Everyone assumes that Manning will be a Colt until he retires and that the only question will be the money involved. The Colts have already said that they want him here without any reservations, and Manning has said nothing to go against that.
The question that no one seems to be asking is: Would Manning be better off somewhere else?
|This would make Colts fans truly ill|
With all of the success he has had in Indianapolis, it seems like a silly question. He has a offensive system in place that he is comfortable with. He has good relationships with the players, management, and the community - so no problem there. No one out there is saying that the future doesn't look good for the franchise, right?
Well, almost no one.
When I look at the Colts franchise and project out where it seems to be heading, I see some real intrinsic problems on the horizon. There are two primary things I have in mind:
- The offensive line is really bad from a talent perspective. I wrote earlier in the week that I don't think that any starter on the Colts offensive line could displace a starter on the Patriots, Chargers, Steelers, Ravens, or Jets. That is kind of a big deal. Nothing about how the Colts have been drafting offensive linemen in recent years tells me that this will change. All of their current starters were either undrafted free-agents or second day picks. In the past six drafts they have picked an offensive lineman four times in the 4th round or higher. Two are on the bench and two are no longer with the team.
- Front office transition. Current Team President and future Hall of Famer Bill Polian will retire at some point; and I feel it will be sooner than later. He has clearly been smoothing the way for his son, Chris Polian, to succeed him. Now if Chris is as good as his Father there should be nothing to worry about. But what are the chances of that? He was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 2004, and if you look at the Colts drafts from 2005 to present - there is one player who has made a pro-bowl, Joesph Addai, and the jury is still out on him. Of the first day picks in that time, only two (in my opinion) are solid starters: Kelvin Hayden / CB / 2005 / 2nd round & Jerraud Powers / CB 2009 / 3rd round. Only two other first day picks from those drafts are even the primary starter at their position (Fili Moala & Addai). Sometimes when a son takes over for his father - you get a chip off the ol' block - sometimes you get Mike Brown.
If these current trends continue (and I have no reason to think they will not) Manning could be trapped in a situation that will:
- Tarnish his legacy. No position (except maybe RB) is more dependent on the players around him to perform well. Every time the Colts fall short the national media rushes to tell us how it is Manning's fault. Any downtrend in his career caused by degradation of his supporting cast WILL be blamed on him.
- Shorten his career. Manning is getting hit more this year than any previous season. In terms of actual sacks, everything looks fine. But everyone knows that Manning rarely gets sacked - due to his own awareness and his willingness to throw the ball away. Something in his body is going to break eventually.
The last few years for the Colts are eerily similar to the last five years of Dan Marino's career in Miami. Every season the running game got worse. Every year there was a renewed commitment to run the ball. Each year they continued to draft offensive linemen that were pass blockers. The problem never got solved.
As a Colts fan, the idea of Manning playing in another uniform is both nauseating and frighting. But just like LeBron James, he might be better off somewhere else.
Imagine Manning with the NY Jets. What could he do if he did not have to throw the ball 40 times a game because he had a dominant running game? Would the Jets trade Sanchez and four or five first day draft picks for Manning? If I was a Jets fan, I'd be for it.
The chances of Manning not retiring as a Colt are remote. Even if Manning wished to leave, the Colts will probably have the ability to use something like a franchise tag to keep him around.
I'd just argue that it is not in his best interest.