March 7, 2012
Jim Irsay is letting Peyton Manning walk away. I can’t believe it.
The 2011 NFL season featured multiple passers making Marino’s records look like child’s play, took us to the edge of perfection with Mr. Discount Double-Check, and emphasized the importance of play-making tight ends. However, despite the intrigue that this season brought, the spotlight wasn’t even stolen by a 2008 super bowl flashback. Instead the spotlight shone on the absence of Peyton Manning and the incredible impact it had on a franchise that had dominated its division for the previous decade. The collapse of the Colts is evidence of the elder Manning’s value, but more importantly highlights the ineptitude of the rest of that team in Indianapolis. Yet Colts owner Jim Irsay has decided to cut ties with a player who took his team to previously unseen heights in favor of College sensation Andrew Luck. Irsay believes Luck to be the next Peyton Manning, the new face of the franchise, deserving of the first overall pick, and the pressure that comes with having to carry a new team on his back surrounded by minimal weapons.
So Peyton Manning is leaving Indianapolis. That means free agents Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne are not likely to stay with Manning-less Colts. Underrated center Jeff Saturday will also leave with Manning. I certainly understand why Irsay wants to make this call, and history may prove him the wiser. But given all that the Colts stand to lose by letting Manning walk away my advice to him would be simple: Keep Peyton Manning.
This might seem a bit crazy considering Manning’s age (36) and the doubt surrounding his neck. The Colts were anemic this season, particularly on defense (see their 62-7 mauling at the hand of the Saints in week 7). A good quarterback can transform that 2-14 team into a weaker wild card team or even a division winner, and by all accounts Andrew Luck is a good quarterback. However Luck is not going to get the Colts to the Superbowl. To get to the Superbowl you need to be at least somewhat successful on defense, and you need an offensive line that will protect your quarterback. Adding Andrew Luck won’t improve either of these things. So what do you do with the coveted first pick in the draft? Trade it. The Rams are rumored to be getting a fairly large haul for their number 2 overall pick; possibly as much as two first round picks, a second round pick, and a first round pick next year. If the Colts could have gotten anything close to that for their pick – two first round picks and a second round pick from Cleveland for instance – then it should be worth doing. Certainly this would have improved the Colts more than letting Manning walk away.
The Colts have some severe needs at CB, SS, LB, OG, and even RB given Joseph Addai’s injury history. A trade that can net four picks in the top 64 can have an immediate impact on an organization. Trading the 1st overall pick could bring back something along the lines of:
Round 1 Pick 4 (from Cleveland) : RB Trent Richardson - should be available here, and he might be worth taking, as the RB out of Alabama is a rare talent with the work ethic to go far in the NFL.
Round 1 Pick 22 (from Cleveland) : OG Cordy Glenn - Already one of the top 5 guards in this draft, Glenn is a massive 6’5″, 346 lbs player who has the versatility to play right guard and the speed to pull around the edge and get to the next level on blocking schemes. He solidifies the Colts interior.
Round 2 Pick 1: SS Mark Baron – The best safety in this year’s class, the Alabama prospect’s stock fell due to a double hernia surgery and should be available at the top of the second round.
Round 2 Pick 4: DT Brandon Thompson – Measuring at 6’2″ 311 lbs Thompson is a run stuffer who will force double teams and give the Colts a huge lift along their defensive line. With Thompson clogging up the middle, Freeney and Mathis will tee off on opposing quarterbacks.
Another guy I want to mention is Vontaze Burfict. An incredible middle linebacker with a slew of character issues who showed up the combine out of shape, Burfict is a guy that most teams can get with a late round pick. He is a first round talent who should be successful at the NFL level due to his hard-nosed style of play and ability to cover the pass and the run (Number 7 from ASU: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7achvXsy3Q). It’ll be interesting to see where he goes, and the Colts should consider risking a late round pick on him.
Instead Jim Irsay is letting Peyton Manning walk away. Rather than adding the incredible amount of value that the 1st overall pick could bring in, he is getting nothing in return for one of the best players ever. An Indianapolis team with a healthy Peyton Manning and significant help from the draft becomes a super-bowl caliber team. Jeff Saturday and Reggie Wayne have already gone on record saying that they would like to play with Manning next season, and trading away the top pick for such a massive injection of talent should have been a no-brainer. Yet instead of maximizing value by trading the top pick and retaining significant assets in Wayne, Saturday, and Garcon, Irsay is cutting ties with Manning and thus letting value walk out the door.
I found it astounding that Irsay was so determined to release the heart and soul of his franchise when such a viable alternative existed. I know Manning’s years are limited, I know there are question marks about his health, and I know that Luck is supposedly a quarterback that can be successful for years to come. Yet even if Luck is as good as advertised, was it not worth considering trading that one potential pro-bowler for three potential pro-bowlers while simultaneously making an old roster a little younger? The Colts were eventually going to need a new franchise quarterback in the next five years, and franchise quarterbacks are hard to come by. However letting Manning leave and getting nothing in return simply seems like a failure to get maximum value out of the situation.
This is the decision that I would have recommended, and I may not be right. In ten years I might read this and laugh about how very, very wrong I was. But for now, that’s the way I see it.