It’s one of the toughest about things being a owner, coach, fan, athlete or anyone else who has a passion or involvement in sports. The day that player becomes a part of your team can be one filled with excitement, joy and hope. Along the way can be a roller coaster ride filled with the unfolding of historic plays leading to memorable victories, record setting performances, heart breaking losses and agonizing defeats. If you’re lucky you get to experience the pinnacle of sports and that’s winning a championship immortalizing your team among the greats of history.
The era of Peyton Manning as a Indianapolis Colt experienced all of the above with the apex coming in the form of a Super Bowl XLII championship. In the 14 years Manning wore the Colts trademark blue and white after being the number one overall pick back in 1998, he established himself as arguably the greatest quarterback of his era and a certain first ballot hall of famer when he eventually calls it a career.
Manning took the Colts from the ranks of the laughing stocks of the league to a perennial playoff team and one of the toughest forces to be reckoned with in the 2000’s. He carved up defenses with precision like accuracy. He made good receivers in to great ones and made great ones into pro bowlers. His ability to play the position while practically doing the job of an offensive coordinator was unlike anything most of us have ever seen before.
But like all athletes the reality of father time began to set in. Manning got older and the injuries, despite costing him zero games, started to take their toll. Doctors performed three neck surgeries in a 18 month period and Manning after not missing a game in his entire career sat out the entire 2011 season while trying to recuperate from the wear and tear of a physically violent career.
When a situation like Manning’s rears its ugly head, we’re all reminded of the sometimes ugly business side of sports where everyone is replaceable and executives begin to really look at the players as dollar figures.
This was the case for Colts owner Jim Irsay. He had to make a decision. Commit $28 million dollars in guaranteed money to the now 36 year old Manning despite not having a clear outlook on his future ability to play the game at a high level or turn the page and bring a franchise defining era to its end.
On Tuesday, March 7, 2012 at an emotion filled conference, the Colts announced that decision. A 14 year chapter was coming to an end and for the first time since the 1997 season, Manning would no longer grace the Colts sideline. It was like Michael Jordan leaving the Chicago Bulls or Wayne Gretzky leaving the Edmonton Oilers. It was a “I remember where I was when…” moment.
In a perfect world, Peyton Manning would’ve only played for one team in his career. That would’ve been the story book, Hollywood ending to a spectacular career. Unfortunately this isn’t a story or a movie but sometimes cruel reality. Between the three neck surgeries, Mannings age, money saved and quarterback prospects available at the top of the draft, the Colts absolutely made the right decision. Not the easiest or most popular decision but the right one.
Both sides will move on. We have not seen the last of Manning in a football uniform as he looks to usher in a new era of success for a different NFL franchise and chances are blue chip prospect Andrew Luck will achieve many years of success and establish his own era of Indianapolis Colts football as their new quarterback much like Manning before him.
As the old saying goes, “all good things must end”. Too bad for Manning and the Colts it wasn’t when or how we all thought it would.
Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.
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