Manning endorses Luck to Colts?


Manning endorses Luck to Colts?

If Indianapolis winds up with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Peyton Manning is OK with the team drafting Andrew Luck, Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian revealed on his weekly radio show Monday night.

Or did he?

"The bottom line is that if the right person is thereand it has to be the right personthen now is the time to make that choice," Polian said. "Peyton and I have spoken about that and he's OK with that."

There's a big difference between Manning proclaiming, "I'm totally fine with the Colts drafting Andrew Luck," and Polian declaring that Manning is in fact OK with it.

Manning is one of the most competitive players the league has ever seen, and unless he knows in his heart of hearts that he doesn't think he can play at an elite level again, I doubt that he would endorse the Colts drafting his immediate replacement.

The irony? When Luck was contemplating whether to enter the 2011 NFL Draft or return to Stanford for another season, it was Manning who advised Luck to return to school.

Manning had made the same decision 15 years prior.

In 1996, Manning finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy rankings and was presumed to be the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. He surprised everybody when he elected to return to Tennessee for his senior season.

Manning finished second in the 1997 Heisman voting (Charles Woodson), and his Volunteers fell to Nebraska 42-17 in the Orange Bowl.

Luck finished second in the Heisman voting a year ago, and led Stanford to a magical 12-1 season, culminating in an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

Like Manning in 1997, Luck was the consensus preseason favorite to win the Heisman this year, and despite Stanford's recent loss to Oregon, he is still a leading candidate.

Stanford's signal-caller is widely considered the most NFL-ready college quarterback since Manning in '98. If the Colts are on the clock with the No. 1 pick, they can't possibly pass up on him can they?

Manning, the NFL-record four-time MVP, is recovering from multiple offseason neck surgeries, and although the Colts are hopeful that he can return as early as this season, there is reason to believe that Manning may never be able to play again.

Without their Super Bowl-winning quarterback, the Colts are 0-10 in 2011. The last time they started a season 0-10? 1997 -- the year before they selected Manning with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

After going 3-13 in his rookie season, the Colts have made the playoffs 11 of the past 12 seasons, including nine seasons in a row.

It seems as if the Peyton Manning Era is nearing an end in Indianapolis. It's only a matter of time before the Andrew Luck Era begins.

Apparently, Manning is okay with it.

Drew Shiller is a Web Producer at You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Oregon hires former Harbaugh assistant as new head coach


Oregon hires former Harbaugh assistant as new head coach

Oregon has hired Willie Taggart, who spent the last four seasons as head coach at South Florida, to take over the Ducks following the dismissal of Mark Helfrich.

Oregon formally announced Taggart's appointment Wednesday.

Taggart has led USF to an 18-7 record over the last two seasons, including a 10-2 mark this year. He also spent three seasons as coach of Western Kentucky, his alma mater, and was an assistant coach at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh.

Oregon fired Helfrich last week after the Ducks went 4-8. A news conference to formally introduce Taggart was set for Thursday.

"Oregon has a strong national presence and a proud recent history of playing among the nation's elite, and I look forward to the challenge of upholding the excellence," Taggart said in a statement. "I can't wait to get started."

Taggart, 40, is the first coach Oregon has hired from outside the program since 1976. The Ducks' previous three coaches, Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and Helfrich, were all assistants who were promoted.

Taggart will be the first black head football coach at Oregon. The length and terms of his contract with the Ducks were not immediately released.

Taggart was 16-20 at Western Kentucky, taking over when it was first transitioning to FBS. He went 7-5 in his last two seasons with the Hilltoppers and then moved to USF, not far from where he grew up in Bradenton, Florida.

It took two seasons and a change in offensive philosophy from more pro-style, West Coast schemes to a spread, but he now has the 25th-ranked Bulls rolling. They finished second in the American Athletic Conference East Division to Temple and will play South Carolina on Dec. 29 in the Birmingham Bowl.

Wednesday was the second straight day the AAC has lost one of its best coaches, and the third the conference has lost since Thanksgiving weekend. Temple's Matt Rhule was hired by Baylor on Monday and Tom Herman left Houston for Texas on Nov. 26.

Taggart had support from former NFL player and broadcaster Tony Dungy, whose son Eric played at USF in 2014 after transferring from Oregon.

Taggart served as running backs coach for Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09 and is credited with helping to recruit Andrew Luck. Harbaugh had recruited Taggart, a quarterback, to play at Western Kentucky under father Jack Harbaugh from 1995-98.

After taking over when Kelly left in 2013, Helfrich went 37-16 in his four seasons as head coach of the Ducks. He signed a contract extension in early 2015, and had an $11.6 million buyout.

Just two seasons ago, Oregon went to the first College Football Playoff championship game, led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

But the Ducks struggled this season with a five-game losing streak - the program's longest since 1996 - and finished at the bottom of the Pac-12 North with just two conference wins.

In a statement after his dismissal, Helfrich thanked his own family, the campus community, the fans, and his coaches and their families.

"Finally, to the players - thank you, and I love you," he said. "The future is bright for this young, talented team, and we will be supporting them and their new leadership."

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens also reportedly interviewed Boise State's Bryan Harsin and Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano before settling on Taggart. Kelly, now with the San Francisco 49ers, had said he was not interested in the job, as did former offensive coordinator Scott Frost, now at Central Florida.

For the immediate future, Taggart will need to reach out to Oregon's recruits. Defensive back Deommodore Lenoir and defensive end Langi Tuifua both previously withdrew verbal commitments. Offensive lineman John Vaka said he was no longer committed via Twitter on Tuesday.

Stanford star RB Christian McCaffrey will enter NFL Draft


Stanford star RB Christian McCaffrey will enter NFL Draft

STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

McCaffrey announced his decision on Wednesday, saying he has done everything he could in college and now wants to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.

"Since I was 6 years old, I've wanted to play in the NFL," he wrote in an announcement on Stanford's website announcing his decision. "It's been on every list of goals that I've ever written. Now, it's time to take that step. There's nothing more I can put on film."

McCaffrey was the runner-up last season for the Heisman Trophy when he broke Barry Sanders' NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season with 3,864 yards. He has proven to be the ultimate all-around threat with the ability to run with power between the tackles, use his elusiveness and speed running on the outside or as a receiver and being a dangerous returner.

He rushed for 2,019 yards and eight scores, added 645 yards receiving with two more touchdowns and had 1,200 yards and two TDs as a returner in 2015 when he narrowly lost the Heisman to Alabama's Derrick Henry.

McCaffrey was not as prolific this season as he was slowed in October by an injury. He still rushed for 1,596 yards and increased his yards per carry from 6.0 to 6.3 despite a less accomplished line and passing game. He also scored 16 touchdowns overall this season for coach David Shaw and the 16th-ranked Cardinal (9-3).

"I've talked to many in and out of the game and received advice from people whose opinions I greatly respect, including Toby Gerhart, who was here for a game this season. I took their feedback and came to a conclusion: I'm ready," McCaffrey wrote.

"I talked to Coach Shaw about everything. He completely agreed. Really, it just made sense. The opportunity is right in front of me. Simply put, this is the best time to live out my dream."

McCaffrey says he plans to return to school to get his degree.