Manning won his third MVP award in 2008, rebounding from a rough early 3-4 start to lead the Colts to nine straight wins and a 12-4 record.
Statistically, it is difficult to imagine now that, four games into the 2008 season, Manning was on his way to his worst statistical campaign since his rookie year. He finished with 4,002 yards passing, 27 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions (nine of those came in the first seven games), and 95.0 passer rating.
Given how anemic the running game was all season, Manning's statistics and performance are all the more impressive.
Perennial backup Jim Sorgi played well in his only action in 2008
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Sorgi performed well enough in the season finale against Tennessee — his only action of the season — but anyone who watched the preseason action cannot be filled with confidence in how he'd fare if Manning missed time.
Greene is a project that was signed to the practice squad because he had more eligibility than Josh Betts. He spent the season on the practice squad and has not been signed to a 2009 contract.
This begins and ends with Manning. After struggling through the first seven games with injuries to himself and his offensive line, Manning flipped the "on" switch for the final nine games, bringing his — and the team's — season back from the brink. Defenses did not fear the run after it became apparent that the running game lacked punch and forced Manning to beat them.
He beat every opponent he faced in Weeks 8 through 17, but fell short in the playoffs once again. Though the quarterback ultimately shoulders a great deal of blame after a loss, the label of Manning as a postseason choke artist is unfounded and there is a very short list of teams that would not trade Manning for their quarterback straight up, if such a list exists at all.
Different offseason, same question: Who will the Colts get that is better than Jim Sorgi? Sorgi is entrenched and obviously knows the offense, but is just as obviously not the long term answer to back-up question at the quarterback position.
It's true that Manning has not missed a start in his NFL career, but it is also true that he showed himself to be subject to injuries like any other player in the 2008 season when he had an infected bursa sac removed from his knee.
The fact remains that Indianapolis will be in dire straits should Manning miss time during a given season, whether that time is limited or significant.
The free agent market is surprisingly strong in terms of potential backups, but the list, for the long term is muddled with veterans that are not an option, such as Charlie Batch and Kurt Warner, players that will either resign with their current team as a backup or will look only for starting opportunities such as Byron Leftwich and JT O'Sullivan, and players that have potential, but have failed in their starting opportunities such as Kyle Boller, JP Losman, Patrick Ramsey, and Rex Grossman.
Knowing the Colts front office, the most likely options are Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray, though the "projects" listed above are possibilities as well.
Lorenzen and Gray know the offense and have some experience with the system. Perhaps a full offseason of repetitions will give them the knowledge they need to properly execute, but filling Manning's shoes is a daunting task.
Regardless, Indianapolis needs to start aggressively pursuing other options — as Manning and Sorgi aren't getting any younger — and at least take a flier on a quarterback in the later rounds in the 2009 or 2010 draft.
Decision time is coming on this issue and, though Bill Polian and company have showed tremendous foresight in the past, they need to start showing some regarding the quarterback position.