Colts incredibly mortal without Manning

With a single tweet, Colts owner Jim Irsay set plenty of people in the AFC South thinking about a new world order.

Including me.

If Indianapolis in fact starts the season without Peyton Manning, it becomes just another team. Whether that team is quarterbacked by current options Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky or by a player to be determined -- Jim Sorgi? Kerry Collins? -- it will be absolutely mortal.

And against the mortal Colts, the first month of the season could be ugly. They open at Houston, then host Cleveland and Pittsburgh before a Monday night game at Tampa Bay. (Here is the news story that includes Bill Polian comments.)

While Irsay’s tweets can be painful stream-of-consciousness rambles or hardly-relevant-to-the-NFL song lyrics, I cannot remember a comment on team matters that was not absolutely serious.

He said they have to be "prepared: for early season "possibility" without Manning. Let's be sure we don't make that definitive while we consider the alternatives.

Irsay's followup tweet to the one casting doubt on Manning’s status asked fans what veteran option they like. We ask the same in this poll.

Painter looks incapable of handling defensive pressure or the pressure of playing in the league. Orlovsky was let go in Houston in favor of Matt Leinart. Sorgi’s coming off shoulder surgery and reportedly didn’t want to play for the Giants. Kerry Collins retired during the lockout, before the Titans had a chance to not be interested in him.

If that’s the four-pack of current options, it’s hard to be excited. Or optimistic.

Manning’s been an ironman and the Colts have lived with the risk of having an insufficient replacement if they need one. I’ve never had a problem with the overall strategy.

But if, since the lockout, they’ve been working as much on faith as expectation, it’s hard to understand them not exploring better alternatives already.

We’ve debated Manning’s value time and time again by talking of what the Colts would be without him. We might be close to seeing that instead of imagining it.