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Teams decide between old, young players

By Sam Ellison
On March 21, 2012


Every year, upon the opening of the free agent market and before the trade deadlines, teams scramble to find themselves a new batch of talent. These mid and off-season acquisitions have the potential to completely turn around the prospects for an organization. 

Last year in the NBA, we saw Carmelo Anthony go from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks at the trade deadline, which is turning out to be an interesting story. 

This week, Mario Williams signed an exorbitant six-year, $100 million contract with the Buffalo Bills, which may give them the edge they need to make a deep playoff run next season. Portuguese heartthrob Cristiano Ronaldo left the majestic Old Trafford stadium where Manchester United plays to lace up for Real Madrid, a powerhouse in Spain's La Liga

I was watching "Step Brothers" this weekend, and Dale had just mentioned to his father a quote about the old bull and the young calf. And it got me thinking, all sexual innuendos aside-which is worth it in the realm of new acquisitions for sports teams: the old bull or the young calf?  

Anthony, Williams and Ronaldo all share this young calf status and these teams are receiving players at the top of their game. Ergo, there is little to worry about them underperforming. 

However, the latest story that has been lighting up ESPN like a Tebow comeback drive is that of the old bull named Peyton Manning. Manning, who virtually rewrote the quarterback record books leading the Indianapolis Colts to several playoff appearances, four MVP awards and a Lombardi trophy to put the icing on the cake, was released from the Colts and has found a new home in Denver.

The sole reason the Colts got rid of Manning-at least in my opinion-is because they have a strong young calf in sight. His name is Andrew Luck. 

The 6-foot-4, 234-pound quarterback from Stanford has a similar build to Manning and an extremely similar skill set. Scouts say that he has everything an organization looks for in a quarterback-the build, the arm and the smarts. CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang has described Luck as the best prospect he has ever scouted. Sounds like pretty high praise if you ask me.

Luck was the runner-up in the Heisman voting two years in a row, a two-time Pac 12 Player of the Year award winner and a 2011 Maxwell and Walter Camp Award winner. And just a few weeks ago, Luck signed a contract with Nike. In other words, this young calf is a shoo-in for success at the next level. 

If all goes as planned, according to the Colts organization, they will select Luck with the first pick on April 26 at the 2012 NFL Draft ahead of another top quarterback prospect in Baylor grad Robert Griffin III. In turn, Luck will cut the tape to mark a new era in Indianapolis-an era without Peyton Manning, the man who made the Colts a household name.

Now, the young calf will have the weight of the old bull on his shoulders-and not just the weight of Manning's unprecedented numbers, but the weight of eager fans that are accustomed to excellence. 

The question is can the young calf live up to the old bull?  No one expects Luck to come in and win a Super Bowl in his first season, but a playoff appearance?  Sure. If Tim Tebow, whose career completion percentage is below 50 percent, can lead the Broncos into the playoffs, then many believe that Luck can do the same. 

Historically, the young calf has made the old bull look, well, old. Most recently, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre on the depth chart, and once it was his turn, he was wildly successful, winning the Packers a Super Bowl in 2011. 

Before Rodgers, when Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury, the young calf Tom Brady stepped in and, before long, most of us forgot that Bledsoe had even existed. 

The old bull in Tiger Woods hasn't scared anyone since, well, you know what. But the young calf in Rory McIlroy has not backed down, as he just claimed the new world No. 1 ranking in golf. The old bull Tiger seems to have lost a step from his days of dominating the field as a young calf.

Back in 2010, the Celtics acquired the old bull Shaquille O'Neal, which failed after he was plagued by various injuries and, quite frankly, old age. 

The last time the old bull truly got the job done was when quarterback Kurt Warner proved he was more prepared than the young calf in Matt Leinart and led the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII. 

Other than that, the old bull is too slow to keep up for the most part, too beat up to stay healthy and just straight up too old. The old bull takes the role of "mentor," imparting the ins and outs of the game to the young calf. And as much as we love what the old bull did for us in the past, we know that we have to part ways eventually. 

Once the hairline recedes, the knees give out and he can't throw as fast or jump as high, it is getting close to that time where an old bull is doomed to be replaced by a young calf. 

Still, it will be interesting to see how Manning handles his new status as an old bull. Given his multiple neck surgeries and his 36th birthday coming up, will Manning be able to make all the throws he used to make?  Will he be able to adapt to a new system, new players and new staff?  Will Manning be able to play well into his later years like Brett Favre or will he anti-climactically fade into the shadows as Drew Bledsoe did?

I guess only time will tell, but with gray hair and old joints working against him, it is only a matter of time before the curse of the old bull runs its course.

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