No surprise. The Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis will officially end today, when the Colts announce that they’ve released him. It’s the correct move, yet still a gutsy one.
Much credit to Jim Irsay who has steadily made the moves this winter necessary to rebuild the franchise. A new GM. A new coach. And now a new quarterback. Perhaps if Peyton came back healthy next year, the team would still have another playoff run or two in them. But they would do so as weak contenders with salary cap issues that would prevent them from mounting a true challenge for a third Super Bowl appearance.
Irsay is wisely chucking the next two years to reboot the roster, hoping that smart moves in the next 2-3 drafts will set the team up for another decade-long run of winning. That strategy is not without risks. Andrew Luck could be a bust, or suffer a career-ending injury before he can establish himself as a franchise quarterback. Or Luck may live up to the hype, but the rest of the team’s draft and free agent choices may fail, leaving him as an elite player surrounded by mediocrity.
While there aren’t ever any givens in professional sports, moving on is the right, smart thing to do.
I don’t know that the relationship between Manning and the organization has been as drama-laden as the media has made it seem. There’s a part of me that thinks both Manning and Jim Irsay have been having a little fun with the media, ginning up controversy where there was none. Regardless, I think things will end on a good note today, with both men saying all the right things.
We moved to Indianapolis in 2003. The first home game that season, against then arch-rival Tennessee, was blacked out locally despite the Colts playing in the smallest stadium in the NFL. Nine seasons later Peyton Manning leaves behind a team that appeared in two Super Bowls, built a new stadium, became as reliable a home sellout as any in the league, and were good for 10+ wins for over a decade. Today, the city is firmly a Colts and football town.
The Peyton Manning era was a glorious success. We’ll be fortunate if the Andrew Luck era comes even close to it.