When discussing the Colts it has been common place to automatically associate the team with their greatest player, Peyton Manning. No player has done more for the team they played for, especially in the area of adding respectability, and turning a borderline NFL city to one of the best in the league. Prior to his arrival the team was mired in a losing mentality and had become associated with the lower level teams of the NFL while struggling to find an identity.
When it came time for a parting of the ways, fans were left in a state that was hard to define. I put myself in that category because my head knew there wasn’t any tenable way for him to remain, but also was excited about the possibilities of seeing the future with Andrew Luck at the helm. So did the team make the right decision by parting ways with Manning?
The simple and correct answer is a resounding yes. Sure, Manning was able to return to the Super Bowl twice in his four year sojourn apart from the Colts, but let’s not forget that the Colts didn’t do so bad either making it to the playoffs in 2012, 2013, 2014, and just fell short this season with Luck sustaining injuries that forced the team to miss his services for 9 games. If one were to use those standards than the answer would be no, the Broncos did significantly better with Manning, but we all know that making the Super Bowl isn’t the only factor. After all, there was no guarantee that Manning would be able to make it to the final game with the Colts as the team was facing major problems stemming from bad contracts and questions of who could protect him from getting further injured. Also in full fairness, many people were not sure if Manning would be able regain the strength he lost from multiple surgeries to even play again.
Statics show that through 4 years both players compare very similarly (or at least within range). Manning was able to get to two Super Bowls and win one, Luck was able to advance to the AFC Championship game. When it came to games against one another Luck was able best Manning three times, losing only once. As I stated prior, just saying Manning staying in Indy would produce X amount is very difficult to say because the team each were playing on through the 4 years was vastly different. This year Denver’s defense was so good they were able to compensate for Manning’s shortcomings due to injury/age, the Colts defense was bad the Jags put 50 on them, and the offensive line has been horrible since Luck has been under center. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Manning would be able to have continued success in Indianapolis.
I know many people blame Irsay for “Running Manning out of Indy” or “Telling him to take a hike”, both of those are over simplifications of the situation that both Manning and Irsay found themselves in thanks to one year without Manning. There was also the notion that Luck would come to Indy and just sit until Manning was done. Again, due to the nature of the NFL, that wouldn’t work and wouldn’t have been fair to either player. Personally, I thought the Colts and Irsay did the best the could in the situation they were in. They didn’t try to control where Manning could go, and they gave him a proper goodbye. Yes, that day was a low point for fans of the team, but it had to be done, and really I don’t know any better way that it could have happened as we have witnessed other stars leaving their team under much worse circumstance (Favre and the Packers come to mind). The Colts were able to take their quarterback for the future and Manning was able control the rest of his career as to how it would play out. I know that feelings were hurt and Irsay probably didn’t help the situation with some of the statements that he made that seemed to almost blame Manning for not having more success, but I tend to put those in the Jim Irsay “foot in mouth” syndrome. We know Irsay respects Manning and he just used bad wording to describe how they were trying to build this current team differently.
All-in-all, I think history will look at this event as favorable to both parties involved. Make no mistake, Luck has some catching up to do, but he has tried to forge his own path and not live in 18’s shadow. The best way for him to make a name for himself is to win some rings and create his own legacy. The way his first four years have played out has shown extreme highs and lows, but I think we all have seen enough to know that he is legit in terms of being the heir apparent. The 2016 season will be a big season for Luck and the Colts and will also be the first season since 1998 that the Sheriff won’t be a player in the league. He will be missed, but now is the time for Luck to reset after last season’s frustrations from injuries and inconsistent play to create his own legacy and maybe get his own statue some day next to the legend he replaced. There is room for both of them. Andrew Luck just has to go out and do it.