OK that failed (and I'm not just saying that to elicit sympathetic reactions, it really did fail). But the truth is, the Colts face a monumental decision this offseason.
Peyton Manning, who's sat out for the past year with a devastating neck injury, is owed a $28-million-dollar bonus this coming March. Manning is clearly the entirety of the Colts team, to an extent we never dreamed of until the Colts brought out this year's Manning-less roster.
This year's roster is like a carcass. It's like an excuse of a carcass. It's been run over, literally and figuratively.
But this isn't an article attempting to ascertain the exact nature of the Colts' shortcomings. Instead, we will attempt to make sense of the decision that is sure to rock the landscape of the NFL.
So, what will happen to Peyton Manning after this season? Let's look at the options.
1. Peyton Manning is released, signs elsewhere
If the Colts draft Andrew Luck and deem that Manning's salary could be better used in building a quality nucleus around Luck, the Colts could opt out of the bonus and allow Manning to be an unrestricted free agent instead.
They could try to re-sign Manning at a lower cost, but what's in it for Manning?
Let's see, you've already drafted his replacement, you've in a way subtly slapped him in the face by not paying him in the first place and he could easily score a much larger salary elsewhere.
Both teams have owners that have a propensity for spending and making splashes. Both have coaches that are on the flaming tip of their hot seats, and may attempt to salvage their job by luring in a quarterback like Manning.
The Dolphins make more sense, given that they also have a pretty talented roster despite their poor record. Additionally, signing with the Redskins would mean Manning would have to play his "eli-te" brother twice a year, which he may not want to do.
Ultimately though, this is unlikely.
Why would the Colts release him, unless he truly had nothing left in the tank?
Even if he was still a risky bet, the Colts would probably still err towards keeping him and holding out hope that the man who made Indianapolis a powerhouse of the 2000s could return and play ahead of a developing Andrew Luck for a few years.
2. Peyton Manning is released, and retires
I think if Manning is released, it's because he understands the profundity of his neck injury, and therefore retirement is a legitimate option. Manning's a mature guy and he doesn't have it in him to unleash into full-out Brett Favre syndrome.
Another possibility is that he retires and returns to the Colts as a coach or an assistant. Besides, he pretty much is the mind of that offense.
3. Peyton Manning is traded
I'll admit, this is actually a long shot. As noted here, the Colts owe Manning the $28 million before the 2012 season begins, meaning they can't trade him until after they've paid him.
If they pay him, it makes no sense for them to trade him. They might as well try to scrape something out of the $28 million they've paid him.
Another option would be for Manning to postpone the payment, and that option is described more in depth in the link above (or here).
In my opinion, whether Manning decides to postpone it or not depends on his values. Does he value winning or money? If he values the money, and the Colts weren't willing to pay him, he could postpone it and see if another team would be willing to pay him.
If he values winning, as described in the link, he would prefer to get released and not only choose his team but also not force his new team to give up valuable draft picks in return for him.
4. The Colts pay him and keep him
I think this option is slightly more plausible than the previous three. Manning is a resilient, tenacious guy, and it wouldn't surprise me if he surpassed this hurdle and came back better than ever. He has the maturity and mental toughness (I apologize if I sound cliche) to make it happen.
It would be the most inspiring comeback story ever. Yes, even better than Michael Vick's (which wasn't that good in the first place).
If the Colts paid him, and he ends up returning, it would definitely be worth it. It would not only help the team in the near future, but it also would allow Andrew Luck to develop a la Aaron Rodgers. Of course, I'm assuming the Colts get first pick in the draft and pick Luck.
Even if the Colts weren't sure, they've seen enough of Manning to know that it's never a good bet to pick against him.
5. The Colts restructure Manning's contract
This is another plausible suggestion. If Manning is all about the team, this is the way to go. He still gets paid, he still stays on the Colts and he helps out the team in the process by giving them more spending room.
The Colts, instead of completely restructuring his contract, could propose to postpone the payment and any other bonuses a few months, to give them more time to make the decision and to give Manning more time to make a final decision on his neck.
This would probably be the ideal situation for the Colts. It would make the decision significantly easier. They wouldn't have to worry about the money part anymore, and that's the only part they're concerned with anyways.
It's far too early to say, but with whatever knowledge I have right now, I think the Colts and Manning agree to either completely restructure Manning's contract or postpone many of the bonuses until much later, allowing the medical side of the situation to clear up.
Either way, the outcome of this monumental decision clearly will have an effect on not only the Colts, but the entire NFL.
Manning may have been the forgotten quarterback this year, but he will be the most talked about quarterback this offseason.