Prepare for 1500 words on what would have happened if Andrew Luck was gay.
Just kidding. Were talking about Luck entering the draft last year as opposed to this year. However that article may have been just as if not more interesting. We’ll put it on the backburner for now.
So like many of you, I watched the Peyton and Jim Irsay press conference today and it just felt weird. Now, I’m not on either side here. I’m not a Colts fan and I don’t particularly loathe Peyton Manning for any reason. I’m you normal, average football fan who can appreciate the 6’4’’ quarterback with a laser, rocket arm. That’s why it surprised me how weird it felt watching Peyton stand there behind Jim Irsay as Irsay seemingly was realizing as he spoke that he was really doing this.
I thought about it for a second, trying to pinpoint where my unsettled feeling was coming from. Then it hit me. This shouldn’t be happening. It was like everyone involved felt like they were in some parallel universe where this situation should have never occurred. This wasn’t meant to be. But a series of events transpired and suddenly everyone feels like Neo when he wakes up in that oozy-bubble thing with all those tubes connected to him.
The press conference that happened today was the result of a decision that did not happen recently; one that seemingly had no effect on Peyton Manning or the Indianapolis Colts at the time it was made. As Dr. Ian Malcolm once said: “A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”
In our case, you can associate the following: “Butterfly” = Andrew Luck, “Flap its wings” = Stay in school, “Peking” = Stanford, “Central Park” = Indianapolis, “Rain” = Cutting the greatest player in your franchise’s history without knowing for sure he can’t compete at the same all-world level to put an entire city on the shoulders of a 22-year old with more pressure on him than maybe any other player in the history of sports, and “Sunshine” = Peyton coming back and playing out his career in white and blue.
The fun part of this game is going back in time, changing one little detail and letting the dominoes fall. We will play this little game and see just where we might be if Andrew Luck decided to take the money and come out of school last year, which for all intents and purposes he was very close to doing.
DOMINO #1: The first thing that changes is that the Carolina Panthers select Andrew Luck with the #1 pick in the draft. No question this would have happened. Luck takes over from day 1 and becomes the face of the Panthers. This is a no-brainer pick at the time, even though the Luck-Newton debate would probably be slightly more competitive than the Luck-RG3 debate. This opens up some very interesting scenarios for Cam Newton, especially with the knowledge we have now of how good he would have been.
DOMINO #2: So where does Newton end up? You have Denver at #2, Buffalo at #3, Cincinnati at #4, San Francisco at #7, Tennessee at #8, Jacksonville at #10, and Minnesota at #12. All of these would be appropriate locations for the Heisman trophy winner. Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Minnesota all used those picks to take a QB and Cincinnati used their high 2nd rounder on one. Newton wouldn’t last past Cincinnati at #4 in this scenario, so for any of these other teams to grab him, they would have to trade up. Considering all these teams need a QB, and one of them could have fallen in love with Newton, this is a perfectly plausible scenario.
Let’s analyze the sexiest question. Could Denver have passed up Newton at #2? Knowing what we know now, you would have to say absolutely not. But at the time, it would have been an all-time difficult decision. Let’s look at it from the perspective of John Elway’s love life: Elway at the time was married to Kyle Orton – she cooks, she’s faithful, she’s someone you can have kids with, but not exactly the nicest to look at. Sort of a very unexceptional arranged marriage. Elway isn’t exactly excited about his current significant other. One night Elway gets a call from his buddy Josh who has been dating this hot young blonde. After Josh, probably too young to be dating and slightly irresponsible, blacked out from too much tequila, Elway was stuck taking home Josh’s date. Orton hasn’t exactly been appreciating Elway, so he decides to bed the young blonde even though he knows she doesn’t really have it all upstairs. The next morning he wakes up next to Tim Tebow and immediately regrets the decision. She looks great naked but he already knows she’s not long-term material. (There is way too much innuendo to even begin to get into with Tebow here, so we will just move on).
In our new Luck-comes-out-early situation, Elway now gets a third option: He can get away from the awkward one-night stand and divorce his mediocre wife and take a chance with a 21-year-old who just won Miss Universe. You aren’t sure what you are getting long-term, but it could solve all your problems. Does winning Miss Universe translate domestically, or will you be stuck with years of high-maintenance and adultery and end up losing half of everything you have?
A difficult decision indeed. I say Denver may field some trade offers a la the Rams this year, but let’s say the power of Tebow prevails once again. The Broncos pass on Newton and take Von Miller, which still gives them a franchise-calber defender and changes their path very little. This also (if this is even possible) intensifies the scrutiny Tebow is under, knowing the team passed up on Cam Newton because of him. This can only yield more entertainment and might finally kill Skip Bayless as he tries to find some way to defend this decision when Cam Newton is single-handedly saving the Buffalo Bills…which means…
DOMINO #3: With the 3rd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select Cameron Newton, Quarterback from Auburn University. Ryan Fitzpatrick becomes the lame-duck starter, mails it in for 4 weeks until the Bills get fed up and put in Newton. Newton performs as he did this year, but because he misses 3 games, he loses Rookie of the Year to Andrew Luck. The Bills then don’t give that premature ejaculation of a contract to Fitzpatrick and the franchise is set up with an attack of Newton-Jackson-Spiller-Stevie Johnson for the next five years. I’ll pause here and give all the Bills fans a second to punch the nearest wall.
