What Happens if Peyton Doesn’t Miss the 2011 Season?

With the Off Season in full swing means we get a little freedom at the Gents clubhouse to indulge in some posts that are a little off the beaten track and experiment with a few things we wouldn’t normally do. This got us thinking up a few things and after a conversation with James, inspiration hit, how about a “what if?” series. By now you should have read James’ reimagining of the 1983 draft (if not check it out here). This one focuses heavily on a pain in the neck situation (see what I did there), for the Colts…
What if Peyton Manning doesn’t sit out the 2011 Season?

If you cast your mind back to the 2011 season, you’ll remember several things that caused to Manning to miss the Season. Manning’s contract was up in 2011 and as a result he was slapped with the franchise tag, until he signed a 5 year $90m contract in July, which although it’s not the flashiest of QB contracts, it was evident that they had a mind to keep him. The problem Manning faced was that he was rehabbing a neck surgery and because of the Lockout (remember that kids), Manning was forced to train at the Colorado Rockies, Coors field. After an off-season of inconsistencies, it became clear that Manning wasn’t going to play and even talk of him never playing another game, leaving them relying on Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter to run the Colts offence. Whilst not all of the Colts issues in the 2011 season can be put on the back of a serious downgrade at QB, the fact that they went from the 4th ranked offence in 2010 to the 30th in 2011 clearly was a huge factor in only picking up 2 wins and starting the season with 13 straight losses. Whilst Manning’s injury no doubt had a serious effect on the 2011 season, it was the long-term issues from the neck injury that had the Colts thinking twice and when the 2012 season rolled around, the $28m extension seemed a little too rich for a player that might not take another snap, especially when they had a once in a lifetime chance to pick up Andrew Luck, who was considered the best QB prospect for a considerable amount of time.

Journey with me to a world where Manning doesn’t get injured. Let’s imagine Manning plays every game in the 2011 Season. What would be the long term effects for the Colts? How does it affect other teams? Could the Colts reach another Super bowl with Manning? Does he retire a Colt? Let’s start with the immediate effects?


The 2011 Season.

In this world Manning’s rehab has gone well and he’s ready to start week 1. The Colts were staring down the barrel of a 3rd consecutive AFC South title and looking to set a record for number of consecutive playoff appearances with 10, in a weak division. In the actual 2011 Season the combination of Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins and Dan Orlovsky scored a total of 14 touchdowns. In his 2010 Season Manning scored 33 touchdowns and in 2012 he scored 37, which works out that Manning roughly scores an extra 1.5 TD’s per game. So let’s give Manning 2 touchdowns each game, taking into account that with him in they’d probably not have fallen behind in so many games and see how it works out.

@ Houston Texans: Lose 21 – 34

Vs. Cleveland Browns: Win 27 – 33

Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Win 23 – 34

@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Win 31- 24

Vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Win 28 – 38

Vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Win 31 – 27

@ New Orleans Saints: Lose 21- 62 (this admittedly seems unlikely)

@ Tennessee Titans: Lose 24 – 27

Vs. Atlanta Falcons: Lose 31 – 21

Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: 17- 17 (Colts win in OT)

Vs. Carolina Panthers: Win 27 – 33

@ New England Patriots: Win 38 – 34

@ Baltimore Ravens: 24 – 24 (Lose in OT)

Vs. Tennessee Titans: 27 – 27 (Win in OT)

Vs. Houston Texans: Win 16 – 33

@ Jacksonville Jaguars: Win 19 – 27

If this hypothetical situation played out, the Colts win and make it to the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. With that record, Peyton Manning stays with the Colts, Jim Caldwell stays as Head Coach and the Polians keep their job and the Colts now select midway through the draft, meaning the next question is…


Who Picks Up Andrew Luck?

The Colts now have an 11-5 record and clearly aren’t picking 1st leaving the Rams with the worst record in the league and with the no. 1 pick. In fact pretty much every team just moves up to make room for the Colts at about 23. The Rams at the time still had faith in Sam Bradford as the future of the franchise, meaning that they’d probably still trade the pick away and probably to Washington still. Then it’s a case of, do Washington actually want Andrew Luck. You have to think yes, if given the chance to pick up one of the hottest draft prospects in a long time, you have to pull the trigger.


