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In terms of NFL personnel decisions, the stakes could not have been higher when the Indianapolis Colts decided to cut Peyton Manning in March of 2012.
The team had a choice between an aging legend (Manning) and a highly-touted but unproven draft prospect (Andrew Luck).
They chose Luck. They cut Manning, saved $28 million, and started from scratch without the best player in the history of the team. Manning, for his part, landed in Denver, driving Tim Tebow to New York in the process.
In the space of two weeks, these two franchises ousted their incumbent quarterbacks and made two of the most monumental decisions an NFL team can make.
Twenty months later, on the week Peyton returns to Indianapolis to play the Colts, it's clear that what happened in March of 2012 has worked out perfectly for everyone involved.
The best-case scenario for the Colts was simple:
1. Andrew Luck turns into the franchise quarterback NFL draft experts predicted he'd become — automatically making the team a contender for the next 15 years.
2. They use the money saved on Manning's contract to rebuild through free agency.
That's exactly what happened.
Luck is already in the top tier of the NFL quarterback hierarchy. His rookie-year stats suffered from a bad offensive line and no semblance of a running game, but he still threw for 23 touchdowns and led his team to a 11-5 record, which included seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
He's better, faster than anyone thought he'd be coming out of college. From a long-term point of view, the Colts choosing 15 years of Andrew Luck over four years of Peyton Manning was a no-brainer.
The Broncos made a similar gamble when they signed Manning, and it paid off.
No one realized back in March of 2012 that the Broncos were this good. Yeah, they won a playoff game with Tim Tebow, but that was all smoke and mirrors. No one thought back then that the supporting cast around Tebow could be weaponized into an offensive juggernaut with the right quarterback.
The decision to dump Tebow and sign Peyton Manning on a $96 million contract only made sense if you were ready to compete for a Super Bowl immediately.
The Broncos, clearly, were.
Denver currently has one of the best offenses the NFL has ever seen. They're 19-4 since signing Manning, scoring 41.1 points per game in the process. They sit head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL.
The Colts and Broncos both took huge risks 20 months ago. Indy cut one of the best, most efficient players in the history of the NFL. Denver gave nearly $100 million to an aging, injured QB with the hopes that he could, like magic, turn unproven role players into a offensive machine before he retired.
They both came out huge winners.
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