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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

The inevitable happened. The Indianapolis Colts announced that they planned to release Peyton Manning. The speculation is over. The drama can stop.


The horseshoe logo, the trademark of the Colts, must bring incredibly good luck. Players of Manning’s caliber and level of expectation enter the draft once every 10-20 years. The team able to draft such a player has to happen to be the worst team in the NFL in the year before that player enters the draft.

Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning, (perhaps one or two others) round out the very short list of quarterbacks who arrived to the NFL with transcendent expectations. Stanford’s Andrew Luck is another such player. What are the odds of the same Colts organization being in position to draft Manning and then have the opportunity to draft a player with comparable potential immediately after Manning’s time with the team ends? What are the odds of Manning, who had never missed a single game in his NFL career, suffering recovery woes from neck surgery that would keep him from playing in the 2011 season, Luck’s final season in college, resulting in the team being the worst in the league?

The horseshoe really is magical! 1


This is what happened in Indianapolis. This is why Peyton Manning not only became expendable to the Colts, but undesirable, even at a lower salary. The organization cannot effectively start over with Luck as their quarterback while carrying a contract worthy of Manning’s skills, even after the neck surgery recovery, while paying Andrew Luck first overall pick money. Luck’s development will be hindered further if, at the same time, Manning’s shadow is looming over Luck and/or preventing Luck from playing.

When a sports franchise comes to a crossroad like that of the Colts, it has to be prepared to make difficult decisions in the best interests of the organization. Someone had to go. The writing was on the wall several months ago with the firings of longtime Colts general manager Bill Polian and Head Coach Jim Caldwell, a longtime assistant of former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy. As reported, these were two of Manning’s proponents within the organization. Team owner Jim Irsay became the president, emperor and king of the Colts.

Someone has to go. 2

Unlike many high profile departures in sports, Manning’s release is not a shock to anyone. It became clear, late in the regular season, his rehabilitation from neck surgery would not happen quickly enough for Manning to be able to play last year. Team owner Jim Irsay gradually dropped subtle hints to the public. Speculation was rampant about where Peyton Manning may go.

When a beloved sports figure is pushed out of town, often the owner or management is portrayed as the bad guy in local media. The player is often portrayed in a sympathetic manner. This incident was not exception.

Irsay’s actions and his words via Twitter may have appeared to be callous, harsh, and out of touch with his fans. But the truth is that, in light of the $28 million due Peyton Manning on March 8th, Irsay had no choice but to give Manning his walking papers.

This would have really made fans in Indianapolis angry. 3

Now that the emotional press conference is over and tears have been shed, most fans want to know what’s left for Peyton. Several teams, such as the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, and New York Jets, appear to be very badly in need of a quarterback. Then again, if Manning is close to his old form, all but three or four teams, such as New England and New Orleans, may find themselves interested in Manning’s services. There is sure to be a bidding war. The competitive landscape of the NFL is sure to change.

Regardless of what happens, today was a sad day in the world of sports. It was a passing. While I am confident that Manning, if healthy, will have success beyond his days with the Colts, the NFL will not ever be the same.

Who didn't see pictures like this coming? 4

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