Welcome to the NFL’s newest melodrama?? Hopefully it will be a softer landing for Peyton Manning than it was for Brett Favre before him, Joe Montana before that, and Johnny Unitas before that. The end of a tenure for a future Hall of Fame quarterback being messy is more the norm than we care to admit. Who could forget the dreadful images of Joe Namath wearing Los Angeles Rams blue. Warren Moon as a Seattle Seahawk. This will end badly for Peyton Manning and Indianapolis Colts fans as he will depart and wear another team’s colors next year.
Fans of Peyton Manning want to see him retire rather than play for another but the fact of the matter is he still wants to play. A competitor’s fire doesn’t go out just because a team’s fanbase doesn’t want to lose him. We saw this with the harsh divorce between Brett Favre and Green Bay before he moved on to the New York Jets. The same thing when Joe Montana was healed from the multi-wounds meted out from Leonard Marshall in the 1990 NFC Championship, before leaving San Francisco some two years later.
However each of those situations had soon to be NFL MVP heir apparents in Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers already in tow. In this instance, the only thing we know for sure is that a massive rebuilding process is sure to begin with the drafting of QBAndrew Luck of Stanford. The tell tale signs were there with the surprising firing of Bill Polian, who drafted Manning in ’98 and shaped a team around him to maximize his abilities. Peyton’s staple was everywhere within the framework of the Colts offense. Receivers and running backs that were heady and steady performers became the norm with the Colts constantly drafting low. Joseph Addai playing out fakes with Manning were as important as his ability to run and catch. Same with finding quick, smart receivers like Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie, and Pierre Garcon’ as Marvin Harrison retired and Reggie Wayne aged. The players had to be able to match and adjust to Peyton’s audibles.
With the telling shot of releasing Polian, the veil of protection and autonomy surrounding Peyton has vanished in an instant. Unprotected by management, we hear two out of character outbursts from what has been the preeminent franchise in terms of off field incidents. Think about it a second…. Can you remember any incidents since Manning and Tony Dungy were called out by former kicker Mike Vanderjagt?? How many years ago was that?? First Peyton voices his opinion of how difficult it’s been to see many colleagues let go in the front office. Than to hear an opinion back from none other than Colts owner Robert Irsay toward Manning. Are you kidding?? Through the media??
This has been the Colt’s and the league’s golden child. Now we hear Manning take the high road explaining they have to ‘handle things in-house in a professional fashion’. The act of this coming through the media illustrates a loss in status and respect toward Manning.
As for Peyton Manning the man… His missing the whole season may have eroded his stance with Colts management. He’s sought multiple opinions to get himself back on the field to no avail in 2011. Yet his ego will take a serious blow this Sunday, when he sits in a stadium he built, and watch his little brother Eli take on his AFC arch nemesis Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI. The competitor within will be seething although he will deflect any questions that come his way. Inside we’re sure he will be thinking “Why can’t the Super Bowl be anywhere else?”
For those that thought he would retire, Peyton would have pulled the plug before the Polian firing. He knows / knew what was coming and that is why he’s standing there watching the front office carnage up close, wondering if he will meet a similar demise. Yet anyone in business will tell you…. You don’t keep a pillar of a former regime in place when trying to establish a new management system or style in senior management. Just ask former Oakland Raider coach Hue Jackson. Peyton Manning as that last standing pillar will fall next month when he’s due a $28 million dollar roster bonus. Right now, quarterback starved teams like the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and such have to be salivating at having a shot at a future Hall of Famer. Even for a few years. The only question will be will they need to orchestrate a trade to beat the competition, or wait for the imminent release and free agency scramble for him.
Remember how you felt when you saw that Sports Illustrated article with Joe Montana and Marcus Allen first pictured in Kansas City red for the first time?? We’ll see something like that with Manning if he’s cleared to play… bank on it
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