Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Football: Colts should not have released Manning

Today, I believe the Indianapolis Colts are making a huge mistake releasing quarterback Peyton Manning who I believe will quickly return to elite status.
One of the things I pride myself on when it comes to fantasy sports or my Betting the NFL column during the football season is my ability to consistently make predictions that pan out and become reality. As I see Manning upgrading and improving whatever team he ends up with as a free agent, I also see the Colts struggling for years to come as they prepare to draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck with their No. 1 pick.
When it comes to fantasy football next fall, one result of the Manning release for team owners will be having to decide if it’s worth risking an early draft pick on offensive players from the Colts, a team that will likely start a rookie quarterback. The other result is waiting to see what new team Manning ends up with because that team’s offense will enjoy a major upgrade in production and success.
The bottom line is, if Manning was still with the Colts, the pressure and learning curve for Luck would have been more conducive to a successful transition to the NFL.
Other things Luck will have to deal with as a Colts player is a lackluster running game and a historic trend of injuries, something Manning was usually able to overcome. Center Jeff Saturday seems to always be injured and every season in recent years it seems standouts on defense miss multiple games with injuries.
We are supposed to learn from history and the lesson of the 1998 NFL draft should not be forgotten. In 1998, the Colts had a choice between selecting Manning and Ryan Leaf and NFL fans know what happened to Leaf who struggled at the next level as San Diego’s No. 2 pick overall.
The Colts, like 1998, really have two QB choices with their No. 1 pick – Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck or Heisman Trophy winner/Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin. The Colts have made it obvious they are pinning their future on acquiring Luck in the NFL draft and will likely live with his growing pains as a NFL starter.
I’m probably one of the few people in the country who isn’t a huge Andrew Luck fan. Obviously, in college Luck was a great quarterback. But as we know great college QBs don’t always transition well in the NFL and there is no guarantee Luck will excel at the next level. There are some things that knaw at me about Luck, like having an efficiency rating that was fifth in the country last season. How will he handle the constant pass rush or the faster cornerbacks he’ll see in the NFL?
Newton certainly made a good transition to the NFL last season but there was less pressure on him, more self-motivation to prove he could play at that level and he wasn’t replacing a legend.
The media has already dubbed Luck as being NFL ready.
But without Manning in the mix, Luck will be under a constant microscope with fans and the media. And who will be his mentor, who will he learn from, Dan Orlovsky?
One John Lennon thought here: Imagine if Manning was healthy, never needed neck surgery and was still with the Colts. Imagine if the Colts drafted Alabama back Trent Richardson with their No. 1 pick. Imagine how formidable that Colts offense would be.

By the way….

Last season was a good one for me when it came to predictions. Before the NFL season started, I wrote that Cincinnati would have a very good season led by A.J. Green who would be a solid fantasy football producer. I wrote that fantasy football team owners should consider Cam Newtown as a solid backup because he will have NFL success early and often. Before he started a game for Indianapolis I wrote that Dan Orlovsky would eventually lead the Colts to their first victory of the season. I wrote he would be motivated enough in a showcase environment to raise his level of ability and cover pointspreads. While many figured Orlovsky and the Colts would be crushed by New England in their encounter, he went on to keep the game close enough to cover the double-digit pointspread.
Before Tim Tebow became a regular starter for Denver, some people scoffed when I wrote he would play well enough to be fantasy football relevant and even had the potential to lead the Broncos to the playoffs.

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