So it has been almost a day now since news broke of the Collins signing, and hopefully by now we've all had a chance to catch our breath and regain some semblance of calmness and rationality. I've been racking my head since the signing, trying to figure out just what it really means. I was in full-fledged panic mode at first, then i settled into a pretty mean denial, played the blame game, moved into acceptance, but now that's all passed and I think I'm seeing the situation a bit more clearly than before.
With that preface, please allow me to present to you my thoughts on what exactly this signing means.
1. The Colts front office, after 2 preseason games, has finally come to the same conclusion as the fans: that Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky are not capable of being real backups for this Colts team. The fact is, for whatever reason, Painter has been phenomenal in camps and practices. He has been so good that the Colts staff had reason to believe that he could do it, and that he just had to figure out how to deal with the pressure of live game play.
As a fan, it's easy to say that Painter sucks in preseason and anybody can see that, but pre-season play is *NOT* the only tool that the Colts staff uses to assess their players. Yes, pre-season should and most certainly does factor in, but the coaches would be irresponsible to ignore what they also see in scrimmages, practices, and drills. It's for that reason that Painter has been given so many opportunities to succeed. Even pre-season performances must be taken with a grain of salt. He's playing with a patchwork O-line made up of rookies and otherwise new players. He's been missing some of the best weapons on the team, and he's been playing against teams with "something to prove".
After giving Painter more opportunities in these first couple preseason games though, they have come to the conclusion that he simply will not cut it in games, and that his performance in drills and practices simply isn't translating as they had hoped it would. As such, they've opted for a serviceable backup.
2. There may be concerns over Manning's health, but he is still expected to start week #1. Jacob Crocker over at Coltzilla puts it pretty well:
This is the team that drafted Anthony Gonzalez before Marvin Harrison left, Donald Brown while still having Joseph Addai, Jerry Hughes despite most indications pointing to the Colts retaining Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
I simply cannot believe that if the Colts thought there was a chance Manning would not play, that they would wait until now to do something. It was my contention when the news first broke that the Colts front office was completely incompetent, failing to recognize the situation, failing to respond adequately and in a timely manner, failing to properly adjust their play style, failing at failing to fail, etc.
After a night to calm myself, this just simply doesn't make sense to me. This, if anything, is a team that plans for things. They planned for Gonzalez to come in and develop as Harrison's replacement before Harrison was gone. When concerns over Gonzalez injury arose, they took a flyer on Pierre Garcon, developing him into a solid outside receiver. When Gonzalez was more injured, they drafted Austin Collie. Yes, they failed to draft Rodger Saffold over Jerry Hughes, but that was a miscalculation in talent evaluation, not in planning. This team plans.
Why then, would they suddenly not plan for something like Manning not being able to play? They cannot *not* have known that it might be possible that Manning wouldn't play. Manning has training staff, coaches, physical therapists, and other assorted Colts staff with him pretty much all day now during rehab. Do we really think nobody recognized that there was a chance he wouldn't be ready? Or did people see it, and just lie? Has Manning been paying them off? I can't believe any of those would be true. It doesn't make sense.
If there was a chance Manning wasn't going to be ready, the Colts front office has known for weeks. In this case, they would have been running their offense differently in pre-season, instead of running it in the way that Manning would run it. There would have been a much larger focus on 2-TE 2-RB sets, tailored toward helping anybody who is not Manning step into the offense. There wasn't. This front office is not stupid. The coaches (though Caldwell might be mediocre) is also not stupid. This leads me to believe the following about the Collins signing:
3. Collins was not brought in to start games for the Colts. I think the concerns over Manning's health are not that he will not be able to start week 1. I think absolutely, with 100% certainty, as Tony Dungy said, unless Manning is dead, he will be under center to start the game against the Texans. I think the concerns over Manning's health are what may happen if the line is not able to give him adequate protection and he takes any kind of big hit.
The Colts are concerned that in the case that Manning is forced to leave the game with some kind of injury related to his recently repaired neck, then they need somebody who is able to step in. Manning is the ironman, he will start, but the fact is, at the age of 35, coming off serious neck surgery, a vicious sack could hurt him enough to make him miss some snaps or the remainder of a game. If (God forbid) this happens, they need somebody who can come in and maintain a lead or at least hold down the fort until such a time as Manning is able to step back in.
As has been pointed out elsewhere on this sight, Collins himself said he just doesn't have the rigor any more to have to go through all the practicing and prep-work required for starting week in and week out in the NFL. He doesn't want to be the starter. He doesn't want the pressure and responsibility. I think the Colts brought him in with the mutual understanding that he is to be the kind of guy to come in and hold onto a large lead, or play out a blowout loss to reduce the amount of physical taxation placed on Manning. Given Manning's state, do any of us really want to see him staying in the game and taking hits when the Colts are up 17 pts in the 4th? Do we want to see him in there if we're down 24 pts in the 4th? But, up 17 in the 4th, does anyone trust Painter or what we've seen of the defense to keep that lead intact?
I think we all need take a step back from the situation, put down the Hatorade, take a nice warm bath, and just relax for a bit. Peyton Manning will start week 1 against the Texans. Whatever mistakes the FO has made with their player evaluations and drafts the last couple seasons, etc., their track record and preparation can't be denied. I think Irsay is a fool for tweeting this during Caldwell's presser, but otherwise, I'm no longer outraged by what's happened here. Am I concerned for Manning's health? Yes, but that's more of a long-term concern, as I question how this injury will affect the rest of his career, and if the hits he's inevitably going to take in game will affect him more than they have in the past (e.g., will serious hits force him out of some games for any extensive number of snaps?).
What I do not question, is whether or not he is going to be healthy enough to start week 1. I'm no longer going to be chastising and calling for the Polians' heads though. If Manning isn't starting week 1 however, then the gloves come off again =P
EDIT: Something else occurs to me. Mike Chappell over at IndyStar reports that Collins wasn't even contacted by the Colts until Saturday. The timing of that reeks of the Colts front office simply reacting to coming to a consensus that Painter, despite what he can do in camp and practice, is simply not going to be able to cut it at all in the NFL. This was not a move made to prepare for week 1. The reports that the front office is "50/50" on whether manning will start week 1 smells more like smoke and mirrors than anything based in reality.