Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning won't play for the team during its remaining two games, team vice chairman Bill Polian announced Sunday.
Manning took snaps from center Jeff Saturday earlier this week, but Polian quickly squashed all speculation that the former Super Bowl MVP would play at any point this season.
The Colts managed to win their first game of the season against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, but have zero chance of making the playoffs and have essentially locked up the first pick in next year's draft.
But with Manning ruled out for the remainder of this season, does that mean that the star quarterback has played his last games in Indianapolis?
The answer is unclear, but it certainly looks like a strong possibility.
At 1-13, the Colts have locked up an opportunity to draft Stanford junior quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick in April's draft, and it's hard imagining that Polian and the rest of the team's front office will turn down that opportunity.
Luck is the type of talent that NFL general managers have referred to as can't miss and has been hailed by some as the most surefire pick since Manning in 1998. The Colts haven't given any indication one way or the other on whether they'll take Luck, but it's hard to imagine an executive as smart as Polian passing up on Luck.
The big issue with drafting Luck is that it'd alienate Manning, while also financially hamstringing the organization by spending that much money on the quarterback position.
Peyton's daddy, Archie Manning, has already publicly alluded to the first issue. The elder Manning told a Fox Sports Radio affiliate that he didn't think his son would be particularly pleased to see the Colts draft Luck.
I don't think it'd necessarily be great for either one, Manning told Fox Sports Radio last week. I think Andrew's the type of mature player ... he can walk right in. I mean, these other three or four guys that are playing this year, [if] they can walk in and contribute, Andrew can, too.
I doubt if either one wants to play on the same team.
The next issue at hand is whether Polian and the Colts are willing to commit such a hefty chunk of the salary cap to Manning and Luck. Manning is due a $28 million roster bonus in March, which will likely force the team's hand to make a decision ahead of April's draft.
If you've seen even just a few minutes of Colts football this season, you know that there are many holes to fill. But by committing so much money to the two quarterbacks, it'd likely be extremely difficult to shore up the depleted defense.
That unenviable scenario likely forces Polian to make a decision: either bite the bullet for two, three seasons with both quarterbacks or trade Manning in the off-season.
Trading such a popular quarterback like Peyton Manning could cause a major backlash in Indianapolis, but might be the only possible decision for Polian to make. The Colts will likely still have questions on Manning's injured neck and won't know enough to commit long-term to Manning.
Instead, the Colts could likely trade Manning to a quarterback needy team -- the Redskins would certainly be interested - and recoup some major value for the popular player.
It's not ideal to let go of such an icon like Manning, but the San Francisco 49ers have already drawn up the blueprint.
The 49ers won four Super Bowls with quarterback Joe Montana, but by the end of 1992 also faced an unenviable situation. Montana missed the majority of the 1991 and 1992 seasons due to an elbow injury and the 49ers saw success with quarterback Steve Young.
Montana was a three-time Super Bowl MVP, but the 49ers made the tough, yet necessary decision to trade him to the Kansas City Chiefs. He would lead the Chiefs to an AFC Championship in 1993 before finally retiring at the conclusion of the 1994 season.
No one is saying that Luck will have as much success as Young did, but the scenarios certainly share some similarities.
The Colts could set themselves up for the next 10-15 years by trading away Manning's last two or three seasons.
It's not a dream situation to have to get rid of your franchise quarterback, but there's simply no chance that the Colts will pass up taking a franchise quarterback at the very beginning of his career versus one in his twilight years.
It's not a guarantee that the Colts will get rid of Manning -- the organization could decide to keep the two quarterbacks - but it's worth at least preparing yourself for the possibility of a 2012 Colts season without a Manning at the helm.