Out with the Old, In with the New: The Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck

With the firing of Jim Caldwell and the change in staff, Indianapolis Colts (former?) quarterback Peyton Manning is feeling the heat.  He had to undergo rehabilitation during the 2011 season, and with his departure from that season, the Colts fell to 2-14, and Matt Schaub and his Houston Texans clinched the division with a 10-6 record in the AFC South without the usual pressure of Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts.  The Houston Texans, however, could not take advantage of Manning’s departure.  They decimated the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 in the wild card playoffs, but the Baltimore Ravens posed a problem or two for Matt Schaub and his Houston Texans.  The Ravens defense ultimately won at the end of the day with a 20-13 win over the Texans.

This was the season of quarterbacks as several quarterbacks broke records in the regular and post-season.  New Orleans Saints Drew Brees, New England Patriots Tom Brady and Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford all three over 5,000 yards with the Super Bowl-bound New York Giants Eli Manning coming in close with 4,933 during the 2011 regular season.  If Peyton Manning was in the lineup  with the Indianapolis Colts, he could have kept up.  However, he was sidelined with rehabilitation for his neck.  Now he gets to watch his brother Eli perform against one of his rivals, Patriots Tom Brady, in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII.  The Giants no longer have David Tyree, but they have a talented corps of wide receivers from Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks.

When the Super Bowl comes to a close, Peyton Manning will have to contend with owner Jim Irsay about his contract.  From the initial whispers about potential draftee Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning realized that his future with the Indianapolis Colts would seemingly be coming to a close.  During his last two seasons as a Stanford Cardinal, Andrew Luck threw over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns or more.  Luck certainly has the mental capacity and physical assets to be a great quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.  However, the question remains: is he good enough to replace veteran Peyton Manning?  As close as Andrew Luck has been with Peyton, I am certainly not too quick to endorse him quite yet.  Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton proved that a rookie quarterback can take a team to the playoffs, but it also showed the failure of a rookie in the playoffs.  The tension of the game and the increased defensive pressure can certainly take its toll on a young rookie.

In my opinion, it would be a shame to let Peyton Manning go for the Colts sake. Manning is an elite-caliber quarterback even with his neck injury.  The Arizona Cardinals or the Seattle Seahawks both would want a quarterback of his caliber to lead them, but for now, it’s dependent on the next move of Jim Irsay, and Irsay won’t trade his prize horse, no matter how injured, so quickly without compensation.

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Andrew Luck Stays at Stanford For Another Year: The Stanford Strategem, Part II

The Brain and the Brawn of Stanford Andrew Luck stays for one more year so he will be a senior, before entering the 2011 NFL Draft. Given the situation with the collective bargaining agreement in the NFL and whether it can be resolved in time before the 2011 Draft, it remains to be seen.  This may not be the most effective decision, but it was the most practical decision in the long term. This decision is coming from a Stanford student who should complete his architectural design degree by next season.  Very practical, but there is a bigger engine at work here perhaps.

Given that Jim Harbaugh has accepted the position as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, it would be given that Harbaugh still has plans for Andrew Luck, even as a senior.  Oliver Luck, his father and an athletic director at West Virginia, denied that the potential NFL lockout or being selected first by the Carolina Panthers did not influence his son’s decision, but I remain skeptical.

It’s an ultimate win-win decision made by Andrew Luck. First, it gives him to time to complete his education, which will be important after his NFL career comes to an end.  Second, it gives him time to consult with NFL quarterbacks, such as Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning and the St. Louis Rams Sam Bradford.  He can get word on the drafts in 2011 and 2012 with their assistance.  Lastly, it gives him to consult with Jim Harbaugh and possibly connecting with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 since most likely, Luck won’t remain first in the draft next season.  He should be able to remain competitive amongst the NCAA quarterbacks entering the draft still, and Harbaugh can trade, as necessary, as Luck’s standing comes into play in the draft. As I said in the previous article, Harbaugh will need a quarterback of his caliber in the stable, and with both Andrew Luck holding out for this year’s draft and the potential lockout occurring, it will give them both time to gameplan.  The only downsides of Luck’s plan are that he will be entering a potentially large pool in 2012, and his rookie wages may be cut.  Then again, most of the elite quarterbacks today weren’t originally selected first in the draft.

Jim Harbaugh Becomes Head Coach for the San Francisco 49ers: The Stanford Strategem, Part I

Coach Jim Harbaugh of Stanford University has selected to coach the San Francisco 49ers with a five-year, $25 million contract.  He was wooed by the Miami Dolphins, the Michigan Wolverines and talked with the Oakland Raiders.  But neither of these NCAA or NFL teams could appeal to him.  He made the decision to stay in California after Stanford’s win over Virginia Tech 40-12 with the assistance of premier NCAA quarterback Andrew Luck.  Harbaugh deemed the 49ers a “perfect competitive opportunity,” but he has his work cut out for him after Mike Singletary was released.  The 49ers underperformed this season with a 6-10 record, with the quarterback controversy and the underuse of their stars tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore.

However, in my opinion, Jim Harbaugh is calculating that a labor agreement won’t be made in March 2011. And with Andrew Luck staying for another year, it bides him time to still cater to Stanford and more importantly, to Andrew Luck.  And with Luck out of the draft this coming season, he may be gambling that Luck will be available next season as  a rookie for the 49ers.  With the talk with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders, it may have been a move for potential trades in the upcoming season.  That would be a wise move, as Alex Smith will be in free agency next season.  All these options will require time to develop, and if the labor agreement fails, it will give him the time he needs to gameplan for the long-term.

Hopefully, 49ers owner Jed York won’t hold the high standards, similarly expected from Eric Mangini when he was the New York Jets.  Or when he was with the Cleveland Browns.  Jim Harbaugh made it clear that “losing is not an option.”  With the way the coaches were fired this season, it better not be.