld matchup with the Vikings feature a bit of both? Does Wayne come back for a couple of those fluttering passes over the middle and bail Payton out with one of his many circus catches, where Decker or Thomas didn't? Do G.D. Donald and the Colts miserable O-line contribute the kind of running game help to Manning's offense that McGahee did for the Broncos? Fans of your alternate reality want to know!
Hey man, I know how it is. Don't bust a gut on my account! Seriously.
In fact, why don't you take the week off? I've got this one: http://www.coltsauthority.com/reader-blog/articles/the-once-and-future-colt-slinging-it.html
@pierrezombie @goeland Yo, pierrezombie, just wanted to apologize for not posting the Atlanta one on Saturday as I had promised. After a sucky week, I didn´t get to do it as I had planned. So this week, you´ll get two. As an aside, couldn´t be prouder of Peyton after today´s game. He´s not completely perfect yet, but after today and those amazing throws (that Thomas pass almost was the most gorgeous of TDs, and those throws on the run), I´ll know he´ll soon get there.
@goeland p.s. Sorry for the world's longest comment ever. tl;dr
@goeland OK, I looked up: via Indystar, Manning is ~$10MM against the cap, plus $5 for Clark and $4 each for Hayden and Addai.
Ho. Ly. Crap. You actually did it! I haven't looked forward to reading anything this much in a long time...