The present Indianapolis Colts simply don’t know an existence without Peyton Manning. Sure, it’s probably documented somewhere in the franchise’s historical archives, dusty books that show a pre-Manning history of losing that led to the top of the draft in 1998.

The Colts may be a few weeks away from playing their first regular season game without Manning in 12 years. Nothing is assured at this point, and no definitve conclusions can be made as Manning continues to rehab from his second neck surgery in the last 15 months, hoping to be ready for Indy’s Sept. 11 opener against Houston. But the signing of Kerry Collins today is a clear indication of a need for fortification at a rudderless position in the absence of No. 18.

It’s also a desperate reach for a lifeline from a franchise that firmly believes its captain will be in sickbay for at least one game, as ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported earlier this morning. Manning is hopeful, the Colts are realistic, and somewhere in the middle lies Collins, the man now charged with subbing in for a four-time MVP.

Three minutes after he tweeted some good ‘ol time John Hiatt lyrics, Colts owner Jim Irsay announced that he had lured Collins out of retirement this morning. Physically, Collins is the ideal backup for a team that a few hours ago had Curtis Painter and his 50.0 completion percentage this preseason behind Manning, followed by castoff Dan Orlovsky, and rookie Mike Hartline. Those three arms behind Manning have combined for seven career starts, and during last Friday’s game Painter played the entire first half and led the offense to just one first down, never advancing past the Colts’ own 29-yard line.

We’re left to wonder though if Collins is the right man for this backup job–or any backup job–emotionally and mentally. When he retired and walked away from a gig as Jake Locker’s seat-warmer in Tennessee earlier this offseason, Collins was candid with his reasoning. It was a familiar retirement refrain, with Collins saying that his passion for the game remained the same, but his desire to endure the physical and mental grind necessary to prepare for Sundays in the fall and winter was no longer there.

“While my desire to compete on Sundays is still and always will be there, my willingness to commit to the preparation necessary to play another season has waned to a level that I feel is no longer adequate to meet the demands of the position.”

We’ve heard similar lines from Brett Favre in the past during his multiple retirements and unretirements. The difference is that Favre was always entering a situation in which he was the unquestioned starter, and had little else to worry about other than preparing himself for each week.

Collins is now dealing with the uncertainty of Manning’s situation. If it’s ultimately decided that Manning won’t be ready for Week 1, he’s then faced with guiding a championship caliber team through a brief period of the season as one of the best quarterbacks of our time looks on.

He’s been plucked out of retirement in late August (also very Favre-like), and has just over two weeks to get his mind right.

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