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Should the Colts Have Kept Peyton Manning?

Should the Colts Have Kept Peyton Manning?

Colts owner Jim Irsay started a mini-firestorm this week on the eve of Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis, taking a couple of not-so-veiled shots at Manning's lack of postseason success in Indy. "We've changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these," Irsay said of his single Super Bowl ring. With the debate currently raging, we posed the question to a couple of our editors: Should the Colts have kept Peyton?

Of course the Indianapolis Colts should have kept Peyton Manning. Owner Jim Irsay — who inherited the franchise from his father, Robert — must regret the decision to cut Manning on a daily basis. It was a tough call. But the wrong decision was made. And that has been painfully obvious this season, which is Manning’s finest to date.

“I can tell you it wasn’t a no-brainer,” former Colts coach Tony Dungy recently told the Denver Post. “Jim (Irsay) was a young boy when his dad traded Johnny Unitas. So he knew the ramifications of this type of decision. And he also knew how much Peyton had done for the city of Indianapolis and for that franchise. …

“I can almost guarantee you that if (Irsay) knew (Manning) was going to be healthy like this and playing this kind of football, in hindsight I don’t think he would have done it.”

No team in its right mind would trade the best quarterback in football — which Manning clearly is this season — even if its braintrust was replacing him with the “next” best quarterback in football — which Andrew Luck appears to be.

What if Indianapolis had kept Manning and traded away the No. 1 overall pick? These hypothetical situations are usually based in fiction. But the 2012 NFL Draft witnessed a blockbuster trade involving the No. 2 overall pick linked to Robert Griffin III. The Redskins traded the Nos. 6 and 39 overall picks in 2012 and first-rounders in both 2013 (No. 22 overall) and 2014 to trade up to take RG3. And Luck was worth more.

Had the Colts kept the best quarterback on the planet — a man whose trophy case includes four league MVPs and a Super Bowl XLI MVP — and surrounded him with a surplus of first-round picks, then Indy would be the favorite to win Super Bowl XLVIII. By letting Manning leave, Irsay ensured he’ll only have “one” Super Bowl win for at least another year. And he might have to watch Manning raise another Lombardi Trophy.
– Nathan Rush

It’s easy for the Monday morning quarterbacks to look at Peyton Manning’s staggering numbers in Denver and say that the Colts made a mistake in cutting him loose. But it’s important to remember: The Manning we’re seeing today is a far cry from the Manning who left Indy after the 2011 season. Yes, the change of scenery from the dingy interior of a dome to a breathtaking mountain vista has utterly revitalized Manning, but I would contend that the move has been of considerable benefit for both parties. And at the time, it was the sensible move for the Colts franchise.

As you remember, Manning missed the entire 2011 season, a 2–14 disaster, with a career-endangering neck condition that had required multiple surgeries. The prior season, in retrospect his final campaign in Colts blue, was a 10–6 disappointment with a one-game playoff flameout. Manning’s 2010 passer rating of 91.9 was his lowest in almost a decade; his interception total of 17 was his highest since 2002. The Manning era in Indy had clearly reached a point of diminishing returns. In reality, his last stand as Colts QB had come the previous season, when he led Indy on one last Super Bowl run that ended with a pick-six and a two-touchdown loss to New Orleans — a sadly fitting denouement for a quarterback with a postseason record of 9–11.

So the Colts were entirely justified in closing the door on the Manning era and bidding farewell to their aging legend. But the fact that a clear successor was available made the decision a no-brainer. Andrew Luck is Manning 2.0 — a young, healthy version of the talented and cerebral quarterback who directed the Colts offense for 13 mostly glorious seasons. Luck’s tenure thus far — an 11–5 season in 2012 and a solid 4-2 start to the 2013 campaign — proves that Indy has nothing to apologize for.
– Rob Doster