Peyton Manning, The Real Game Changer

Who says one man doesn't make a team.

James LeBeauby James LeBeau

The Indianapolis Colts, currently sitting at 0-7 and dead last in the league, are really missing Peyton Manning. And now that I got that obvious statement out of the way, let me say that no other season has shown the value that Manning brings to his team and the NFL than this one has.

With Manning, the Colts are a Super Bowl team, without him, well, you see what has happened. Can you tell me of any other QB who means more to a franchise than Manning does? That would be a no. Even his most accomplished rival, Tom Brady, saw his team go 11-5 behind a QB who never started a college game when he tore his ACL-MCL in week 2 of the 2008 season, putting him out for the year.

No, it's easy to say that no other team is so dependent upon one player as Indianapolis is.

So where does that leave both Manning and the Colts after this season? Coming off of 3 straight neck surgeries, it's safe to say that there is a huge cloud of uncertainty surrounding the potential effectiveness of Manning once he returns. To add even more speculation on the future of Manning, the Colts current winless streak is giving them a beeline for potentially being first in line to draft the most highly touted college QB of all time, Andrew Luck of Stanford.

Luck is seen as the Holy Grail in NFL circles and any team that gets him is projected as getting a once in a lifetime franchise QB. Saner heads will point out, however, that Ryan Leaf was projected as a better QB in the '88 draft than Manning and that New England's stud, Tom Brady, was picked in the 6th round of the 2000 draft. So sometimes, ratings and projections don't always tell the correct story.

The sad reality of this league, and any professional league, is that it has a 'what have you done for me lately' mentality. That mentality, along with eyes that are always looking forward, may mean the eventual end for Peyton in Indianapolis. As unthinkable as it seems, the neck injury combined with the opportunity to snare Luck could lead to the Colts potentially trading Manning. Don't believe it, well, look what former Indy coach Tony Dungy has to say on the subject.

"I would see [Peyton] competing and playing as long as he wanted. And if it gets to the point to where, hey, he comes back and it looks like he's gonna play three or four more years, and you say, 'We've got Andrew Luck, we've got an asset, we trade him," Dungy explained. "Obviously, This Carson Palmer trade. It tells you, if you do have a good quarterback, what you can get for him. So I think that asset is too much to pass up, even if your quarterback wasn't all that happy about it."

Yikes, now that would be a sad moment for the QB who turned the Indianapolis Colts into a annual Super Bowl contender and is a lock for the Hall of Fame once he retires.

But that's all speculation for down the road. As of right now, Manning is still a Colt and his absence, and the ramifications of it on the field each week, are a indisputable neon sign that points to the greatness of one man and what he does for a franchise.

Manning deserves, and should get, a Most Valuable Player award without even stepping on the field for a season. The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes, and the pudding is that the Colts have gone from the top tier of the NFL to the dead bottom with the loss of one man.

If that doesn't scream MVP, I don't know what does.