The Indianapolis Colts fired head coach Jim Caldwell on Tuesday in a move that could have a key impact on whether star quarterback Peyton Manning returns to the team next season.
The Colts made the decision to dump Caldwell after he led the team to a disastrous 2-12 campaign in 2012. Indianapolis also recently fired vice chairman Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian in what has been a tumultuous off-season for the usually steady club.
This was a difficult decision, said Colts owner Jim Irsay, about firing Caldwell. I wanted to make sure we took all the time we needed to make sure it was the right decision. ... And just like 14 years, ago, it's a big change for the franchise and at the same time, there's players, coaches, many people on the staff that will go into the new day and get on with the work of 2012.
The complete revamp could signal that the Colts will release or trade their franchise quarterback.
Manning, who is due $28 million dollars if the Colts decide to keep him next season, missed the entire 2011-12 season after multiple off-season neck surgeries.
The 35-year old has hinted that he would like to return to Indianapolis, but the Colts might decide to jettison the future Hall-of-Famer in favor of Stanford standout Andrew Luck, who is expected to be the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Peyton kind of likes his roots in Indy, Archie Manning, Peyton's father, told the New York Post. We'll see what happens there. That'll all work out. He's just trying to get healthy.
No matter what happens with Manning, the Colts are still expected to draft Luck. It might make sense to part ways with Manning now, despite his immense popularity, because the team is already undergoing immense change throughout the franchise.
Losing Manning would be a difficult move for Irsay to make given the veteran quarterback's prestige and importance to club's image. However, it would also be questionable to hamstring the team financially by paying so much for one player.
The Colts could trade Manning to one of a bevy of potential suitors -- the Washington Redskins are likely at the top of the list -- and truly begin the rebuilding process with a new coach and new franchise quarterback. The Colts' rabid fanbase might be disappointed by the decision, but keeping Manning without a major influx of talent would be just delaying an inevitable rebuilding process.
New general manager Ryan Grigson hasn't given any indication whether he will keep Manning going forward, but the team may need a fresh start considering Luck's talent, and what the club can get in exchange for such a high-profile player.
The Colts have until March to make a decision on the quarterback before he is due his massive roster bonus. It's certainly conceivable that the organization could decide to retain Manning to serve as Luck's mentor, but if there was ever a time to rebuild, it might be now.