Michael Conroy, Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts fans could have the best of both worlds in 2012 — Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck on the same roster.
On Bill Polian's radio show Monday night, the team's vice chairman acknowledged that even if Indianapolis took a quarterback with the No. 1 draft pick, presumably Luck, the only way to turn things around next season would be with a veteran.
Polian did not specifically discuss Luck, citing NFL rules that bar team officials from commenting on underclassmen who are not officially in the draft.
"Even if we were to draft a marquee guy in the first round, he's not going to come in and contribute immediately unless he's a rookie running back," Polian said. "It takes time is the point I want to make."
There are remarkable similarities between Manning and Luck.
Both had fathers who were NFL quarterbacks, and both were teammates with the Houston Oilers in the 1980s. The two second-generation quarterbacks also were Heisman Trophy runner-ups despite being projected as the best NFL prospects in their respective draft classes. And, just like 1998 when the Colts took Manning No. 1 overall, Indy is in position to have the top pick again.
The big question over the past week has been whether the two could co-exist as teammates?
If Indy pays Manning a $28 million bonus before free agency begins, he will remain with the Colts. If not, he could become a free agent. Or the Colts could redo Manning's contract to make it more manageable against the salary cap.
But with questions about Manning's neck, some believe it's time for the Colts to plan for the future and take Luck.
Manning, the NFL's only four-time MVP had his third and most complicated neck surgery in 19 months on Sept. 8. He has been cleared to increase his rehabilitation regiment, but has not yet practiced with his teammates, leaving the Colts in a tricky predicament — gamble on Manning, rebuild with Luck or dress both in Colts' jerseys.
"The issue of how you structure with or without Peyton is something that we'll get answers to down the road. Really, until the preseason comes around, you're not going to know what your team really looks like," Polian said.
"If we were to take a rookie quarterback and we were to play him, he would struggle. Remember Peyton was 3-13 his rookie year, and he did not really look like the quarterback that he became until, ironically, this time of year in Baltimore where we lost in a shootout. ... It's going to take any rookie, whether be it Anthony Castonzo or anyone else, one good year to get their feet underneath them. Then you have an offseason program, and then he's really ready to contribute."
Polian's comments come less than a week after Manning's father, Archie, told a radio show he didn't think it would be a "great" idea for the two sons to play on the same team.
Less than 24 hours later, Archie Manning backtracked, saying what he meant was that if his son was healthy both quarterbacks needed to play next season.
Some believe the Colts would be smart to follow the model established by Green Bay, which made a relatively smooth transition from three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre to reigning Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers even though Rodgers went 6-10 in his first season as a starter.
Others, including Peyton Manning, have insisted rookies learn more by playing right away.
The Colts haven't made any decisions yet.
"For one thing, I don't know where our pick is going to be," Polian said. "Second, I don't know which of the four or five potential (underclassmen) quarterbacks are going to come out. Second, we don't know what Peyton's health is going to be. So we'd have to find out what all of the options are and we don't know what they are. Will we know by March? Will we know by April? I think so, I couldn't construct an ideal scenario for you right know because I don't know what our options are."
Polian also took time to support coach Jim Caldwell, who led the Colts to the Super Bowl in his first season as a head coach.
With winless Indy at 0-13, and one loss from becoming the first Colts' team to go 0-14, many fans are calling for Caldwell's ouster and some believe it's already a foregone conclusion.
When asked if Caldwell should remain the coach if Indy joins the 2008 Lions as the only 0-16 teams in league history, Polian said: "My fervent hope is that Jim's job is not in jeopardy because my fervent hope is we don't go 0-16, and we're doing everything we can to try and avoid that."
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