First off let me say this I am an Indianapolis Colts fan, always have been but for me Peyton Manning was the only quarterback I have known in a Colts uniform. I must say that the dealings on Wednesday really made me, well upset, and here is why. How is it that you let someone that has been committed day in and day out to your organization walk? The consummate professional Peyton Manning has done more for the city of Indianapolis, on and off the field than any one else to wear a Colts uniform. How do you replace that? Yes, I understand that there is a time and a place for change and yes I know the NFL is a business but is this how we reward loyalty? Is this how, when a man gives himself to a city and dedicates himself to the betterment of a team, he is ushered out?
Listen it does take more than just one man on a football team but if we look at the Colts last season, we can see the value of that one man. Peyton Manning took Indiana from a basketball state to a football state, he proved that he and the team are winners, year in and year out and for that the fans loved him. I don’t believe that any one man is bigger than his team and I don’t believe that any one man is bigger than the shield but if you had a poster boy for the NFL, much like Jerry West for the NBA logo, your man would be Peyton Manning.
So how in 14 years of unwavering service do you cut ties with a 4-time NFL MVP? I understand questions about health, age, future but as we all know there is no one that works harder to prepare than Manning. Steve Young said something that rings true, “as you get older you become wiser” you understand what your body can take and what it can’t, I believe that if Manning could not play he would retire, but he has stated “I don’t want to retire” and he is getting better everyday. Was it a surprise, maybe not to many but when it happens it is a shock and it will be more of a shock when #18 is wearing a new uniform and trust me there will be many suitors for a field general like Manning.
Now that I have ranted let’s get to the meat of this article. There are two problems I have with the way this situation was handled:
1. The relationship between Manning and Irsay has been documented, but if it was really Manning’s decision to stay and he made it clear he wanted to be in a Colts uniform until he retired, what happened?
The fact is Irsay had made this decision long ago, but he dragged it out for publicity sake. It was a testing of the waters if you will, to see what public opinion would be, to see how the fan base would react. Another fact is that it was never Peyton’s decision; this was more of a sitting down and talking him out of Indianapolis more than talking him into staying. Say what you will about Andrew Luck, whom I believe will be a good quarterback, but he is no Peyton Manning what he will become is yet to be seen. Irsay knew the direction he wanted to go he just had to convince Manning, the team and the fans it is the right way and for his sake he better hope it is.
2. The comment that “it was never about the money”
The fact is the NFL and all major sports are all about the money, that is why Montana, Rice, McNabb, Favre, etc… found other places to play and the list goes on and on. All teams look at their money situation and they weigh the options of if the player is worth that money or they need to be released and move on. In this case for Irsay health was an issue and also when you have a “can’t miss” prospect in Andrew Luck that you won’t be spending a lot of money on at least in the first few years you decide to make a move. In that case don’t say it was never about the money, because the fact is it’s always about the money. The sad thing is Manning, in an attempt to stay in Indianapolis, stated that he would play with an incentive laden contract, where the only money he would make is if he reached certain incentives in his contract. Again I state that this was an issue Irsay had decided a while back and no matter what was said it was a done deal.
It has been said that if anyone was untouchable in the NFL it was Peyton Manning and now as you see and hear if Manning can be cut there is no one that is safe. Check the stats 8 division titles, 1 Super Bowl championship, 4 NFL MVP’s you can’t just go out and find someone to put up those numbers no matter how “can’t miss” they may be. I understand that the Colts are rebuilding, overhaul in the front office, coaching staff but I ask what player you would want to be the foundation of that rebuilding. The fact is Manning at 90% is better than most at 100% but he and the Colts have moved on and after this article so will I.
To Jim Irsay I would say let’s hope that your calculated move turns out to be a good one if not you will be known as the one who cut Peyton Manning and we could see a replay of what happened in Baltimore many years ago with the Colts. Get the moving trucks ready?
To Peyton Manning I would say way to be the professional we have all seen over the years, way to exit gracefully and way to be the bigger man. Now, work harder, train faster and get ready to show Mr. Irsay and the Indianapolis Colts what you still have in the tank.
To Andrew Luck, good luck you are now trying to fill the shoes of a future Hall-of-Famer, take notes from players like Aaron Rodgers or Steve Young who had to come in and not only win over teammates but also fans. No doubt you have the talent just make sure that you have the will to win and never settle because for years to come you will be compared to #18. One more thing, remember this day and never forget it when the next “can’t miss” quarterback prospect is entering the draft because in 14 years it could just be you on that podium saying your goodbyes.