Keeping Peyton Manning On Colts Active Roster Now Makes Sense

I'll be the first to admit that about 95% of what I've written in regards to the Colts front office since August has been negative towards them. While I think that the team's showing so far in 2011 justifies that negativity, I understand the frustration when people say, 'All you write is negative stuff!!!' My normal response is I don't like balancing positive stories and opinion pieces with negative ones solely for the sake of balance. When your team is 0-8, there aren't a whole lot of positives, and if you are searching for positives, the mere fact that you are searching for good things to write should tell you all you need to know.

I've also spent a majority of my time this season bashing the Colts front office for the simple reason that they deserve it. They screwed up royally this year, and people should have serious doubts as to whether or not team G.M. Chris Polian is the right person to run this organization going forward.

However, when the Colts top brass does something right, something that makes sense, I'm not one to simply ignore it just because I think that the guys in charge should all get pinks slips at the end of the season.

On his call-in radio show Monday night, Bill Polian, the Colts vice chairman and father of Chris, said the Colts are keeping injured quarterback Peyton Manning on the active roster because they'd like to see him practice with the team at the end of the year, not necessarily play in actual games. I've railed and screamed against keeping Manning on the active roster all season because it's obvious he can't, and shouldn't, play. Once the team got to 0-4, 0-5, and 0-6, the 2011 campaign was a lost cause. The suggestion that Indy might toss Peyton out there in December in a meaningless game was absolutely repulsive to me, not to mention hypocritical on the part of the Colts.

If they were so steadfast to bench starters at the end of the regular season in 2009 and throw away a chance at a perfect season, they'd look like abject fools if they played Manning in a game more meaningless than that infamous Jets game in December '09.

But, with Bill Polian further clarifying that the goal is to have Peyton practice, not play, then keeping No. 18 on the active roster makes sense to me now. It's actually a smart move.

The simple reason why it makes sense to have Peyton practice towards the end of 2011 is because no one knows if he can still play. Seriously, no one knows. It is very possible Peyton's nerve in his throwing shoulder will not regenerate despite a third surgery in August to assist in that. He could also have lingering hip and arm issues. We don't know if he can feel his triceps muscle again.

We just don't know. More importantly, the Colts don't seem to know either. In December, they very much want to know.

Next year, Peyton is due roughly $28 million dollars per the contract he signed in July. If the Colts intend to keep Peyton after 2011 and pay him that money, they need some kind of reasonable assurance that he can still play. They also need to know if he will be around because, like it or not, Peyton's opinion has significant weight with the Colts owner, Jim Irsay. Despite a horrible season, should Peyton not want Jim Caldwell fired, Irsay will listen to and possibly heed Peyton's wishes.

Manning will be 36 this time next year. Do you see him wanting to start over, at this stage of his career, with a new coach? Do you think Manning, who has a long history with Caldwell (his former QB coach), is going to throw his head coach under the bus?

Also, there is the 'Andrew Luck Factor.'

Should the Colts secure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, they are going to take Standford QB Andrew Luck. If they don't, and if part of the reason why they don't is because Peyton doesn't want him on the Colts, it could get very ugly, very quickly in Indianapolis. But, part of potentially drafting Luck is making sure Peyton is on board with it. People like Phil Simms of CBS Sports and Showtime's Inside The NFL are already saying Peyton does not want Indy to take Luck. If that's true, then Irsay has to consider the course of action suggested recently by former Colts head coach Tony Dungy:

If presented the chance to draft Luck, you do it! You do it even if it means trading or cutting Peyton Manning to get it done.

And let's even go one step further and add yet another layer of complication into these matters. Let's say Peyton can play and is fine with Indy taking Luck, but Luck himself isn't so jazzed about waiting behind Peyton. Maybe Luck doesn't want to come to Indy and sit on the bench the way Aaron Rodgers did in Green Bay behind Brett Favre. Luck is a far better prospect than Rodgers was coming out of college, and he might want to play right now (as Peyton did in 1998 when he was a rookie). Luck's in a position, much like Peyton's brother Eli Manning was back in 2004, to make a power play. If that's the case, the logical course of action is the one Dungy suggests:

Dump Manning for Luck.

As a guest last week on Indianapolis' ESPN-affiliate 1070 The Fan, FOX Sports' Alex Marvez floated the possibility of releasing Manning out there, saying that trading Peyton and his huge contract was unlikely. Rather, the Colts would have to cut him sometime around March, and the team mostly likely to scoop him up in that scenario would be the Washington Redskins.

But, again, all this is contingent on Peyton being healthy enough to play again next year, and the only way to determine that is to have him practice this year. Should Indy place Manning on I.R., then that's it. Season over. No practice. No team workouts. Nothing. The Colts would be forced to go into an offseason with a HUGE question mark hovering over their $90 million dollar QB. And if they have the No. 1 overall pick in that scenario, things get even more complicated.

So, knowing all this, it makes sense to keep Peyton around. His health is paramount to the future of the Colts regardless of whether Peyton will be part of that future. As Colts fans, we need to comes to terms with that. It's very possible, maybe even likely, that the last time we will see Peyton throwing a football with the horseshoe helmet will be on that practice field in December.

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