The Indianapolis Colts opened the 2011 season without Peyton Manning and with a 34-7 drubbing at the hands of the improved, but still not great Houston Texans. If the Colts don’t right the ship soon, they could start looking to the future. And that future could be sitting at the top of the 2012 draft.If the Colts fall off the pace, it would seem unlikely that Manning would be rushed back this season. And Kerry Collins hasn’t given any indication that he will be able to lead the Colts to the postseason.
The Colts are not a team that is in building mode. Other teams might push hard for a 8- or 9-win season as a stepping stone to something bigger. But the Colts know they are a better team with a healthy Manning.
On the other hand, the Colts could do what the San Antonio Spurs did back in 1996-97, when David Robinson was lost to an injury. Rather than piece together a mediocre team, the Spurs took the foot off the gas, and finished with the third-worst record in the NBA. This put the Spurs in position to win the draft lottery and add Tim Duncan to the mix.
For the low, low cost of one really crappy season, the Spurs got their next franchise player and were set up to win four of the next 10 NBA titles.
For the Colts, the prize would be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, a player some label as the best quarterback prospect since Manning. Of course, Luck cannot play with Manning, as Duncan did with The Admiral. But Manning will be 36 in 2012, and Luck can be groomed under Manning for 2-3 years.
It is one of the ugly realities of sports. Sometimes it is just better to lose. If the Colts give up the 2011 season, they could put themselves into a position to be great for a long time.
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