Punch Drunk Wonderland

Alternate Universe Colts: Peyton Manning traded in 2004

Alternate Universe, Indianapolis Colts, 2004, Manning traded

Today Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star released an exclusive featuring insight into the Colts-Manning situation of 2011 plus a number of historical gems from the lips of owner, Jim Irsay. A particularly interesting morsel was that evidently in 2004 Bill Polian wanted to trade Peyton Manning rather than structure the big $99 million contract. Likely with coach Tony Dungy in his ear, Polian was thinking of focusing on a model patterned after Tampa Bay or Baltimore that would feature a more elite defense. That would probably also mean a more game manager style quarterback in place of Manning. In response, Irsay had the following for the team president.

Understand something, Bill, we are not trading Peyton Manning, period.

Good move, Jim. However, for the sake of argument let’s take a look into that alternate universe where Peyton Manning did get traded away in 2004. The Colts would have received a king’s ransom for Manning on the order of the “The Great Train Robbery” (aka the Herschel Walker trade of 1989), so it’s hard to nail down what their draft pick and player situation might have been like. However, we can look at the player landscape and, more importantly, the football landscape for Indianapolis if such a trade would have happened. A few quarterbacks available in the 2004 draft were Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, and Luke McCown. Some other notable names in that draft were receiver Larry Fitzgerald, tight end Kellen Winslow, defensive end Jared Allen, safety Sean Taylor, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, and many more big names. Based on the theory that Polian wanted to go defense he probably would’ve focused on stocking up with defensive talent. That means they probably wouldn’t be breaking the bank for another elite quarterback. This focus would’ve led to the pick up of a Trent Dilfer-esque game manager type to steer the ship on offense. Let’s stop there. The dice have been rolled and the variables put in place….a new, defense-centric team in Indy. This alternative universe is bizarre. What would it mean for the city of Indianapolis? Let’s look at the timeline…

March 2004

It is March of 2004. The Colts finished the season 12-4 and Peyton Manning earned the NFL MVP honor (a Co-MVP with Steve McNair). Manning and crew battled through the playoffs only to be utterly embarrassed in the cold and miserable conditions in Foxboro, MA versus the New England Patriots. Early word on the street was that Manning was in negotiation for a new contract, but now all the buzz is that the new NFL league year will see an unprecedented trade the likes we have not seen since the famed Herschel Walker trade of 1989. The sports landscape in Indianapolis has exploded. Just four months ago the city saw their NBA basketball team involved in a brawl that has left them in turmoil and now the city’s NFL team is letting go of their star quarterback. Colts President, Bill Polian, has stated without ambiguity that the team is moving in a direction of success that will focus on defensive strength and will pull on the strengths of Coach Dungy’s expertise.

March 2005

The sports landscape in Indianapolis is on a steep decline. The Pacers team seems in chaos now a year after “The Brawl” and just 4 months since Ron Artest was traded. The Indy 500 saw a decline in attendance last year. The Colts, in a rebuilding year, finished the season with a disappointing 9-7 record and just missed the playoffs. It’s amazing that one year removed from an AFC Championship game appearance for the Colts the city find’s itself in the sports doldrums.

Los Angeles ColtsMarch 2009

The Colts have finished their fourth straight season in which they failed to reach the playoffs. All bets are off.  Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay, made the announcement that the team would be moving to Los Angeles for the 2009 season. The move was inevitable since the aging RCA Dome was not meeting needs and attendance has been consistently declining. Irsay seems to feel that a change of venue is the spark that is needed. While normally these changes take some time, L.A. was ideal for a quick move because the infrastructure was in place.  This news was inevitable for a team that has only made it to the playoffs seven 7 times in 24 years in Indianapolis and has only tallied 4 playoff wins in that span.  The dark ages have hit the sports scene in Indianapolis. Having been years since seeing any glimpse of success on the NFL or NBA landscape, fans have just stopped coming to games. I have no doubt that Indy has devout sports fans, but it’s very realistic to think we won’t have any teams in the near future.

So, yeah. Good move, Jim. I have no doubts that Indianapolis would be a completely different city had the Colts traded Manning away in 2004. In reality (not bizarro alternate universe) the city has changed a great deal in the last ten years. It has gone from a basketball city to a hands down football city that bleeds Colts blue. When Manning left in 2012 we saw how much of a piece of the city he has become as many fans struggled with the dilemma of whether they were a Colts fan or just a Manning fan. I for one am glad we aren’t living in the desolate sports landscape that is an alternate Indianapolis that never saw the successes of Peyton Manning with the Colts.


K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...