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Colt Quarterback Manning Isn't a Happy Camper

There's a big difference between Peyton Manning speaking up about an internal problem with the Indianapolis Colts and Terrell Owens complaining about the way the game plan was conceived and implemented with the Dallas Cowboys. You can send a guy like Owens away and survive. But as Manning goes, so go the Colts. I would not expect a Matt Cassel-like scenario regarding Jim Sorgi, so if the Indy quarterback took flight, this franchise would, for the time being anyway, be lost.

Manning is obviously like a coach on the field. In an era where quarterbacks get the plays from the sidelines, which in turn has received them from upstairs, he comes the closest to a complete field general, in the tradition of a Johnny Unitas or Joe Namath. Manning comes to the line of scrimmage in the Colts' no-huddle offense with a few different play possibilities that are piped in to him, then examines the defensive alignment and more or less decides which play is going to be run. It can be argued that he is in more command of his offense than any NFL quarterback in recent years. With his football pedigree, and his undeniable instincts, there is little doubt that last year's Most Valuable Player could call all the plays in the huddle (or at the line of scrimmage, as it were) if he had to.

That's why it is so important that the coaching staff keep up with him, rather than the other way around. And that is why fans of the Colts have to be disappointed in what they have heard from their peerless leader at the beginning of "organized team activity" (OTA) this past week.

"I think the communication has been pretty poor in my opinion. Somebody says one thing, then somebody else says another thing. I'm not sure everybody's on the same page in this building." That's what Manning told reporters the other day. It's particularly disconcerting because that kind of thing is just not in Manning's personality. It must be pretty bad there.

The Colts are part of a trend that no doubt will continue, in which a coach who knows he is leaving will designate a successor ahead of time, and who will take over when the time comes, affecting what is hopefully a seamless transition. In this case it is Jim Caldwell, the former head man at Wake Forest, who spent seven years as an assistant head coach under Tony Dungy. But Caldwell's staff is in a state of flux. Offensive coordinator Tom Moore, who has done such a great job with Manning, and Howard Mudd, the offensive line coach, have stepped down because of issues with the way their pension plan has been re-structured, and although they can come back to become "consultants," which is owner Jim Irsay's intention, that will not happen until August 2, and that still is uncertain.

Maybe this was unforeseen, but that's the way things work in the NFL, one supposes. The guy on the hot seat is Caldwell, who was 26-63 in his only stretch as a head coach with the Demon Deacons and is much more dispensable than his quarterback. The assistants, especially Moore, who had a magical relationship (eleven years) with Manning, would have been pillars the new coach could lean on. But at this point, who knows?

This is the kind of thing that sometimes transforms a team from division front-runner to one fighting for its wild card life against the Titans, Jaguars and Texans, in a very tough AFC South.

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