Peyton Manning vs. Andrew Luck: why the Indianapolis Colts can’t have both

Another Sunday without for the means that the most difficult decision in the team’s history is only getting tougher.

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As everyone knows, the club will have to make one of the more intriguing personnel choices in history by next spring.

Can Manning – almost certainly one of the top five quarterbacks ever to play football, and the man who is the face of the franchise – recover from the offseason neck surgery that is threatening his career? Or do the Colts have to cut him, freeing up his massive $18-million-a-year salary, and draft the player than many experts say is the most sure-fire quarterback star in a generation, ?

The news this week is that Manning began throwing the football again, an obvious and crucial step in his recovery. But unless he can fully participate in practice – or, better, play in a game – the Colts will approach March without all the information it would like for a decision of such magnitude.

As a result, there is a school of thought, endorsed by the Colts’ general manager, that the Colts maybe should take the safe road: keep Manning and draft Luck.

But it’s hard to see how that makes much sense.

One of the things the Colts’ 0-13 record shows is that the team is already running on very thin margins. With the NFL’s hard salary-cap, teams will inevitably be flawed – they don’t have enough money to pay exceptional players at each position. Therefore, teams must mask weaknesses as best they can, and Manning is doubtless the best weakness-masker in the league.

If the Colts were to draft Luck, he – and his multimillion-dollar salary – would be sitting on the bench, doing the Colts no good for as long as Manning was the starter. It’s clear that Manning already had enough weaknesses to mask before his injury. Taking millions of dollars off the table to pay Luck (not to play) means depriving the team of crucial money to address glaring gaps that need to be filled if Manning is going to have any chance of winning another .  

And isn’t that the point? Why bring back Manning unless making a commitment to give him a better team that can be championship-worthy?

It also makes no sense for Luck. He’s clearly good enough to play pro football now. He was already considered pro-ready last year. If he came to a team with Manning, he would either be the No. 2 with no hope of playing, or the quarterback of a team that is paying $20 million a year to his backup.   

Manning’s father, Archie, actually counseled his other football-playing son, Eli, to avoid exactly this situation. When Eli was drafted by the , the Chargers already had an established No. 1 quarterback, . So Eli refused to sign for the Chargers, who ended up trading him to the , where he has helped the team with a Super Bowl.

It’s hard to see why Luck, a family friend of the Mannings, would think any differently. 

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Indianapolis Colts Injury Report, Week 15: Dallas Clark Among Seven Held Out Of Practice Wednesday

Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark (44) runs after making a catch during NFL training camp in Anderson, Ind., Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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Dec 14, 2011 – While quarterback has been according to head coach Jim Caldwell, he is still not practicing with the team.

Manning, who has already been ruled out for the entire season, was just one of seven Colts who did not practice on Wednesday, along with tight end (burner), defensive end (not injury related), defensive end Roger Mathis (knee), linebacker (ankle), defensive end (groin) and linebacker Phillip Wheeler (foot).

Meanwhile, wide receiver (groin) did participate fully in practice on Wednesday.

Two players on the opposing have already been ruled out: running back (hand) and safety (groin).

Manning will be throwing as part of his rehabilitation from neck surgery, which he underwent on Sept. 8.

The Colts, 0-13, have just three more chances to avoid the 2008 in the infamy of an 0-16 season.

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Peyton Manning remains on Indianapolis Colts active list

Maybe the Indianapolis Colts have inside information that leads them to believe before the end of the season.
Jim Caldwell and the Colts are holding out hope that Peyton Manning might be able to return in 2011.
(AJ Mast – AP)
Maybe they’re holding out hope Manning’s regenerative abilities mirror his quarterbacking abilities. Or maybe they just can’t bear the thought of leading their offense.

Whatever the case may be, the Colts are leaving Manning on their active list — for now.

• The League:

Here’s vice chairman Bill Polian’s explanation in the first installment of “:

“We saved the spot for Bob Sanders last year all the way up to week 12, maybe even beyond that because the prognosis, which is just that — it’s a guesstimate the doctors give you, it’s not cast in concrete — was that Bob had a chance to make it back by the end of the season. That did not occur.  What I’ve said to Peyton and what we’ve said publicly is that we will leave him on the active roster as long as the doctors tell us there’s a chance for him to come back…” 

“Now, that being said, it bears very, very strong emphasis that he will not be allowed back on the field until the doctors are satisfied that he’s 100 percent and ready to go, regardless of what occurs with the season or doesn’t occur with the season.  His long-term health is what the most important thing is here. It’s been that way from Day One.  We constantly said to him, ‘If you’re not ready to go, you’re not going to be allowed to go out there.’ I’m sure as soon as he starts to feel better, he’ll be the same here. That’s what makes him such a unique individual. The bottom-line is, when the doctors say he is ready to go, he will be allowed to resume activity. We’ll cross the bridge regarding the active roster spot at that time when the doctors give us a definite feeling of when and if he will be back this season.”

On Sept. 8, — his second neck surgery since last season ended and third in the last 19 months. Manning also went under the knife on May 23 to repair a bulging disk and nerve problem that continued to bother him through training camp.

(H/T )