Succession Planning Best Practices: The Colts’ Contingency Plan on the Fly

Posted by Rock LaManna

Succession Planning Best Practices: The Colts’ Contingency Plan on the Fly
I’ve blogged on a number of succession planning best practices, but one that I truly think comes to the top of the list is the need for having a contingency plan.   Look no further than the saga of Peyton Manning as a prime example.

As many of you probably know, Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL has ever known.  He led to his team to a Super Bowl title in 2006-2007 and was named the MVP, and also captured a record 4 regular-season MVP titles.  He became the face of the Indianapolis Colts franchise and captivated the state, no small feat for a region that lives and breathes basketball.

But in sports, the stories of a beloved player nearing the end of his career generally ends with disappointment and heartbreak.  Many times, if a player’s skills haven’t considerably diminished, they may be cut loose strictly based on financial reasons.

In the case of Peyton Manning, one would assume management knew the twilight of his career was close at hand.  Peyton is 36 years old, an age when one’s quickness, instincts and strength begin to dull.  Even though his play was head and shoulders above much of the league, there was no denying that Father Time would win this eventual war. 

One could only assume that a succession plan had been established by owner Jim Irsay several years prior.  Most likely, the team had planned on drafting a quarterback, and then letting him mature similar to the way Aaron Rodgers did under Brett Favre’s tutelage.

However, fate had different plans.

When the Contingency Plan Must Kick-In

I mentioned earlier the inevitability of Father Time wearing down Peyton Manning, but sometimes the body gives out sooner than expected.  Peyton endured a neck injury last year, one that required four neck surgeries, and sat the illustrious quarterback on the sidelines.

Suddenly, any previous succession plan was put in doubt.  The injury was so severe that many believed Manning should retire immediately.  There was, and still is, significant doubt that he can play again. 

His replacement, Curtis Painter, was thrown to the wolves, and endured epic struggles during the team’s horrible 2-14 season.  The sole consolation:  The number-one pick in the draft, and a shot at All-American Andrew Luck of Stanford.

It was at this point the Colts adapted what I’ll call a “contingency plan on the fly.”  Peyton’s successor was suddenly available, and considering the performance of rookies in the league these days, he probably wouldn’t need much time to adapt to the NFL. 

Knowing that Peyton was due a $26 million bonus, they released him from the organization in a tearful farewell.  He was quickly scooped up by the Denver Broncos, where he will resume his playing days.

Did all of these events unfold as part of a master contingency plan?  Maybe and maybe not.  My guess is the Colts had carefully thought through the possibility of a career-ending injury several years ago, especially with that $26 million bonus on the table.  They probably had decided that if something drastic were to happen, they would try and reach a compromise with Peyton, otherwise they’d have to cut him free.

Naturally, there was some improvisation along the way.  But I believe that a contingency plan of some sort was initiated once the unexpected happened.  As we all know, the unexpected may not happen all the time, but it certainly does happen.

Do you think the Colts organization saw this coming, and had a contingency plan in place?

(photo by kyleburning)

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Topics: Succession Planning