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Archie also said Peyton didn't become a film geek until his freshman season at Tennessee, where Manning battled future baseball star Todd Helton for the starting job. But his middle son quickly made up for lost time.
"I knew I wasn't going to run away from guys or throw through three guys," Manning recalled on the eve of 2010 Super Bowl. "My idea was to try to have a good sense of where they were going to be. I never left the field saying, `I could have done more to get ready for this team.'"
More than one opposing coach has learned to dread the moment when all that homework pays off, and the sly smile on Manning's face reveals he's found the key to unlock their defense. It so unnerved even seasoned defensive schemers like New England's Bill Belichick and New York's Rex Ryan that both took uncharacteristically risky -- and ultimately unsuccessful -- gambles at critical junctures against Manning, hoping only to keep the ball out of his hands.
None of the Colts' opponents this season has faced similar worries. As hints circulated during the lockout that Manning's recovery from offseason surgery was behind schedule, Irsay downplayed them. Then he signed him to the richest contract in NFL history. Then the owner spent more time tweeting about his search for a suitable replacement than coming up with one. He finally coaxed Kerry Collins out of retirement. That plan was wrecked after barely two games.
Playing behind a decimated offensive line and struggling to grasp the watered-down version of a playbook based on Manning's read-and-react skills, Collins suffered a concussion against Pittsburgh on Sept. 25. His return is uncertain. The job has since fallen to Curtis Painter, who's shown promise at moments, but didn't take a snap all of last season. Besides, during his college and brief pro career, Painter's only previous resemblance to Manning came while playing No. 18's role on the scout team.
The resulting mess prompted coach Jim Caldwell to bravely promise that the rest of the Colts will raise their game in the meantime. Lately, there's been some discussion that Manning could be back before season's end. Whether the Colts would green-light his return while mired at the bottom of the standings is something Irsay has considered only briefly.
"He's 35, and he's had this surgery, so it's concerning," Irsay said. "But I don't feel ... and all the doctors I talked to don't feel ... like it's something that would end his career. Anything can happen in terms of having another setback. But, at this point, the way he's trending is up, we look for him to be back, have three or four years and have the Peyton Manning era continue in Indianapolis."
What passes for optimism in Indy these days is actually the opposite -- the notion that the Manning-less Colts are so bad they could wind up in the driver's seat at next year's draft, when Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, tabbed as the NFL's next can't-miss prospect, will be available with the No. 1 pick.
"Guys like that come along so rarely," Irsay said, referring to both Manning and Luck.
"Even if that means that guy sits for three or four years, you'd certainly think about taking him. You see what Green Bay did with Favre and Aaron Rodgers," the owner added, "and you'd like to be able to do the same thing."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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