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Keeping Manning on roster smart move

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Recent posts by Arthur Arkush

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Posted Nov. 11, 2011 @ 8:26 p.m. ET
By Arthur Arkush

For Colts vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, GM Chris Polian, the 2011 season has to feel like a nightmare. The Kerry Collins signing was a debacle; clearly a case of Bill Polian outsmarting himself. Indianapolis' CB situation has become comical; the club was ill-prepared after releasing Kelvin Hayden and Justin Tryon. Blame for other holes in the roster, exposed by QB Peyton Manning's absence, land on the Polians' desks.

But you won't hear anyone who still questions their decision to keep Manning on the active roster, despite the relative certainty that he won't appear in a game this season. As Bill Polian recently explained, Manning has not been placed on injured reserve because the club hopes to get him back on the practice field before season's end to assess where he stands after three neck surgeries in the past 19 months. The Colts say it is also to hopefully get Manning some positive momentum heading into the offseason, to help prove to himself that he still can be the guy whose play over the past 13 years has changed the way we view the quarterback position. In other words, the Polians, who have been hammered for not being prepared for life without Manning, have a clear plan.

Manning acknowledged last week that his neck still isn't fully healed. He explained that the five-year, $90 million extension he signed in late July really is nothing more than a one-year extension with a four-year option. Both the Colts' front office and Manning deserve credit; the Polians for ensuring themselves a way out, and Manning for understanding the risk the Colts assumed by making the deal, and giving them an out in the event he no longer can operate at an elite level.

The Colts can opt out of Manning's current deal before next March, saving $28 million in an option bonus if Manning proves to be damaged goods. Some unbelievably difficult decisions lie ahead for the Polians and they wisely put themselves in the best position possible to make informed choices for the organization, both in the short term and over the long haul.

The San Antonio Spurs comparisons and the whole Andrew Luck angle have been beaten to death for a reason. It sounds crass — I truly hope Manning has several more years of magic left because  he is great for the game — but what seems like a nightmare for the Polians could turn into a dream. Former Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms is batty if he thinks the Polians won't draft Luck in April if they should be so lucky to hold the top pick. It is an absolute no-brainer — even if Manning recovers fully before then. Look at what happened in San Antonio, where, in 1998, David Robinson's broken foot put the Spurs in position to draft Tim Duncan, who brought four titles to Alamo City. And it's all smiles in Title Town, where the Packers stashed Aaron Rodgers until Brett Favre was done.

No one knows if Luck will fall into the Colts' lap, nor do we know what Manning's future holds. What we do know is this: Bill Polian is heading to Canton because he is one of the greatest architects the game has ever seen, and, despite some bad decisions of late, keeping Manning on the active roster is not only a smart choice, it is the only choice.

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