Could Manning replace Manning in Indy?
It is being heralded today as the end of an era in Indianapolis as the Colts release 14 year veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. As I’m sitting here reading the quotes though I keep wondering to myself is it REALLY the end?
The primary reason for today’s release is the $28 million roster bonus that kicks in on March 8th if Peyton is still on the team. Following a year where Manning didn’t play a single down in the NFL, expecting the Colts to pony up to that signing bonus would be a stretch. Further that by taking into consideration that Manning still doesn’t have his arm strength back and that there are conflicting opinions as to whether or not he ever will gain it, releasing him became an inevitable fact.
As I followed the press conference on Twitter (@timarrick) it appeared obvious neither party wanted this day to come. Colts owner Jim Irsay was visibly shaken at points stating the #18 would never be worn again while Manning stated “I will always be a Colt. That will never change.”
So answer me this, is Peyton really done in Indianapolis?
Under terms of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement Peyton Manning now becomes a free agent and can sign with any team that he wants, any team including the Colts.
While it seems unlikely that Manning would resign with the Colts, play along with me for a moment.
The Indianapolis Colts hold the overall number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and the overwhelming favorite to be drafted is Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Even with all of the hype surrounding Luck, it is extremely unlikely that he will walk into Indianapolis and be a top level quarterback from season 1. It will take someone with a veteran presence to help Luck develop and right now the depth chart for Indy shows Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter. Neither are exactly who you would want to mentor a young potential star quarterback.
This is where a team would usually go out and sign a veteran quarterback to help out, someone who had a great career but might have injury questions or somewhat diminished skills.
Enter Peyton Manning. Indy has stated over and over that they don’t want the Manning love affair to end and that the parting was only financial. On the Manning side, no one is entirely sure his nerves will fully regenerate and that he will be able to throw like he once did. This makes it a long shot for any team to give guaranteed money at this point. There is absolutely no doubt that as an on field tactician and student of the game, no one is better than Manning and to have his experience on the field and in the locker room with a young QB would be invaluable.
Perhaps the Colts consider bringing Peyton back on a two year contract once his arm has shown that it has or is capable of recovering. They should be able to do this at considerably less than the $28 million roster bonus that prompted his release. Peyton has stated that he would be open to a deal with performance based incentives and one would have to hope that he would give the Colts this same opportunity. If this were to happen it would give the Colts the perfect person to mentor young Andrew Luck and eventually move into the Offensive Coordinator position once his playing days are through.
The question is could both sides make it work? Was today’s press conference just a show or did both parties really mean what was said? Even if they did mean it today, what happens in two years when the Colts are ready to insert Luck into the starting lineup? Does Manning quietly move into the coaching organization or, does he do his best Brett Farve impression and insist that he is still a great player and raise a fuss?
Will it happen? I would say probably not. Happy endings typically aren’t something that you see in professional sports today. However, given the choice between seeing Peyton Manning, in the Colts uniform that he wore throughout his entire career mentoring a young superstar or in a Washington Redskins uniform playing out his last days for a paycheck, I’ll take the Colts.