With the 1st Pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, Washington select: Andrew Luck

Next on the board now is Minnesota, who were still waiting to see if they had something in Ponder. Not needing a running back in the actual draft they traded down a place to 4, with the Browns moving up to pick up Trent Richardson. Ponder at this point had only been given a year, so you have to think that despite the many talents of RG3, that the Vikings might take the opportunity to move down, pick up some picks and start building on a thin roster. With the Vikings not showing interest in RG3, you would think the remaining interested parties from the original RG3 trade would be interested in throwing the Vikings a huge amount of picks, with according to reports the Chiefs and the Browns leading the way. With more picks over the coming years and meaning the Vikings only have to trade down 2 spots, I would think the Browns get the pick.


With the 2nd Pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select: RG3.

With the 2 high ticket players off the board, what about the rest of the draft? Well for starters, if it plays out like this, Trent Richardson gets picked up by the Jags, with the Vikings still getting Matt Kalil. As for the Colts they slot in about at about 23. I think they’d probably be looking at replacing aging running back Addai, or adding some depth to the offensive line, probably at guard. David DeCastro, was considered a mid-1st talent, but dropped to the Steelers. DeCastro I have to think would be where the Colts would go in this situation.


What Else Does it Affect?

It’s only as I type this that I remember the Broncos picking up Peyton Manning was the only way to solve a problem that had come from a short playoff run thanks to everyone’s favourite QB at the time, Tim Tebow. John Elway is considered a genius for picking up Manning, when Tebowmania was in full effect. The fact is he was the only QB available that could up stage the former 1st round pick. No Manning means the Broncos have little choice but to go into 2012 with Tebow, Caleb Hanie and newly acquired recruit, Brock Osweiler, who was considered to be a work in progress. That being said, it would make sense that Osweiler would be thrust into the limelight considerably sooner than he would be ready for. In the long run I still think the Broncos stand a pretty good chance of winning Super bowl 50. In 2012 the defence was beginning to take shape and they already had insane amount of talent on the team. Whether they reach Super bowl 48 is questionable however, with the defence not fully set and the offence being what they hung their hat on.

The Broncos are not the only Super bowl team this affects. The Ravens promoted Jim Caldwell from QB coach to offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season. It’s hard to remember but this had a dramatic effect on the Ravens beaten up offence, in particular galvanising the offensive line. It could be argued that with the dismissal of Cam Cameron and the promotion of Jim Caldwell, that the Ravens may not have won that Super bowl, with a leaky O-line that better than average defences could run riot on.

Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano are 2 people this would also have a big effect on. The most logical thought would be that these 2 remain in their positions, with Pagano sadly missing a good chunk of the 2012 Season with the Ravens. As a result Arians doesn’t get to prove himself as a Head Coach and we might be waiting a little longer for one of my favourite Coaches in the league to have his time in the spotlight, especially with Roethlisberger missing a good chunk of the 2012 Season.

Finally… RG3 and Andrew Luck. Luck is actually put in a reasonable situation to do something with Washington, whilst I don’t believe setting the world on fire. RG3 would almost certainly struggle with the Browns, as a lack of a supporting cast would surely mean he is ultimately in a bad spot. That being said, he was still a breath of fresh in his first season, with no one really knowing what to do with the read option offences. Until defensive coordinators got to grips with it, RG3 ran riot and was a revelation for Washington. Maybe he has the same initial season, but with the Ravens dominating that year, you have to think they miss the playoffs. After that RG3 is doomed to several seasons with the Browns until they eventually opt for someone new.


The Colts Going Forward

Whilst Peyton does help make the Colts a force in the AFC South, I struggle to see how they have any more success than they’ve had over the last few years. The Broncos won the Super bowl on the back of one of the best defences of the last 10 years, which isn’t something we’ve seen the Colts come close to replicating. As a result, Jim Caldwell probably eventually loses his job. As for Peyton, I do think if he can remain healthy(ish), then he retires a Colt, give them massive issues this year and maybe looking to trade up to pick up one of the top QBs in this year’s draft. If I’m brutally honest I think if the Colts had Peyton Manning in his 2015 form, then they’d probably be a lot closer to a top 5 pick than they are currently.


So in this hypothetical world:

Colts go 11-5 instead of 2-14 in 2011

Jim Caldwell and the Polians keep their jobs

Peyton stays with the Colts

RG3 is drafted by the Browns and Andrew Luck by Washington, in a brace of blockbuster trades

Ravens don’t win Super bowl XLVII without Caldwell galvanising the offence

Tim Tebow is the Broncos 2012 starter, before Brock Osweiler takes over. They then miss out on Super bowl XLVIII, but still win Super bowl 50.

Peyton Manning retires a Colt, but with just one ring. Colts finish 2015 with a worse record than they actually did.

As these posts should be regular features, we’d l0ve your input. What would you like to see? What do you think? Hit us up on twitter with your opinions.