Dan Orlovsky has helped the Indianapolis Colts do the improbable over the past two weeks. By leading the team to back-to-back wins against the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, the Colts may have taken themselves out of the running for Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck. Orlovsky led a late game comeback last night to help the Colts improve their record to 2-13. The Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams also have two victories, which could lead to the race for the No. 1 draft pick in 2012 coming down to the final games next weekend.
Nobody would have expected this a couple of weeks ago, as it appeared as if the Colts had thrown in the towel around the fourth game of the season. Everything looked like Indianapolis had decided that their season was lost, so that they may as well ensure that they finish with the worst record in the league so that they could draft Luck as the eventual successor to Peyton Manning.
But after word came that the team would most likely fire head coach Jim Caldwell if they finished the season winless, it seemed to have sparked the Colts.
Either that, or Orlovsky finally figured out how to win an NFL football game.
Or Manning told some of the players that it would cause too much controversy and media attention if the team selects Luck next April.
It may sound foolish, but if you really think about it, it kind of makes sense.
Everyone knows that Manning has been running this team since 1998. He ran the offense, he called the plays, he decided who became a star and has been the face of the franchise for so long, that nobody can even imagine them without No. 18.
Manning has to know that his time is winding down as an elite NFL starting quarterback, but he is not quite ready to be put out to pasture. Manning probably has at least two or three great seasons left in him, provided he comes back healthy from his multiple neck surgeries. He knows that the team has to prepare for the future, and would not leave them high and dry under any circumstance.
But he also knows what it would be like in Indianapolis if the team drafts Luck in 2012. He knows that a couple of losses in a row or a few bad interceptions at costly times, would cause people to start speculating whether it was time for Luck to take the reins. It would be a nightmare, and could turn into what happened in Green Bay with the Packers, who had Aaron Rodgers sit behind Brett Favre for three years.
But that was not nearly as bad, as Rodgers was drafted as a late first round pick. Not the No. 1 overall pick. That is a much different scenario.
Either way, the Colts could still earn the top spot in the 2012 NFL Draft in April. Although they play a very winnable game next Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Vikings have to play the Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears, while the Rams will face the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers. All three could finish the 2011 season with just two wins, although anything can happen over the final couple of weeks, as the Colts have proven.
If the Colts do not receive the first overall pick, then they will miss out on Luck. They will also miss out on USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley, who decided that he would return for his senior season in Southern California. But it does not mean that they could not draft another future franchise signal caller in this year’s upcoming NFL Draft, with many other options available, including potentially Robert Griffin III of the Baylor Bears, Landry Jones of the Oklahoma Sooners, Ryan Tannehill of the Texas A&M Aggies, Kellen Moore of the Boise State Broncos and Brandon Weeden of the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Regardless of their draft position in 2012, the Colts should taking a quarterback in the first, second or third round. But while missing out on Luck may hurt three or four years from now, selecting a quarterback with the second or third pick in the first round, or later in day one or two could make things a lot less messy over the next few seasons if Manning is still healthy.