In 1997, David Robinson suffered a broken foot in preseason and wound up missing the entire regular season for the San Antonio Spurs, who were devastated by the injury. But Robinson’s misfortune actually turned out to be a massive blessing in disguise for the Spurs.
San Antonio was so bad that season that they wound up having the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, allowing them to select Tim Duncan out of Wake Forest. Four championships, two MVP awards and 13 All-Star selections later and Duncan is viewed as one of the greatest players to have ever donned an NBA uniform.
And none of it would have happened had Robinson not broke his foot that year, which is a little morbid when you think about it but hey, it worked out for everyone in the end. (Robinson won two titles playing alongside Duncan.)
If the Indianapolis Colts wind up having a wretched season due to Peyton Manning’s neck injury, they may find themselves in a somewhat similar situation. Granted, it’s too early to tell how long Manning will be sidelined after having his second neck surgery in less than four months. Maybe he’ll return halfway through the season and lead the Colts to the playoffs once again. Or maybe he’ll be out all season and will return next year at full strength.
Or maybe he’ll never play again.
Either way, there’s reason to believe the Colts will suffer at the controls of Kerry Collins. The most optimistic of Indy fans think Collins will do just enough to lead an already good Colts team to the playoffs by limiting his mistakes and just getting out of the way. But for those who watched him play in preseason, it’s clear that his arm strength and accuracy have declined, and he has a habit of hanging onto the ball too long when he’s in the pocket. He’s not a savior: he’s a 38-year-old stopgap.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Collins and the Colts will be so bad this year that Indy will be selecting in the top 10 come April. And if they get close enough to sniff the No. 1 overall pick, Bill Polian might want to do whatever’s necessary to land Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who could give the Colts another decade’s worth of solid quarterback play a la the 49ers in the 80s and 90s with Joe Montana and Steve Young. In essence, the Colts could find their Tim Duncan and keep right on rolling long after Manning makes his final pass attempt.
Of course, I’m assuming a lot here. I’m assuming that this neck injury will ruin Manning’s career or at the very least, take a couple of years off it. He’s 35 right now and had planned on playing into his 40s. Thus, if Peyton is able to return in a couple of months to a year, there’s no reason to draft Luck and pay him to sit the bench for five seasons.
I’m also assuming that Luck will even be worth taking at No. 1 and/or that he’ll pan out. Don’t forget that everyone thought Jake Locker was a shoe-in to be drafted No. 1 overall before he failed to impress his senior year at Washington. I don’t think Luck will suffer the same woes as Locker did, but you never know. (An injury would certainly derail Luck’s draft status as well.)
There are also worse teams in the NFL than the Kerry Collins-led Colts — way worse, in fact. If the Bills wind up with the top overall pick next season, why would they trade it to the Colts when they could just take Luck instead? A Luck-to-Indy scenario probably only works if the Colts wind up with the No. 1 pick and chances are, they won’t.
But while I realize this is all a major reach, it’s something to chew on heading into the new season and the David Robinson/Tim Duncan outcome got me thinking about Manning’s situation with the Colts. After all, who saw Duncan landing with the Spurs at the start of the ‘97 NBA season?