Gorches: Colts should follow Packers’ lead
By Steve T. Gorches 648-3141 or email@example.com January 5, 2012 11:12PM
Updated: February 7, 2012 8:30AM
Are you ready for two months of debate? That’s at least how long Colts fans and NFL followers all over the place get to pontificate about the quarterback situation in Indiana’s state capital.
Should the Colts release or trade Peyton Manning, who has been the face of the franchise for 14 years?
Should they draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck, who is considered the best college prospect at the most important position in football since John Elway?
Can they really keep both QBs on the roster?
After losing their first 13 games, the Colts won two straight, then lost the season finale at Jacksonville to finish 2-14 and secure the top pick in April’s NFL Draft.
The debate has already started all across the information superhighway called the Internet, from blogs to Twitter to good old-fashioned newspaper columns like this one, and there really isn’t a consensus. There are people sitting on all sides of the fence.
Colts’ owner Jim Irsay has given some glimpses into his decision-making process.
Earlier this week he fired vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, general manager Chris Polian. That could have been directly or indirectly due to their opinion on what to do with the quarterback situation, as well as not having an adequate backup this season after it was determined Manning would not play after neck surgery.
In fact, Irsay’s most telling comments on the situation came in early October when the Colts were just 0-5, far from guaranteed to get the coveted No. 1 pick.
“Guys like that come along so rarely,” he said about Manning and Luck, whose name he couldn’t say directly due to NFL rules. “Even if that means that guy sits for three or four years, you’d certainly think about taking him … you see what Green Bay did with (Brett) Favre and (Aaron) Rodgers and you’d like to be able to do the same thing.”
The Packers example is the most common used when debating what the Colts should do. And there are similarities.
Back in the 2005 draft, Green Bay took Rodgers with the 24th pick. But the QB out of California was considered an early first round pick. There was debate in that offseason whether the San Francisco 49ers, who had the No. 1 pick, would take Alex Smith or Rodgers. They decided on Smith and Rodgers slipped all the way down to the 10-6 Packers.
Rodgers mainly fell because no one else needed a QB. He was the next legitimate signal-caller picked (Jacksonville took QB Matt Jones with the 21st pick, but he was almost immediately used as a wideout with 432 receiving yards in his first season).
But neither Smith nor Rodgers were as highly touted as Luck. Smith didn’t turn into a legitimate starting QB until this season under new coach Jim Harbaugh — but he’s still not good enough to warrant that No. 1 overall pick — while Rodgers has become one of the best QBs in the league.
So why did Irsay use the Packers as an example? Because Rodgers sat behind Favre for three years, watching Favre lead the NFL in interceptions in 2005 with an astounding 29.
Favre had just finished his 14th season in the league. Manning has just completed his 14th, though it was spent on the sidelines.
And in a perfect world, it would be the perfect scenario for the Colts, especially if Manning passes his physical scheduled for early March and doctors say he’s cleared to start again. Pick Luck, keep Manning and you’re set at the position for another 14 years.
But it’s not a perfect world.
There wasn’t any pressure on Packers general manager Ted Thompson to start Rodgers right away. There were some whispers the following season after the mind-boggling 29 interceptions and the beginning of Favre’s on-again-off-again, ego-induced retirement decisions, but nothing like what’s coming in Colts land.
There’s a large contingent of Colts fans who are Manning loyalists and say keep him if he’s determined healthy.
There are others who say Luck is the next Manning and it’s time to move on.
If Manning is cleared to play, he’s due to make $28 million next season, while the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has the No. 1 pick making a max of $22 million over the next four years (which is the same deal Cam Newton got this season from the Carolina Panthers). That $22 million contract can be manipulated to pay Luck something like $3 million the first couple years and $8 million the last two years.
That way you have about $31 million slotted for the QB position on your salary cap for two years, then phase into the Luck era.
Those who say you can’t do that because Luck’s too good, I say pish posh. If Irsay sticks to his guns and holds his statement from October to be true, then that’s what he wants, too.
If Luck and his entourage don’t like that and demand the same treatment Elway forced in 1983 (the Colts chose Elway, but he said he wouldn’t play for them and would instead play baseball if he wasn’t traded, so he was dealt to the Denver Broncos), I say Irsay dares Luck to do that. Double dog dare him to do it, and if he does, let him sit. In the new CBA players are penalized more severely for holding out.
Remember that Jim Irsay’s father, Robert, was the owner of the Colts in 1983. Don’t think Jim doesn’t recall Elway’s diva act and already has a plan in place if Luck tries to do the same.
It’s worked out very well for the Packers, so why not the Colts, no matter what Luck says or feels.