Six weeks ago I wrote a column about the Indianapolis Colts deliberately losing their games in order to guarantee owning the number 1 pick in April’s NFL draft. Said pick to be used to acquire Stanford’s once-in-a-generation quarterback Andrew Luck.
Things were strange six weeks ago, and that’s not counting Peyton Manning’s absence. I wrote, “But, it’s hard to believe the loss of one man, even a four-time MVP, causes a team that has made it to the playoffs every year for the past nine years in a row, a team that has been to the Super Bowl twice in the past five years...hard to believe the loss of that one man means that same team goes 0-8...”
The Colts were 0-8 then, now they’re 0-13, and it’s obvious they’re tanking. To replace Manning, the Colts ignored their backup quarterback, Curtis Painter (who was good enough to be on their roster for the past three seasons), and selected a retired 16-year veteran, Kerry Collins. Mr. Collins lasted three games. Then, Curtis Painter was dusted off and dubbed starter. As insurance, the Colts wisely signed not-a-household-name Dan Orlovsky, previously a second- and/or third-string quarterback for Detroit and Houston. Orlovsky was in between jobs.
This was going on while David Garrad, Carson Palmer, and Brett Favre were available. Any one of those quarterbacks will win games.
After Sunday’s 24-10 loss to Baltimore, in which, after three quarters, the Colts gained 53 yards in total offense, scored their lone touchdown on the final play of the game, head coach Jim Caldwell, using his deer-caught-in-headlights persona, said, “We just have to find a way to get our team better so we can get a victory.”
There are some positives coming out of that contest. Caldwell still has a job. Dan Orlovsky is quarterback. Detroit is the only team in NFL history to go 0-16, which was accomplished in 2008. Now, not only can Indianapolis match that low, but Orlovsky is just three losses away from being the only quarterback in NFL history to lead two, count ’em, two 0-16 teams.
Of course, if you play as badly as Indianapolis has, heads will roll. Larry Coyer, the defensive coordinator, was fired and replaced with Mike Murphy, 67, who, somehow, had been overlooked during his previous 14 years with the Colts. Defensive coordinator Murphy will continue his duties as linebackers coach. There’s a cost savings right off the top. Head coach Coyer said the change was made “to improve communication and production.” To complete this massive overhaul, Painter was demoted and backup QB Dan Orlovsky was named starting quarterback.
The Colts’ ownership is unusual in that Jim Irsay controls 100 percent of the team. He came into his own the old-fashioned way: the lad inherited an ancestral gold mine from his father. He was 37 years old at the time.
So, one guy has it all, answers to no one. And one guy has made the franchise relevant — Peyton Manning. Here’s the problem: Manning has had three neck operations, the last one on September 8. The man would be crazy to play football again. Can you say paralyzed in French? Okay, say he is crazy and wants to play again. You’re the owner of the Colts, you have to decide, just around the time Peyton turns 36, March of 2012, whether to hand over a bonus check for $28 million payable to three-neck-operations Peyton Manning in order to kick-in the last four years of his contract.
Let’s see...36 years old, three neck operations, a $28 million check due in March... You’d have to be crazy to sign Peyton Manning. You’d have to be double crazy to sign him when you have Andrew Luck waiting in the wings. What you’d do is trade Manning for as much as you can get and go with Luck.
Given a choice, people usually choose to do what has worked for them in the past. The Colts were a top franchise on the back of Peyton Manning. What could be more natural than to try it again with Andrew Luck?
The beauty of this is you only need a conspiracy of one. As supreme leader, just see to it that your quarterbacks are below marginal and the rest will follow. Players will catch on that you’re not trying. As will coaches. You might not lose every game, but you’ll likely lose enough to come in last.
The bet is Andrew Luck will be Peyton Manning 2. But, Luck hasn’t been looking that great lately. He missed the Heisman trophy again this year. He wouldn’t be the first number 1 or 2 draft pick to go bust.
Remember Ryan Leaf?