The Indianapolis Colts are clearly embarking on a wholesale rebuild in 2012, canning vice chairman Bill Polian, general manager Chris Polian and now head coach Jim Caldwell since the end of the regular season.
It's clear the goal is to ensure that the 2012 Colts bear little resemblance to their 2011 version, which ended the year at 2-14, but it's likely that they won't look like the Colts of the years prior to that, either.
First is the issue of quarterback Peyton Manning. The future Hall of Famer spent the 2011 season on the bench after undergoing two offseason neck surgeries and is still feared to be unhealthy enough to play in 2012.
Regardless of Manning's health, what is more clear now than ever is that the Colts will be using their No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, and chances are he will be the starter for the team come September.
Reports have already surfaced that Colts owner Jim Irsay is fully committed to drafting Luck in April. Considering the team's very real need at quarterback and the fact that they are unlikely to find themselves in such an advantageous position to draft one with as much talent as Luck, they'd be foolish to not take him.
There was some speculation that Caldwell would be retained as head coach, at Manning's request. However, now that new general manager Ryan Grigson has decided it was time for the team to move on without him, Manning's status with the team is even more tenuous.
Manning is owed a $28 million roster bonus on March 8, and according to Adam Schefter, the two sides won't be reaching an agreement to restructure the contract. That means that Manning will either see the entirety of that money at that time and remain with the Colts, or he won't get the money and will be released from his contract.
With Caldwell still in the fold, it seemed more likely the former would be the ultimate outcome. But now that he's out, it seems like Manning will be heading out the door as well.
There's still the issue of Manning's health to deal with. As of now, it's unknown just how far along Manning is in his recovery.
The Colts may decided to let Manning go simply because he's not going to be healthy enough to play in 2012. There's little reason to pay him the large sum of money he's owed to sit on the bench if they have a quarterback with Luck's talent ready to start this year.
Regardless of Manning's health, the Colts have clearly determined that starting fresh is the best way to create distance between themselves and their dismal 2011 season.
With Manning nearing the end of his career, it wouldn't be throwing the baby out with the bathwater if he's the next vestige of the old guard to be cast off. They'd simply be moving on, albeit a bit early than they had anticipated, and doing so with a talented rookie quarterback.
While it's not the ideal situation for Manning, it just may be the thing the Colts need to do in order to truly move forward.