Why It Would Be Unwise For The Colts To Trade Mathis Or Wayne

Note - This is written to provide a different take and serve as food for thought: 

If your kid is top three in his year for all of high school then suddenly fails a class because his grandfather died the night before his final causing him to bomb it, is he a bad student? Would you punish him for a month?

If you have a squeaky clean driving record for 10 years but get into a wreck because blinding sun caused you to miss a stoplight, are you a horrible driver? Would you sell your car?

If your company records 12 quarters of profits but has a one bad earnings period because of worldwide economic slowdown does that make your company fundamentally unsound? Would you quit your job?

If you answered no to any - hopefully all - of these then you shouldn't support a full-scale Colts rebuilding project or front office overhaul.

The Colts have been shockingly bad this season its true, but they also lost the best player in the league - and maybe of all time - ten days before the season began. 

When something like that happens, you just aren't the same team. You also shouldn't panic and throw a firesale either. 

Before we start clamoring to blow up the team, let's slow down and take a deep breath. Adam Schefter's idea that the Colts should trade Mathis and Wayne is in keeping with the wildly overstated purported demise of the franchise and the panicked nature surrounding the organization.

Over the past decade, the Colts have been the second most consistent team in terms of wins, first if you count consecutive playoff appearances and third best if you judge by Super Bowls and appearances. Only four teams have reached multiply Super Bowls since 2000. The Rams, The Colts, the Steelers and the Pats. Only one of them, Indy,  made the playof fs nine consecutive seasons.

In 2002 on the heals of two consecutive championships, the Pats with a healthy Tom Brady and vaunted defensive went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. In 2009, a year removed from their championship run, the Steelers went 9-7 and missed the playoffs with a (relatively) healthy team and Big Ben behind center. Both teams missed the playoffs with their best players on the field (Big Ben and Tom Brady aren't exactly Kevin Kolb and Chad Henne either). Yet neither owner suffered a hysterical meltdown and guess what, both teams bounced back as strong as ever.

For all of Polian's recent draft-day misses - and he's had his fair share - he's also had a consistent philosophy: build the team around Peyton Manning.

Is that crazy, to depend on one player? Not really. It's good luck in the first place to land such a once in a generation talent. Ever so often, there are players who transcend their position and their predecessors and when you land them, you ride with it. If you think Polian is alone in doing this (and crazy) think again. Bill Belichick,  the defensive genius, has abandoned his focus on defense instead focusing on surrounding Brady with as much talent as possible. This year, the Pats are terrible defensively yet sit at 5-1 as one of the league's best teams. The Steelers over the past few seasons have abandoned their power-running game surrounding Big Ben with Pro Bowl receivers given his penchant for making big plays. 

Polian realized he had possibly the greatest quarterback of all time, so he did the same thing, providing Manning with the pieces to supplement his skill set on offense while putting together a defense that was built to play with the lead. For 10 years the philosophy has worked and produced unparalleled results. 

Now with Manning out, that philosophy, along with our season, is out the window... which sucks, a lot. And yes, the Colts should be better than 0-6. They have too many veterans and good players not to have a win midway through October. Sure they've been close, but as we all know in the NFL that doesn't cut it.  

It is absolutely fair to demand changes and after what we've seen so far, there should be a shakeup. Coyer is definitely on the hot seat and shouldn't return. Caldwell's seat is going to get uncomfortably warm the more losses that pile up as well. Criticism of Polian's recent drafts (although he seems to have nailed the top 4 picks this year), is warranted as well. But undergoing wholesale changes, trading Mathis and Wayne and starting anew?

No thank you.

Here are a few scenarios:

Scenario one:

Trade both Mathis and Wayne for two forth round picks. Start the rebuilding phase for real by releasing Gary Bracket, and Melvin Bullitt and making no efforts to re-sign Anderson or Sims or replace them with similar quality veterans. With the first pick draft Luck or another first round prospect (there will be some good ones) followed by a defensive tackle and offensive tackle in rounds 2 and 3 (needed) and a receiver (won't be an A.J. Green) and DE in rounds 4. 

Manning comes back but no longer has a 1,000 yard receiver to throw to. Even when the offense does get a lead (which will be a harder task), the Colts defense is even more toothless as teams double and triple team Freeney.

The Colts are obviously markedly better with Peyton back, but Freeney is unhappy losing his sidekick and discord among the remaining veterans grow as they feel cheated out of a last few good years. 

Defensively the unit is younger (possibly more talented) and faces more growing pains while offensively the team is less explosive. Manning's last few good years are wasted as the Colts 'develop' their young guys. The Colts remain average to a bit better than average until Manning retires. Then, a new qb takes over and either vaults the Colts back up the standings or doesn't pan out and the Colts remain a bottom feeder for several years to come.

