Let’s take a trip back to the year 1998. Bill Clinton was President, Google was incorporated out in California, Hugo Chavez became President of Venezuela, Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America, France beat Brazil in the World Cup, Saving Private Ryan swept the box-office and The Big Lebowski did not, sixteen year old Britney Spears debuted with “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” etcetera. Another budding star had his debut in 1998: Peyton Manning.

Since the NFL birth of Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts have only lost their first four games twice. Once back in his rookie season and this season, as a helpless Manning watches from the observation box. Manning started all sixteen games in 1998, en route to a 3-13 record. A drastic 13-3 turnaround in 1999 and the rest is history.

The Most Valuable Player Award is given at the end of the year to the player who is considered most valuable in the league for that particular season. It does not indicate that this player must actually play in any games. If Sean Taylor could posthumously earn a trip to the Pro-Bowl, as he well deserved, why couldn’t Peyton Manning win the 2011 MVP?

You could argue that even with a healthy Manning the Colts would still be 0-4 because their defense has been so dreadful. However, the Colts defense has never been a top-10 defense. Additionally, a healthy Manning can put all his weapons to work and more points on the board. Curtis Painter taking snaps is the equivalent of a 10-year-old driving his dad to work. Sure, he’s seen his dad drive many times, probably has a decent understanding of how the car operates, but he’s never been behind the wheel, and will most likely maim and/or kill helpless pedestrian senior citizens.

By comparison, when Tom Brady went down for the season in 2008, Matt Cassel stepped in and threw for 3,693 yards, throwing 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record. The Colts won’t come close to 11 wins this season without Manning. No disrespect to Mr. Brady, who I’d rather watch for four quarters than Manning, but Manning is a much greater loss to the Colts than Brady was to the Pats. Where Brady stepped into the Pats starting job after Drew Bledsoe got hurt, the Colts drafted Manning first overall and have custom built their team around him.

Who is Clyde Christensen? Exactly. If you were to ask me who the Colts’ offensive coordinator was I’d tell you Peyton Manning. Technically I’d be wrong, but really I’d be right. Manning has run that offense his way since he arrived in Indy. He has an unmatched ability to read defenses and make adjustments seconds before receiving the snap. Manning has stayed on to assist during games, but it’s his adjustments on the field that are missed.

If the Colts continue to struggle this season, Peyton should seriously be a top contender for the MVP award. He should also take a lesson from former Redskins All-Pro Tackle Chris Samuels, who also had trouble with his neck, and retire. Manning has already accomplished more than most can dream, he will undoubtedly join the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, and if he continues he could permanently injure himself for the rest of his life. He’s proven he has other talents outside of football, is it really worth the risk?