Predicting the future is a tough business, man. That’s part of an NFL general manager’s job description, a reality that will become increasingly glaring as we move towards this year’s draft in late April. What’s the ceiling for Player X? Will Player Y’s knee erupt? Can Player Z overcome his addiction to Hamburger Helper? All in a day’s work.
Part of that is also trade evaluation, and weighing a player’s value versus the players he can bring in return, along with the cost to keep said player. Former Colts general manager and current ESPN draft analyst — umm, gulp — Bill Polian was faced with one of those decisions in 2004 regarding Peyton Manning, and it almost went horribly, woefully, depressingly wrong.
Bob Kravitz, the Indianapolis Star’s long-time Colts beat man, had a lengthy sit down interview with Jim Irsay, since every sit down with Jim Irsay is inherently lengthy. The occasion? A celebration of sorts. No, that’s not the right word. A solemn commemoration? Yes, I suppose.
Kravitz’s purpose in Irsay’s office was to have the team’s owner and the pioneer of Twitter gibberish reflect back on the one-year anniversary of the day Manning’s time as a Colt came to a close. Pour one out, because that day comes next week on March 6.
But it could have happened so much earlier. While Irsay and Polian meandered down their road lined with wistful memories, this came out…
According to Irsay, in 2004, a frustrated Polian was at wit’s end as he attempted to secure Manning’s new $98 million contract and, in a fit of pique, told Irsay, “We need to trade Peyton; we can get a bunch of defensive players and become like Tampa Bay or Baltimore.” Irsay said no. “Understand something, Bill, we are not trading Peyton Manning, period,’’ Irsay recalled telling the former team president.
At that time, Manning was averaging 4,147.5 passing yards per year, and his completion percentage had been over 60.0 in five of his six seasons. Then during the 2004 season Manning threw 49 touchdown passes and finished with 9.2 yards per pass attempt, and a passer rating of 121.1, all numbers that are still career highs.
So yeah, smart move overruling your GM there, Jeem.