Peyton Manning will officially address the public and media today as a member of the Denver Broncos. In a matter of months, maybe even weeks, Andrew Luck will do the same as the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. Even further, Tim Tebow might or might not move to a new city of his own as well in the next few days or even weeks (John Elway prays against such a media-circus scenario). Three looming NFL figures — one the quarterback of the future, one a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and another one difficult to figure out even with a playoff win on his resume — and all affected by a lone win.
The Indianapolis Colts earned the worst record in football this last season under head coach Jim Caldwell. They were an atrocious team most of the team, and every substitute looked completely lost when trying to stand in the shadow of Peyton. Lucas Oil Stadium went from a loud place teams hated to visit to an offensive mess that rolled over for some of the lesser teams in the league.
The “Suck for Luck” campaign started earlier than it should have — teams still have progress to make, pride to contend for. Coaches and players vie for jobs. But when all was said and done, one team claimed the No. 1 pick in a draft class where one name has been heralded all season as “the next Peyton.” Amazing how only one win can change everything.
Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post writes on this. “As I have said before, the impact of Luck cannot be overestimated. If the Colts did not have a grooved path to Luck, they would have had to pay Manning his $28 million option bonus and he would have been their quarterback. Can you imagine the Colts with, say, the 3rd pick in the Draft cutting Peyton Manning to take an offensive lineman? No chance. Had the Colts won one more game, Manning would still be in Indianapolis and Tebow would be the Broncos quarterback for the foreseeable future.”
Think about every scenario that has been affected by the free agency of Peyton Manning. The Miami Dolphins have been left with David Garrard as their final free agent quarterback to choose from. The Seattle Seahawks were spurned even when they tried to fly to Manning. The Titans invested their free agent energy toward Manning and ignored other impact players like Mario Williams.
The quarterback situations in San Francisco, Arizona and Tennessee will have to all be mended after the teams went after Manning in such a public way. The Kansas City Chiefs will also have to address the same after publicly declaring that they, too, wanted Manning in house.
But it’s not about players licking wounds because they weren’t as good as Manning. It’s also about the balance of power that shifts for so many. Manning took the Broncos from 75-1 odds to win the Super Bowl to 10-1 and among the top five teams in the NFL. The AFC West changes tremendously, as does the entire AFC as Manning will now represent a stronger opponent on the calendar for many teams — from the Falcons to the Texans.
But other players are also affected more deeply. Andrew Luck might be playing for the Washington Redskins this fall instead of replacing No. 18. Tim Tebow would be gearing up for another unexpected year at the helm for the Broncos and working hard in the offseason to prove his doubters wrong. Now he’s again the subject of “where will he go?”, the same question asked when he was drafted by Josh McDaniels in the first place.
If the Colts had just been a tiny bit better at any point, all of this could have been avoided. The course of several franchises in the NFL have all been changed in one direction or another by the whirlwind of activity based on the Colts record, and it goes to show just how incredible the power of one win can truly be in the NFL.