The NFL season is only two weeks old, but one thing has become abundantly clear: The most valuable player in the league has yet to play a down.
That’s right. Peyton Manning is, without a doubt, the MVP of the NFL. He proves it more with each and every snaps he misses.
While Manning continues to heal — hopefully — from surgery on his considerable neck, the Indianapolis Colts are spiraling in an out-of-control freefall. The team Manning has led to the playoffs 11 times in 13 seasons appears to be headed for disaster.
With Manning running the show, Indianapolis had become one of the top franchises in the league, capturing a Super Bowl along the way and winning 68 percent of his starts. Without him, the Colts look like they might not win a game all season.
Other teams lose players, even former MVPs, and keep on keeping on. Tom Brady hurt his knee and the Patriots won 11 games. The Steelers survived Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension last year and made the Super Bowl.
Somehow, those teams managed to continue to win without their quarterbacks, but take Manning out of the equation in Indianapolis and it’s lights out.
All you need to know is in the first game Manning missed, the Houston Texans led 34-0 at halftime. The loss to the Texans was followed by a home defeat to the Cleveland Browns.
That, in a nutshell, is why Manning is the MVP. Who else is more valuable to his team?
Heading into the season, the Colts said they’d be OK. At every other position, their mantra has been “next man up.” When someone goes down, the next guy on the depth chart is supposed to take his performance to another level.
That theory works well with linemen or receivers or linebackers. But when the guy who goes down is the only four-time MVP in league history and has thrown for 54,848 yards and 399 touchdowns, it’s an entirely different story.
Keep in mind, the Colts don’t have much practice playing without their leader. Manning’s streak of 208 consecutive starts was tops in the league.
Before Kerry Collins took over for the season opener, the last QB not named Peyton Manning to start for the Colts is now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Harbaugh was a bit easier to replace.
One of the definitions of the word valuable is “something of considerable use, service or importance.” So far this season, Manning hasn’t offered any considerable use or service. But in the importance category, he’s off the charts.
The Colts lured Collins out of retirement in case Manning would be out for a while. The 17-year veteran looks like he turned it off once he retired from the Titans. And now he can’t turn it back on, even with a $4 million salary. If Collins can’t get his act together or heal a sore shoulder, the Colts will turn to Curtis Painter. Painter’s career stats? Eight completions in 28 passes, 83 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Not much of a choice. Every time Collins fumbles a snap — he lost more fumbles in his first quarter than Manning did in his last 56 games — the Colts will be reminded of what might have been. The Super Bowl is in Indianapolis this season.