A post a while back on Peyton’s release from the Colts.
On Wednesday March 7, the dust settled, and it became official. Peyton Manning and the Colts split ways after 13 seasons. Manning, the face of the franchise since he was drafted #1 overall from Tennessee by the Colts in 1998, was released based off the pessimistic prognosis by Colts physicians. Manning, who underwent four neck surgeries in his career, swore that he could continue his football career and wished to retire as a Colt.
However, owner Jim Irsay, after firing long-time respected General Manager Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell following a woeful 2-14 season, left the decision on whether or not to keep Manning to himself. Manning was owed 28 million dollars on March 8th, ultimately forcing Irsay to make a decision to go in a different direction. A direction that seemed near impossible 3 months ago, but now, this fate is a grim reality. Where do the Colts go now? Most likely, the Colts will draft Stanford’s quarterback Andrew Luck. But the even bigger question remains- what is next for Manning?
Tearfully, Manning stated, “I’ve been a Colt for almost all of my adult life, but I guess in life and in sports, we all know that nothing lasts forever. Times change. Circumstances change. And that is the reality of playing in the N.F.L.” As you can imagine, the mood in the press conference was very somber as Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning both fought back tears while speaking. Manning, being the ultimate professional, thanked Irsay and the city of Indianapolis for believing in him and providing him and his family a home for the past 13 years. Most of the way through the press conference, many thought this was a retirement press conference and the last time we would see Manning; however, #18 had different plans for his career.
Manning adamantly stated that he was far from done with the game of football. If the personal physicians he saw said he could play again once the nerves are regenerated, why shouldn’t he? A 35 year old Peyton Manning 70% healthy is still comparably better than 50% of the league. Just ask the Arizona Cardinals if they would take a chance on Manning (As I speak, Arizona execs are probably speaking to Peyton’s agent saying name any price). Even more compelling, they are not the only team interesting in courting Manning this offseason. Seattle, Miami, Kansas City, and Washington all expressed extreme interest in Manning as it looks he would have the pick of the litter if he proves to be as healthy as his physicians state. But what if this was the end for Manning?
No one could debate that Manning is a first ballot hall of famer. He is the only player in NFL history with four league MVP’s. Manning has a record eight consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins and has only had two seasons (1998 & 2001) where he didn’t have at least 10 wins. Manning is used as the perennial bar for elite quarterback play in the NFL as few quarterbacks play the mind games and give defensive players and coordinators nightmares like Manning. There is only one smudge on Peyton’s illustrious resume: playoff proficiency. Manning is 9-10 in the playoffs all-time with a less than Peyton-esque performances in most games. Whether he chooses to retire or continue to play and eventually break nearly every quarterback record in the books or simply choose to continue to make ridiculous MasterCard and Papa John’s commercials, Peyton Manning will be remembered as a class act who innovated so much in the NFL and ultimately raised the bar to a place where few will ever come close to again.