The answer to that question depends largely on whether you blame injuries for the Colts mediocre 2010-11 season or if you think that Manning and company have started to decline.
It may seem like folly to think Manning is done based on one less-than-spectacular season, but the fact is that Manning and the Colts have plenty of cause for concern.
Yes, they’ll be getting back a handful of key contributors next year, but the Colts also must figure out a way to retain key free agents including Joseph Addai, Robert Mathis, Clint Session, Melvin Bullitt, and Adam Vinatieri. They must decide which players from that group to invest in during an uncertain labour situation with the knowledge that Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, Reggie Wayne, Jacob Tamme and Ryan Diem could become free agents after next season.
Of course, none of that will matter if Peyton Manning returns to his MVP form. When Manning is at his best, there is no one and nothing that can stop him. But 2010-11 was not Manning’s best year, and injuries or no injuries, Manning had his lowest quarterback rating since 2002 while displaying some alarming signs. He threw a critical interception during the closing minutes of the Super Bowl that ended Indianapolis’ comeback hopes, and in 2010-11 he threw 11 interceptions during an awful three game stretch.
He’ll still get a huge extension and could be set up for a dominant 2011 campaign with all his weapons intact, but Manning’s struggles have raised reasonable concerns about whether he’s begun to decline.
Again, Manning has earned the benefit of the doubt. It may seem premature to suggest that he won’t continue to bring his team to the playoffs year after year and keep them a Super Bowl contender, but there are reasons to believe that Indianapolis’ rein of dominance over the NFL is nearing an end.
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