ORLANDO, Fla. – Perhaps Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay should call Archie Manning and politely ask his quarterback's father to kindly be quiet, because all Manning did on Tuesday and Wednesday was hurt his son, not to mention the Colts.
When the elder Manning told Fox Sports Radio this week that he didn't "think it'd necessarily be great for either" Peyton or Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck to play together, he launched a giant stink bomb into any leverage the Colts might have to deal the No. 1 overall pick, which they currently have the inside track on at 0-12.
What made it worse is that Archie made his remark after saying he talked to Oliver Luck, Andrew's father. (On Wednesday, Oliver Luck didn't return a text message about the issue.)
As for Andrew Luck, who just finished his redshirt junior season and said twice this week he plans to come out for the NFL draft, he stayed as far away as possible from the issue.
"I think it would be a disservice to my team to start talking about issues like that in advance of our bowl game," said Luck, who was at Disney World doing interviews a day in advance of the "ESPN College Football Awards Show." He's up for the Davey O'Brien (as the nation's best quarterback) and the Maxwell (the nation's best player) awards. On Saturday, he'll be one of five finalists in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
"I'll have a better answer for you on all that stuff after the bowl game," Luck said. Stanford faces Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2.
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Beyond that, Luck was consistently self-deprecating, saying all the right things about being honored to be among college football's other elite players. It makes one wonder if Luck could swallow his ego for a couple of seasons to play behind Manning.
Regardless, the insinuation that Luck and Peyton Manning(notes) couldn't coexist is a bad idea if the Colts hope to deal that pick and get as much as they can for Luck. That haul could go a long way toward rebuilding the Colts' depleted roster for the 35-year-old Manning's final seasons.
Of course, that previous bit of conjecture is one of many scenarios that could play out in the coming months. The Colts could: draft Luck and keep both him and Manning, something Irsay talked about in October; cut Manning and draft Luck; or trade Manning (a deal is nearly impossible under the current terms of Manning's contract) and go with Luck for the long-term.
For all that the Colts have done for Manning and that Manning has done for the Colts, Archie Manning would be wise to stay out of the whole mess. It was one thing when Archie played hardball with the San Diego Chargers in 2004, forcing the Chargers to deal his younger son Eli to the New York Giants. It's another thing to put a crowbar between Peyton and the Colts.
That's particularly true after Irsay and the Colts agreed to give Peyton a five-year, $100 million deal that included a total of $52 million to be paid in the first eight months. That was $24 million for this season and the other $28 million due in March.
The Colts deserve the chance to work this out without any Favre-ish behavior from anybody.
Archie did some backtracking Wednesday during an appearance on ESPN Radio. He talked about how he meant his remarks more as a "compliment" to Luck, which is true. The elder Manning was clear to point out that Luck is ready to play now, not sit. Anyone who has seen Luck agrees with that point. In fact, the opinion of six NFL scouts and executives is that Luck is the safest potential top pick since, well, Peyton Manning.
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"You can see in everything he does on the field, from the huddle to getting the team in the right play once they're at the line, to how he handles himself on the sidelines to the practice, it's obvious he can play right away," an NFC executive said. "He's going to be good, that's obvious. Is he going to be great? Who knows the answer to that, but he looks like a pretty good bet. At worst, you know you're going to have at least a good player who is going to be your guy for a long time."
If you're the Colts, that's an important consideration. Team president Bill Polian has set the Colts up to be taken over by his son Chris, who is the vice president and general manager. Like his father, the younger Polian is going to need a quarterback for the long run.
The question is whether the long run starts with taking Luck this year or if the Colts push it back a year or two, hoping that Peyton returns to health (the latest news is positive) and that they can parlay the top pick into something great.
As long as other people don't get in the way.
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