Before we get into Bill Polian's recent comments about , let's review the facts.
- Right now, Peyton Manning is NOT a member of the Indianapolis Colts. He's a free agent, sitting in limbo, waiting for the NFL lockout to be lifted.
- The 'franchise tag' the Colts placed on Manning prior to the lockout is utterly meaningless. There is no agreement between the owners and players for 2011. Thus, any team that thinks they can 'tag' someone without an agreement as to what the 'tag' means is a team living in a fantasy world.
- Jim Irsay says he expects the 'franchise tag' to be honored when a deal is made. However, a federal judge potentially mediating the agreement could, possibly, strike down the franchise tag. Thus, when the agreement is reached, no tag for Manning. This means he could sign with anyone.
- Recently, Bill Polian stated that the Colts will approach the 2010 NFL Draft as if their free agents aren't coming back.
Knowing all this, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Bill is starting to talk about life after Peyton Manning. We fans must prepare ourselves for the very real, very stark possibility that Peyton Manning will not be a Colts player in 2011.
As weird as that sounds, it could happen.
The Colts themselves know it could happen. Why else do you think they're conducting workouts for first round worthy quarterbacks?
Before people start yapping about how the team is just doing their 'due diligence' when they conduct workouts for Colin Kaepernick (as they did yesterday) and Andy Dalton (as they did last week), stop for a moment and think.
If the team were truly confident they were re-signing a 35-year-old Manning (who just recently became a father of twins), the idea of drafting a quarterback with the No. 22 pick is so reckless and asinine that the mere mention of it to Jim Irsay should get both Polians fired on the spot. Jim Irsay is not going to sign Peyton Manning to the richest contract in NFL history, and then have to pay another QB first round money to, in essence, sit on the bench for two or three years. That's millions of dollars wasted, and one does not sign Peyton Manning unless one plans to win RIGHT NOW.
As we have been saying since the draft last year, it's Super Bowl or bust for the Colts from now until the end of Peyton's career. Anyone saying otherwise is lowering expectations to avoid accountability, or is carrying water for the team. It's win or hit the bricks, folks. Like it or not. Fair or unfair.
Thus, all this supposed talk of Indy taking Kaepernick at No. 22 just so Manning can 'groom' him is silliness. The Colts only have six picks in the 2011 Draft. They also have HUGE holes on the offensive line, at defensive tackle, safety, wide receiver, and corner. Currently, because of the lockout, they cannot sign free agents. This includes undrafted rookies.
For these reasons, drafting a QB at No. 22 is simple nonsense. Even Bill Polian himself seemed to dismiss it... somewhat:
"I don't know that you're going to find his eventual replacement drafting 22nd," Polian said. "And whether or not you would use that choice on a quarterback in an unsettled labor situation, where you don't know what kind of contract that's going to be signed, is another issue.
"That said, I don't think you can dismiss it."
The reason Polian still keeps the prospect of a first round QB out there is that, regardless of what many folks think, this is a 6-10 team without Peyton Manning. And while the Colts fans who frequent this blog are rapid, loyal, and wonderful, Colts fan in general are fickle.
Indiana sports fans overall are fickle.
Some take that word, fickle, as an 'insult.' I personally don't. It makes no sense to me to 'support' (i.e., spends lots of hard-earned money) on a bad team with seemingly no future. Why Washington Redskins fans continue to dish out millions to an owner they know to be incompetent continues to elude me. Some call that 'loyalty.' All call it 'being taken for a ride by an idiot with a Napoleon complex.'
Back in the late-1990s and early 2000s, did you ever imagine you'd see thousands of empty seats at a Pacers game at Conseco Fieldhouse? All it took was Reggie Miller retiring (and a lot of bad personnel moves by team president Larry Bird). Today, Conseco's fan presence is a shadow of its former self.
Should Peyton Manning not re-sign with the Colts in 2011, do you honestly think Indiana folks will fill up Lucas Oil Stadium every Sunday? If the Colts start 0-4, and with no Manning on the team, do you still see people shelling out thousands of dollars to watch a Colts game at the stadium?
The answer is no.
Without Peyton, this franchise goes back to pre-1998. Irsay and Polian know this. Thus, should Peyton walk, they have to provide SOME kind of hope for the future to justify their high ticket prices and tax breaks. And hope often comes in the form of a new, young quarterback.
All that said, it's my personal belief that the Colts will re-sign Peyton Manning and will NOT draft a quarterback in the first round in 2011.