When the calendar flips to 2012 next month, the country will be focused on three things:
The Colts-Luck situation will be the most intriguing because of the presence of Peyton Manning. Some will equate it to the Packers drafting Aaron Rodgers when Brett Favre still was there, but that is not applicable. Rodgers fell to the 24th pick, well below where most thought he would go, and the Packers were almost forced to take him given the value he represented. When Rodgers signed as a rookie, it was for $7.7 million with only $5.4 million guaranteed. That is a far cry from the money Indy would have to pay Luck, who earlier this week announced his intention to apply for entry into next April's draft.
Matt Stafford was the 2009 first overall pick and got $41.7 million guaranteed. He started the season under center for the Lions. The next year Sam Bradford got $50 million guaranteed. He started in the Rams' season opener. With the new collective bargaining agreement, Cam Newton, as the first overall pick in 2011, received only $22 million guaranteed. Still, come Carolina's season opener against Arizona, Newton was under center (or at least in the 'gun), threw for 422 yards and is on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Suffice to say, if the Colts draft Luck, they won't want to sit him behind Manning, as Peyton's father, Archie, intimated the other day. Peyton Manning is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer with an unprecedented 14-year career and a Super Bowl title. There is no one with more class and professionalism than Peyton Manning. Common sense would dictate that he would embrace Luck and mentor him the way only he could do it. However, what is common sense is not always common practice.
Manning is pressing to get back this year if for no other reason than to assure the powers that be that he is healthy and will return to his league-leading status. If he does return healthy, there is no reason to think he will not be productive for the next three or four seasons.
This could be a very touchy situation. Veterans at the back end of their careers are not the most subjective about their level of ability and don't like to be reminded on a daily basis that the club will be just fine when they decide to move on. If this were any other business, the Colts would simply say, "Thank you, Mr. Manning, it has been great, but we have decided to go in another direction. We appreciate your service but your talents are no longer needed." Nothing personal, just business.
One final note: Luck could decide he doesn't want to be put in that position and determine he wants to go to some other team. The last time this league dealt with that scenario, it was in 2004 when Eli Manning determined San Diego was not the place for him. With the counseling of his father Archie, Eli created the environment for the Giants to acquire his services. Come to think of it, before that, the last time that happened was when John Elway pulled the same thing, refusing to go to the Colts (then in Baltimore). Talk about six degrees of separation. If you tried to write this into a screen play and present it to Hollywood, they would throw you out of the office and say, "Science fiction is one thing, but this just couldn't happen."
Like any good movie, this will be fun to watch.