As the Indianapolis Colts face off at home against the Denver Broncos in their Week 7 game on Sunday night, we are all aware of the hype and talk surrounding this game given that it will be the “homecoming” of Peyton Manning to where he spent the first 13 seasons of his NFL career. With all the talk of tribute(s) being paid to Manning pre-game and talk by Colts owner Jim Irsay about wishing they won more than one Super Bowl during that time, I feel that this has overshadowed the most important aspect of this Manning return to Indianapolis.
With Peyton Manning playing as well as he has for the Broncos since he joined them as a free agent prior to the 2012 season, many have wondered out loud or in private if the Colts would have been better off keeping Manning instead of drafting Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The answer to this question is that Jim Irsay made the absolute correct decision in letting Manning leave and drafting Andrew Luck because in the long term, the Colts are and will be better off as a team.
Let’s remember that there were several valid and justifiable reasons for Irsay to have opted, rightfully, for letting Manning go. First and foremost, he was a 35/36 year old coming off four different neck surgeries/procedures. Physically no one had any idea how well Manning would recover and how good he would be after missing a full year because of his neck injury. Now some of you may say well the Broncos were willing to take that chance, but in the Broncos’ case, the only way they could get rid of Tim Tebow was bringing in a quarterback of Manning’s stature in order to justify getting rid of a quarterback who fluked his way to winning a playoff game the season before.
The second reason the Colts were justified in letting Manning go was because Manning’s salary cap number had gotten to a point where the Colts could no longer field a competitive team around him. The fact that the Colts went 2-14 in 2011 season shows Manning made up for a lot of the flaws that existed because this team was, in the end of his run as a Colt, poorly constructed. Also, if the Colts would have opted to keep Manning, then they would not have been able to keep Reggie Wayne or Robert Mathis, two players who have helped the Colts in the last two seasons because Manning’s cap number meant they could not re-sign each player.
While Peyton Manning has another year to three years left in terms of what he is as a quarterback and could potentially win another Super Bowl in that time, this does not mean that the Colts were not right in letting him go. The fact of the matter is that given where they were as an organization at the end of the 2011 season, the Colts needed to make some changes and decisions and one of those was opting to draft the next great can’t miss quarterback in Andrew Luck to be under center for the Colts for the next 10-15 years. Franchises sometimes have to make certain decisions, and just as Jim Irsay has been spot on with what he has said during the week, he was right to have decided to parted with Peyton Manning and drafted Andrew Luck.