Colts cleaning house leaves Manning with uncertain future

The changes are coming fast and furious on the first day after the end of the regular season. None of the moves were bigger than Colts owner Jim Irsay cleaning house and firing vice chairman Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian after the team's disappointing 2-14 campaign. What does this mean for the Colts moving forward, specifically with regard to Peyton Manning and the team's No. 1 overall pick?

  • Steve Wyche
  • Irsay noticed things he didn't like once losing started

The dismissal of the Polians first tells me that owner Jim Irsay not only didn't like what he saw on the field but also must have noticed something wrong within the organization, like back-biting or other unhealthy elements, surfacing once the losing started. This is a clean sweep of the structure and infrastructure of the organization.

This definitely makes Peyton Manning's future more uncertain, because whoever comes in to run things could decide to clean house with regard to the player personnel. Irsay might finally have decided to push forward with a total rebuilding effort now that the football mortality of Manning is in doubt. I do believe that Irsay will bring Manning back if Manning is healthy. However, I don't think Irsay would force a new GM to keep Manning if that person wanted to draft a quarterback and start him right away.

This also is a sign that if a quarterback is the pick, the organization will be built around his development, much as the most recent regime was built around Manning.

  • Pat Kirwan
  • Questionable move by Irsay

The Colts look like a rudderless ship without Bill Polian at the helm. I hope the owner doesn't think he can handle all of this himself. Manning's contract, the first pick in the draft, salary-cap maneuvering, draft preparation, hiring a coach -- this is not a job for a novice.

Indianapolis is taking a step backward in the hopes of moving forward down the road.

  • Jason La Canfora NFL Network
  • New era under way in Indianapolis

I've been talking and writing for a while about the culture change possibly coming in Indy. After more than a decade of spending as much real cash as any owner in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl and getting a new stadium built, the Colts are old, have a wounded quarterback, are lacking prime young talent, and need to rebuild.

This screams to me that the Peyton Manning era has ended and another is about to begin. Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday and Robert Mathis could be on the way out, and Irsay may go younger and cheaper on several levels. Thirty-five million dollars is a lot of money, even for Manning.

It seems to me that there will be no better time to start over with a young head coach and fresh front office regime.

  • Elliot Harrison
  • Winning will be job No. 1 for new regime

The Polians' departure means there will be a new corporate culture, irrespective of whether Peyton Manning comes back. Will the new team president be a meddler? A former coach? A defensive-minded football guy? A free-agent dabbler? A personnel man?

Whatever the case may be, two things are certain: Bill Polian wasn't always the most popular guy around the league or with the Colts' fans, despite his success, and the Colts have always believed in drafting and retaining talent. The former means nothing if the new person in charge wins. The latter means everything. Perhaps the Colts opt not to pay Manning -- or Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Jeff Saturday, and so on -- in order to start fresh and free up some spending money for the free-agency period. If the new president models their plan for the Colts after those followed by the Packers and Steelers, expect the club to pay a healthy Manning AND draft Andrew Luck.

Either way, this is a great job for someone. If the team goes 4-12 without Manning, that will still be an improvement over 2011 and give the new hire a chance to start the organization over again with his handprint. If Manning returns to old form, and the club goes 9-7 or 10-6, then all will be well in Indy. Right or wrong, there's still no elixir like a winning season.

  • Bucky Brooks
  • Manning's future certainly up in the air

If Manning is able to return to the offensive system that he has completely mastered, he could re-emerge as one of the league's best quarterbacks. However, if he has to learn a new system while simultaneously rounding back into form after a year away, that could spell trouble.

In my opinion, none of these factors will affect the No. 1 pick. Jim Irsay certainly understands the importance of having a franchise quarterback in place for the future, and that will prompt the Colts to take a QB regardless of the decision-maker in place.

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