Random side note: If you think Polian has lost his touch, why would you advocate for more draft picks knowing he probably won't be going anywhere?

Chance of winning a Super Bowl - low. 

Scenario Two:

Try and resign both Mathis and Wayne to short term contracts with opt-out clauses. Make it very clear that this year is an aberration and that both players will have legitimate chances at competing for at least 2/3 more Super Bowls (which they would already know) if they are willing to take three year deals for slightly less money, a philosophy which worked (in theory) with the Eagles. Focus on bringing in the best free-agent veteran players available and re-sign Garcon and keep Brackett and Bullitt (if he is 'healthy' - our secondary is that bad it's worth the chance). If Luck is not there, pass on a quarterback and draft the best player available on the offensive line. Follow that up with three consecutive picks addressing the secondary. Challenge for the next three Super Bowls before handing the reigns to Luck (or taking a qb if not) and being prepared to struggle for the next few years as we rebuild from scratch. 

Ideal situation, Elway's final two years in Denver.

Chance of winning a Super Bowl - decent.

Scenario Three:

Trade one - in this case probably Wayne because a receiver is easier to replace - and hope that Anthony Gonzalez (who would have to be re-signed) or Blair White can make a miraculous comeback and that whoever is drafted can fill in at receiver. Defense isn't as good as it could be as high picks are used to address quarterback and receiver and Colts offense is less efficient as Manning struggles some without his favorite target. Still though, Peyton somehow makes the offense go enough to challenge for a playoff spot.

Chance of winning a Super Bowl - between scenario 1 and 2

When all said and done, the decision boils down to which side of the fence do you fall on. Given Polian's stature and knowing Irsay's history and the importance he places on loyalty, Bill Polian will almost certainly remain with the team, especially considering the apparent successes of this year's draft and the drafting of Angerer and Connor last season (the better they both get, the better it reflects on him). 

 

As we all know, there is no guarantee that this draft picks - even high ones (see Hughes and Brown) - will work out. Even if they do, rarely will a rookie come in and make an immediate impact, the likes of which Wayne and Mathis have been making for the better part of a decade. 

So if you are willing to sacrifice Manning's last good years and hope for a better long term future, then trading Mathis and Wayne make sense. If grooming Luck (or whoever) is the what matters most and suffering through a few likely woeful years (possibly even with Manning) so that the Colts may perhaps be competitive a few years dow the road, then trading Mathis and Wayne is the right call. 

But, if you were excited for this season before Manning was ruled out and you believe that given the Colts body of work over the past decade, that Indianapolis can immediately return to prominence, then trying to convince Mathis and Wayne to commit to shorter term contracts is definitely the way to go. 

Obviously both philosophies are fair and we won't know which strategy is better until years down the road. But if I were Bill Polian (or a betting man), I would hitch my wagon to surrounding Peyton Manning with as many familiar and proven veterans as possible. 

Before the season, the Colts were favored to win the division and most fans were calling this season a "Super Bowl or bust" type season. With Peyton back and healthy, why wouldn't next year's team be? 

If the Colts can re-sign Wayne, Mathis and Garcon (certainly a tall order), they should once again return to the elite of the NFL. 

The way I see it (and many will disagree) is that Manning is a proven commodity and one of the greatest players of all time. If he comes back completely healthy (which is still a big if), he will have a window of three to four more years and if so, the Colts should try to stack their lineup with as many good veteran players as possible to milk as much out of his legacy as possible.  

The thought that Wayne and Mathis will somehow decline to the point of irrelevance in one year is absurd. Sure they may lose a step (although the conditioning they keep themselves in maybe not), but a Reggie Wayne at 90 percent speed is still dangerous and a Robert Mathis at 90 percent is still terrifying. 

More importantly, we don't know what the draft holds but we do know that mid-round draft picks usually don't make the Pro Bowl in their first year. Remember too, that our first pick isn't likely to have an impact for at least a few years anyway. Beginning a half-hearted rebuilding process makes us a more deficient team than what we've been and wastes Peyton's last few years of championship level quarterbacking. 

The cacophony for change is growing each week in Indy. Coyer and Caldwell might not last, but before getting carried away, let's step back and re-evaluate where the Colts are as a team. If Peyton was playing would Indy be 5-1? If Peyton comes back next season, will this year's disaster be a distant memory?

 Sometimes we do something in the heat of the moment and regret it later on. It would be awfully painful to see Wayne or Mathis torch the Colts down the road or look back and say, 'damn, we could have won a Super Bowl' if we had a better pass rush or big play receiver. 

Before we trade anyway two franchise pieces, let's be certain that we can't contend or that they won't resign. 

 

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