Column: Pushing their Luck: Gauging the Colts' need for Peyton Manning

Forget the Mayan apocalypse. Shelve the end of days. Screw global warming.

Our savior is already here, according to the Indianapolis Colts and the rest of the professional football world.

Andrew Luck, the messiah posing as a very good quarterback prospect from Stanford University, has fewer flaws than uncut ice. He’s built like Odysseus and throws the football farther than Uncle Rico could back in ’82.

What’s that? No, don’t listen to the naysayer on your shoulder telling you there’s a chance he might not pan out. He will. He has to.

The Colts are going all in. The fans are going all in. He’s a sure thing.

But in the National Football League, “sure things” don’t exist. People have been calling Luck the best prospect since Peyton Manning, but wasn’t Manning battling for the No. 1 pick in the draft with a guy named Ryan Leaf? You know, the Ryan Leaf who threw more temper tantrums than touchdown passes and was whisked out of the league quicker than you could say “bust?"

The Colts seem prepared to cut Manning loose this offseason to make room for Luck, but that might be the worst move they could possibly make. Sure, he would command a hefty $28 million if retained, but owner Jim Irsay has said it’s not about the money.

Picture Luck, a supposedly once-in-a-generation talent, sitting on the bench and soaking up invaluable information from one of greatest field generals of all time. The learning curve from college to pros would be easier to manage for the young kid, similar to the path 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers took to stardom behind future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre.

Manning is truly the best quarterback ever when it comes to the mental side of the game. He’s basically a coach on the field, giving his squad a huge advantage over the opponent. Throw in the fact that he puts up video game numbers while winning gobs of games and the Colts have a bonafide cheat code sitting on their roster.

Life is not so simple in Indianapolis. Manning missed the entire 2011 season after suffering a neck injury, and his absence was gaping. After nine consecutive 10-win seasons, the Colts stumbled to 2-14, prompting Irsay to fire just about everybody that has a connection to the star quarterback and engage in a public spat with the quarterback.

We're to the point where Manning will unquestionably be cut loose and end up in New York, Washington or Arizona, but I beg of Mr. Irsay: Realize what you have. If Luck comes in and does not perform up to consistently rising expectations, the organization’s decision to put all of its eggs in this 6-foot-6-inch basket will look incredibly foolish.

There’s a chance this autumn could play out like a bad dream: Luck’s development has been marginal at best and his Colts are in the cellar, while Manning leads the talent-laden New York Jets to Super Bowl contention.

If Manning is sent away, every single chip in the Indianapolis Colts’ organization will be placed on Andrew Luck’s shoulders, and there’s a good chance he won’t be able to carry that kind of weight.

In the NFL, many headliner investments are made without much insurance if things go wrong. In this case, the Colts have an opportunity to protect their giant investment and give him time to learn from the best.

Burning a bridge as valuable as Manning is only going to hurt Irsay and his franchise. Right now, the Colts need more than Luck.

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