Colts Should Choose Andrew Luck Over Peyton Manning With Long-Term Future in Mind

Colts Should Choose Andrew Luck Over Peyton Manning With Long-Term Future in MindProfessional football is a business, and thus, sometimes you have to make business decisions for the good of your football team.

That's what Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and whoever he tabs to replace the Polian faction have on their hands.

The debate itself is simple. You have the No. 1 pick in this spring's draft. Everything says you take Andrew Luck with that pick. Then, you must decide, what do you do with current franchise quarterback Peyton Manning?

From there, it's anything but simple.

The dilemma is apparent. When you have the opportunity to draft a player like Luck, you do so. He's being touted as a franchise quarterback by just about anyone who's seen him play.

On the other hand, you have Manning, a player who hasn't just served as a franchise player for your team for the last decade, he has been the franchise.

Yet, it may be in the best interest of the Colts to "simply" move on from Manning. The All-Pro quarterback is still one of the best quarterbacks in football when he's healthy. However, that health may be in doubt after he missed the entire season with a neck injury. He may come back to the level he once played at, but if there's any sort of doubt that may happen, it should signal the end of Manning's time with the Colts.

Health aside, things still get really messy when you take into account Manning's salary situation because he's in line to earn a real pretty penny in 2012.

Manning will be owed a $28 million option bonus on March 8. The Colts could trade Manning, but Irsay indicated to ESPN's Chris Mortensen that trading Manning is not an option. It also sounds like Irsay and Manning will only part ways if Manning's health is an issue. In terms of public relations, trading or releasing Manning could be at best "controversial" and at worst "devastating" in the eyes of the fan base, and therefore Irsay should think long and hard about the best long-term options for his team.

Also, is keeping Luck and Manning on the same roster really the best decision for either player? If Luck is as good as everyone says he is, he's not necessarily a guy you want sitting on the bench for a few years. While that burden would be eased some by a new rookie pay scale, there's a good argument for saying that sitting Luck behind Manning in his final years in the league would only retard the Stanford product's development.

Peyton's father, Archie Manning, has gone back and forth on that very dilemma. After initially saying pairing Luck and Manning wouldn't work either, the former NFL quarterback is saying his son and Luck could play nice together.

"I'm sure they could," Archie Manning told FOX Sports, according to ESPN. "Andrew is a great young man and we've enjoyed getting to know him. He and Peyton have a friendship, and I'm one of the few people out there that's not really concerned about this deal. All good people respect each other and I'm sure this will all shake out."

While any talk of a rift between the two may be presumptuous and overstated, another line of thought indicates that it's in the best interest of the Colts' long-term prospects to just move on from Manning.

It may go without saying, but their 2-14 record seems to prove that they are nothing close to the same team without Manning. At some point, Irsay and the Colts need to think about life after Manning. He will obviously not be able to play forever. Why, then, would the Colts delay that inevitability all while Luck sits on the sideline only to inherit a team that is flawed. Instead, the Colts can let Luck take over from day one and learn as he goes. The Colts can then build around him, letting him grow into the system. After all, that worked out pretty well for Manning.

Right now, the Colts are centered around Manning. And while a healthy Manning could probably still get the Colts into the playoffs, how far would they really be able to go? The Manning-centric model has a shelf life.

Sure, the Colts could trade the pick for more picks and/or players and get ready for one more run with Manning, but we've seen before that when teams built around a player or a few players crash, they crash hard. Indianapolis has a chance to get out in front of that (especially if the Colts are able to deal Manning with an eye toward the future) and jump-start the next era of their organization.

The firing of Bill Polian and Chris Polian seem to indicate that Irsay and the Colts are already moving in that direction.

"I felt that it was time for a change, that there was a need for a change," Irsay said last week after firing the Polians. "Bill had entered a role where he was less involved, but still quite a bit involved because of the lockout and Peyton's injury and the losing streak. He was around a lot more than he probably anticipated or I did. But it really was a question about both situations. I thought that it was time to change the personnel department on the football side of things that wasn't involved with the coaching."

The Colts are at a crossroads, but the wheels of change appear to already be in motion. And in the words of immortal rock band Semisonic, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

That may sound harsh, especially for a player who has meant so much to a team and its city for so long. Yet, at this point, it may be in everyone's best interest to move on and start anew with a change for everyone.

It's nothing personal. It's just business.

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