When the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning parted ways last week, there was genuine sadness on the part of Colts owner Jim Irsay and the quarterback.
Manning had become the face of the franchise and he was more responsible than any one individual for turning the Colts into a perennial contender. Before Manning was drafted in 1998, the Colts had often languished as a bad joke of a team
In fact, many Baltimoreans and non-Indianapolis residents still resented the city and the franchise because of the way the Colts had left Babe Ruth’s hometown in the dark of night during a 1984 snowstorm to move to Indianapolis. That move largely occurred because Irsay’s father Robert had run the team into the ground and Baltimore fans showed their dismay by failing to purchase game tickets to watch the sadsack team play.
The arrival of Manning signaled an end to that angst. Baltimore had kidnapped its own franchise when the Browns left Cleveland and moved to Baltimore in 1996 to become the Ravens. Most — not all — Baltimore football fans decided to let the Colts go at that point.
The Colts had no logical choice besides letting their savior go last week. Andrew Luck is one of the highest rated quarterbacks to be available in the draft since Manning came out of Tennessee in 1998. If you were in Irsay’s position, would you want a young and brilliantly talented quarterback who could play for 10-to-15 years, or a 35-year-old coming off a neck injury?
With Manning poised to sign with a new employer at the start of free agency, the Colts will never find themselves in the position the Green Bay Packers were in during Brett Favre’s latter years with that franchise.
Favre’s retirement talk began as early as 2003 after the team suffered a home playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons following the 2002 season. The chorus grew louder and louder each year. “Am I coming back or am I retiring,” Favre would ask himself. It seemed he would hold the entire football-loving nation hostage.
Manning probably never would have done that had he stayed with the Colts. Now, he’ll no longer have the opportunity to do so had that thought crossed his mind.
It probably did. Manning is all business as he talks to interested suitors. When the free agency signing period begins March 15, he will most likely be poised and ready to sign right away. He is not going to hem and haw and worry, like Favre seemed to do with his retirement talk every year.
That’s Manning’s way of saying he was disgusted with Favre’s annual routine and that he would never behave that way. A football-loving nation will show its gratitude in the years to come.
Pro-Football-Reference — Peyton Manning