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Saturday, February 11, 2012
What should the Colts do at QB?

By ESPN Stats & Info

Getty ImagesThe Colts have to decide this offseason whether to draft Andrew Luck, bring back Peyton Manning after missing the entire 2011 season, and who their starting quarterback will be in 2012.
The 2012 offseason will be filled with questions for the Indianapolis Colts.

Do they stick with Peyton Manning, who missed all of last season after having neck surgery?

Do they draft Stanford’s Andrew Luck with the first overall pick?

If they draft Luck, is he their starter from Day One?


Cases can be made for or against any decision.

The Case For Manning
Obviously, Manning’s legacy in Indianapolis is set, but he could easily keep moving up the all-time lists next season, regardless of the uniform he's wearing. Even with a below-average season, Manning could pass Dan Marino for second on the completions list and could become the third player all-time to throw 400 touchdowns.

It’s not like Manning was washed up when he last played. From 2008 to 2010, Manning’s Total QBR was a 77.2, the best in the NFL and nearly eight points higher than second-place Tom Brady. He was tops in QBR in 2008 and 2009, and second in 2010.

Manning was also the runaway leader in QB Points Above Average, the number of points a quarterback contributed to his team above an average QB on the same number of action plays.

The Case Against Manning
The reasons to opt for a new quarterback in Indianapolis boils down to two reasons: age and health. The health is a question mark, but we can analyze age.

There have been 34 quarterbacks to throw at least 300 passes in a season in which they were 36 or turned 36 during the season. Among those:

• 16 led teams to postseason
• Five had passer rating of 90 or higher
• 12 had 3,000 yards passing
• 15 threw at least 20 touchdowns
• 21 threw more TD than interceptions

Manning will turn 36 in March, but his window for success is still open. Three starting quarterbacks have won Super Bowls at 36 or older, Jim Plunkett, Johnny Unitas and John Elway.

But things get a lot more dicey when you look at quarterbacks since 1970 who missed at least one full season then returned to the NFL.

The best possible year for a QB when combining the past single-season highs for anyone who missed an entire season? 3,223 pass yards, 20 touchdowns and nine wins.

The Case for Andrew Luck
Regardless if the Colts keep or cut Manning, the Colts plan to draft Luck according to sources, who could start right away or sit behind Manning and learn from a legend.

Among the quarterbacks drafted first overall, only one waited an entire season to make his first start, Carson Palmer. And 12 of the 19 were their teams' Opening Day starter.

Patience will be key if Luck is the man right away. No quarterback taken first overall has even had a winning record as a starter in his rookie season. But it pays off, as quarterbacks taken first overall are 13-5 as starters in the Super Bowl.

Luck might be too good to pass up, regardless of how much longer Manning plays. The reviews have been shining, as he’s No. 1 on both Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board and Scouts Inc.’s Top 32.

Luck has shown to be more than just hype, his results on the field, especially in the red zone, speak for themselves. This season in the red zone, Luck completed 73.3 percent of his passes with 29 touchdowns and no turnovers.