To keep Peyton Manning and trade the number one pick of the draft.
To trade Peyton Manning and keep the number one pick to draft Andrew Luck.
To keep Peyton Manning and keep the number one pick and retain Andrew Luck.
Right now those are the three options that lie in front of the Indianapolis Colts. Let’s not kid ourselves. After losing their first eleven games to start the season and with the St. Louis Rams being two victories ahead of the Colts, the number one pick of the 2012 NFL draft is essentially theirs. As we speak, the Colts are actually on the clock. It’s a formality and it pains me to say it as a long time Colts fan.
The team’s struggles this season go far beyond not having perennial Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning behind center. While Manning is an integral part of the Colts’ success and the drop off from him to Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins has been insurmountable… the team currently faces many other issues throughout the depth chart that even a healthy Peyton Manning couldn’t overcome.
Indianapolis has never been known to have a stout defense but it has never been at the bottom of the barrel like it has been this season. In 2011, the team is ranked last in points allowed and 29th in yardage… a far cry from a unit that was ranked first in points allowed just four seasons ago.
Notable players such as Gary Brackett (who has been out for the season due to injury) and Bob Sanders are no longer with the team as well as former cornerbacks Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden. Almost half the defense from the 2007 unit is gone, replaced with the likes of Kavell Conner and David Caldwell. Most casual NFL fans couldn’t name anyone on the Colts starting defense this season with the exception of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
The same theory holds true for the offensive side of the ball. Most people still have memories of the former big three of Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James lining up for the Colts. Truth of the matter is, with the exception of Manning, the trio disbanded in 2006 with the departure of James and Harrison abruptly retired after the 2008 season.
Other stars on offense like Dallas Clark has battled injuries over the past couple of seasons and the Colts have lacked a consistent number two wide receiver since Reggie Wayne filled Harrison’s void upon his retirement.
The offensive line has also been in the midst of a never ending rebuilding process since underrated yet valuable left tackle Tarik Glenn’s sudden retirement after the 2006 season. Since then the team has struggled to maintain any type of consistency in the run game, failing to have a thousand yard rusher since 2007.
The Colts have also drafted poorly over the past five years. Pierre Garcon may arguably be the team’s best pick (drafted in ’08) with over 2,000 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns. Even at best, Garcon is no more than a second or third wide receiver on a good team. Clint Session was a solid selection at linebacker in ’07 but he was let go as the Colts continue their revolving door at the position and continue to fill the voids left there with mid to late round draft selections. The problem with the philosophy is that the players drafted there haven’t been good.
Good personnel moves have been something that the team has failed to make since the team’s championship run in 2006. Great players have left and been replaced with players that are more deserving of backup roles than a major role on a team that prides itself on being a yearly playoff contender.
Indianapolis has also continued a philosophy, mainly on the offensive side of the ball, that no longer suits the strengths of the players on the team. Esteemed coach Tony Dungy and offensive masterminds Tom Moore and Howard Mudd no longer put together game plans for the Colts and their predecessors have proven to be inept of continuing their ways.
With the exclusion of Peyton Manning from the Colts this season considered, all of the ingredients were in place for a disastrous season… one in which the Colts may not even win a game in the year the team hosts the Super Bowl.
Andrew Luck isn’t guaranteed to be a cure all for all of the problems that have ailed the Colts but he possibly brings an infusion of young talent that Indianapolis hasn’t experienced since Manning and James were drafted in consecutive seasons. With a couple of bold moves in free agency and smart draft picks past the number one selection and the Colts can easily be back in contention next season with a healthy Peyton Manning.
The team isn’t in a position to trade their best opportunity of adding a future franchise player especially to try to make one last run with an aging roster with no depth and weaknesses at important positions.
Indianapolis can do something similar to what the San Antonio Spurs did when they drafted Tim Duncan to eventually take over for David Robinson. The Spurs were able to continue being a winning franchise without having to go through a losing period before contending again. Indianapolis, like San Antonio, is a small market city accustomed to winning. Many star players will not willingly sign in those cities, so it’s vital for the front office to make wise draft picks and shrewd trades and role player signing in order to keep the team competitive.
The Colts would be better off drafting Andrew Luck and keeping Manning so the keys to the franchise can be passed down when Manning does retire. While a few quarterbacks have played well after starting right out of the gate (most notably Cam Newton), having Luck sit behind Manning for a couple years could help his learning curve and make him a better player when the time comes for him to be a starter.
The organization needs to make the necessary adjustments to their philosophy to fit the strengths of the current roster while beginning preparations to build for the future immediately. Whether or not the Colts stay relevant after a great run depends on it.
Here is my pick for the NFL Thursday night game:
SEAHAWKS (+3) over Eagles
Last week’s record: 8-5
Season record: 92-71