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Days away from Super Bowl XLVI, reports continue to swirl about Peyton Manning’s future with the Indianapolis Colts. While brother Eli prepares to potentially surpass Peyton with a second Super Bowl win in Lucas Oil Stadium, the house that Peyton built, discussions remain prevalent regarding the uncertainty surrounding the future Hall of Fame quarterback. While Manning’s health is still up in the air, the public has been lead to believe that Manning will not be returning to Indianapolis. Colts Owner Jim Irsay has done his best to downplay this notion, tweeting on Friday, "No he hasn't been released nor was a decision reached weeks ago."
After finishing a league-worst 2-14, Indianapolis will have the first pick in the NFL draft this April. The Colts are expected to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. For months, it has been concluded that the Colts couldn’t draft Luck and keep Manning. Considered to be the best prospect since John Elway, Luck is thought to be ready for the NFL, needing no time to learn from the sidelines. Generally, the path should be cleared when a franchise player is on the way.
Peyton Manning is an exception to that rule.
If Manning’s neck doesn’t heal and doctors don’t clear him for football activities, then there is no discussion; Manning retires and goes to Canton, Ohio five years from now. If, and it’s a big if, Manning is healthy enough to resume playing, Indianapolis should not hesitate to have Luck sit and learn behind one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Forget that Manning has been the face of the Colts franchise since 1998; loyalty in sports is a thing of the past. Manning, 35, has always kept himself in pristine shape while keeping the hits from defenders to a minimum over the years. If Manning is able to return to the field, that immediately makes the Colts a Super Bowl contender next season. That speaks volumes about Manning’s abilities when you consider how dreadful Indianapolis was without him.
Luck looks to be a solid quarterback in the NFL. That being said, there’s no guarantee of success; just look at any list of all-time busts of past first round draft picks. Luck may be able to grow on the fly like Cam Newton or Andy Dalton. Or they may take their lumps and struggle during their first few seasons. Either way, there is uncertainty. Manning, when healthy, is one of, if not the best quarterback in the league. The PR nightmare would be tough enough if Manning is healthy and then plays elsewhere next season. If Manning were to lead that team to a Super Bowl, Irsay would never live that down.
Irsay will do his best to win over the public opinion, but Manning can’t lose this battle. “I don’t want to get into some kind of fan campaign with the owner, but I think it’s well documented that I want to play in the same place my whole career,” Manning said. “It’s been a privilege to play here. I love the fans, the city.” Manning will be an icon in Indianapolis till the end of time. Understandably so, Irsay and the Colts are reluctant to pay Manning his 28 million dollar bonus March 8 due to health concerns.
Manning’s health remains in question, leaving the Colts unsure. It seems like a no-brainer that if Manning is healthy, the Colts would be foolish to let him go elsewhere. However, it looks as if the two are headed for a split. While Manning will have plenty of suitors looking for the final piece to their Super Bowl puzzle, the Colts will simply hope for a little bit of luck.