DOMINO #4: Ryan Fitzpatrick gets cut at the end of the season and ends up as your opening day starter for the 2012 Washington Redskins. With Fitzpatrick on the market, and the Redskins falling short of getting a QB anywhere else, this is almost a certainty to happen. Fitz goes 5-2, becomes the toast of DC, and Dan Snyder gives the bearded one The Premature Ejaculation Deal. Fitz then goes in the tank, throws 10 picks in the next 3 games and get benched for The Sex Cannon, who the team resigned as a backup before the season. After Sexy Rexy does his thing for a few weeks, he is benched for rookie Brock Osweiler, who the Skins drafts way too high in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft, and the Redskin Quarterback Clusterfuck continues for another year. This is my favorite domino because it means the Redskins have another year where they somehow cease to make any progress whatsoever.
DOMINO #5, 6 and 7: The Bengals still take AJ Green and the Cardinals follow suit with Peterson. For funzies, I think the Browns stand pat knowing Marcell Dareus has fallen to them at 6 with the Bills taking Newton instead. Knowing what we know now, Aldon Smith is the pick here, but back then Dareus was higher. The Browns selected DT Phil Taylor and DE Jabaal Sheard with their next two picks, so clearly that’s the position they were looking at. They tell Atlanta no thanks on the trade (even though it was a good one for them – and still would be here) and they snag Dareus.
DOMINO #8: The Niners now have an interesting choice to make with Julio Jones on the board. Jones or Aldon Smith? Looking at it from our perspective, it’s a tough choice. Both performed excellently as rookies – Smith probably outshining his expectations more than Jones, but both can be argued were equally effective. The Niners desperately needed another weapon on the outside in the playoffs, and Jones could have put them over the top…ever-changing NFL history by beating the Giants, Eli not getting his 2nd ring, and perhaps Tom Brady and Bill Belichick becoming one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. Or it could be argued that without Aldon Smith, that defense isn’t as effective and nothing changes. I’ll leave this answer up to you.
DOMINO #9: For the sake of not over-speculating the draft, we will stop there. On to the season, where the Colts will still be awful as Peyton misses every game. However, Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian keep their jobs, and the Colts go into the 2012 off-season with a re-grouping mentality and the #1 overall pick. They never even consider cutting Peyton. It may not even be mentioned as a possibility. Because of the success of Newton and Luck last year, RG3 becomes the coveted prize and the Colts are in a fantastic position of being able to hold out for the highest bidder. But trust me, they DO NOT do this for Robert Griffin III.
DOMINO #10: The Colts hear lots of offers, but end up swapping their #1 overall to Cleveland for Cleveland’s 1st (#4) and 2nd (#36) round pick plus their #1 in 2013. The Colts get 3 of the first 36 picks plus a potential top-10 #1 next year. They take Trent Richardson at #4, giving them an immediate impact runner who can carry the team post-Peyton. They then get Coby Fleener, Andrew Luck’s favorite target at Stanford with the 33rd pick to give Peyton another red-zone target and a successor to Dallas Clark. They snag a offensive lineman at #36, and continue to add pieces with the #1 pick in the final 4 rounds. They re-sign Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, and Robert Mathis in the offseason, hopefully add some depth in the secondary, and come into the year with a healthy Manning/Richardson/Wayne/Garcon/Collie/Clark/Fleener offense with Mathis and Freeney still anchoring an improving defense. If you are a Colts fan, is that better than a Luck/Addai/Maybe Garcon/Definitely not Wayne/Clark offense with Robert Mathis almost for sure leaving as well with a new coach and a new GM? Um chyeah. Not even close.
This gives you another definite run at the Super Bowl with a wide-open AFC South that was unexpectedly weak last year. With Matt Schaub’s health uncertainty and Mario Williams leaving for greener pastures (and by greener pastures I literally mean fields upon fields of money), all the Colts would have to do is win 10 games with a last place schedule and Manning/Richardson/Garcon/Collie/Clark/Fleener/Mathis/Freeney and they win that division. Plus they get a Jake Locker-led Titans team and Blaine Gabbert aka Mark Sanchez Lite and the Jags two times. I like those chances.
Ipso facto, if Andrew Luck comes out last year, we get to avoid this awkward press conference the Colts had today. Luck is the new face of the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton gives the fans of Buffalo a lot to be excited for, the Browns mortgage their future for RG3, and Peyton gets the band back together, adds Trent Richardson and some pieces and takes another run at the Super Bowl all while Ryan Fitzpatrick watches as a much, much poorer man (and a Redskin backup to boot). Quite a different picture than we have now, wouldn’t you say?
Speaking of Harvard, if this goes down, none of this Jeremy Lin stuff would have happened. Even the slightest ripple in the space-time continuum would alter the series of events that let everything fall into place for Lin. So the New York Knicks can thank Andrew Luck for staying in school. And so can whatever team ends up with Peyton Manning.