Choker. Can't-win-the-big-game quarterback. It was venomous.
But here's what those people need to know: Without Manning, the Colts are a 5-11 team. With Manning, they are a title contender every year. That's why the Colts are the favorite in Las Vegas to win it in 2010.
But Bill Polian has work to do.
The offensive line, which long has been pieced together with less-than-star players, was a weakness again in 2010. Polian has to fix that.
But as long as Manning is the quarterback, this is a playoff team.
So lay off the man. He's a four-time MVP, yet you'd think he was a bum from down the street based on the way some national writers pounce on him at every mistake.
QB: Manning is still playing at a high level, coming off his fourth MVP. But at some point the Colts have to start looking for a replacement. Curtis Painter is the backup, but he doesn't look like the long-term answer. Drew Willy is No. 3. They need help for the future.
RB: Joseph Addai bounced back from a sub-par 2008 season to play well in 2009. He trimmed down and seemed quicker. He is good in protection and can catch the ball out of the backfield, both keys in this offense. Donald Brown, who saw action as a rookie, will push for more time. Brown needs to handle the blitz better to stay on the field. He is explosive as a runner. Chad Simpson and Mike Hart offer good depth.
|Five possibilities: Colts|
Charles Brown, T, USC: This former tight end has great feet, which you need to play in this offense.
|Draft strategy: Colts|
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Team Needs: All 32 teams
WR: Reggie Wayne, despite his so-so showing in the Super Bowl, remains one of the NFL's best. He is a deep threat who understands what the Colts want. Pierre Garcon developed into a speed threat outside last season, while Austin Collie played well in the slot as a rookie. They should be even better with the experience. The return of Anthony Gonzalez from knee surgery, forcing him to miss all but one game, will only help this unit. It is a deep group now.
TE: Dallas Clark is the best pass-catching tight end in the NFL. He is a threat as an in-line tight end or split wide. He isn't a great blocker, but he is as good as any in the passing game. The other tight ends don't offer much. Gijon Robinson is the best blocker, while Jacob Tamme is a better receiver.
OL: Polian wasn't happy with the line's play in the Super Bowl, and called them out on it. You will see change here. The Colts have already released starting guard Ryan Lilja. He won't be the only starter to sit down. Left tackle Charlie Johnson was shaky as the starter and Tony Ugoh might not be the answer. Ryan Diem is adequate at right tackle. They need help, which is why Adam Terry was signed as a free agent. Center Jeff Saturday is getting up in the years and right guard Kyle DeVan was picked up off the scrap heap and isn't great. They did sign guard Andy Alleman in free agency. This is a unit that needs help in a big way.
DL: Ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis remain the stars of the front. They are both fast, explosive pass rushers. But they are small. And Freeney has had some injury troubles. He has to stay on the field. Mathis was a no-show in the Super Bowl. Raheem Brock is gone, so they need help behind those two. Defensive tackles Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson were pleasant surprises last season as both played well. The Colts also have high hopes for second-year player Fili Moala. Eric Foster is a good backup at tackle.
LB: The Colts re-signed free agent middle linebacker Gary Brackett, so he will once again play the middle. He is a good player who fits what the Colts want to do. Weak-side linebacker Clint Session has blossomed into one of the team's better defensive players, becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber player. The other spot could use an upgrade. Tyjuan Hagler and Freddie Keiaho are free agents and Philip Wheeler is just serviceable. But the Colts don't put a premium on this position in their defense.
DB: In Kelvin Hayden and second-year corner Jerraud Powers, the Colts have a very good tandem. Powers has a chance to be a Pro Bowl corner down the road. Jacob Lacey, who started some as a rookie, will be the nickel corner. The key in the back is the health of Sanders. He's had a tough time staying on the field. Melvin Bullitt has made the most of it, developing into a quality strong safety. Antoine Bethea is the free safety, the glue of the unit. They could use help at both corner and safety from a depth standpoint.