|So long, Peyton.|
First off, being the pessimist that I sometimes am, I thought Manning would never play again after watching the slow healing process last fall. Watching a Super Star fall so quickly and abruptly is unusual...but watching Manning fall, then rise to play for another team is something I didn't think I'd see. Now, it looks like it's inevitable.
Manning is about my age- a few months younger than me...so he's probably my favorite Colts QB. I grew up watching Pagel and Schlichter play grab ass for the Colts before Trudeau, Chandler and Harbaugh actually played quality football behind center for the franchise...but no one has defined the Colts as has Manning. He is the Indianapolis Colts.
Regardless if Mora was ranting his way through pressers, Dungy was leading the team like a consummate pro or Caldwell was stoically doing his job, Manning was succeeding...and in a big way. In the last year, I've heard more positives from fans of rival teams about Manning than I ever heard about him when he was torching the league...and those were honest opinions.
Manning was and is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever...and is the best Colts QB ever...even better than B'More legend Unitas.
But, Irsay has this one right...regardless of what happens from here on out. Manning's staggering price tag is just too much to legitimize a post-operative Pro-Bowler who turns 36 in less than a month. I turned 36 back in August...and have had a few surgeries. Granted, I'm not quite the athlete that Manning is...and I'm in just a little worse shape than he is. But each time I have surgery, it takes me longer to get over it. I had my shoulder operated on a few years ago...just for a bone spur and scope...and it took me a year to feel right. Even though Manning is throwing the ball well (according to grainy interwebnet videos), is he throwing it $28 million bonus and $90 million contract-well? Few completely-healthy 28 year old NFL pro-bowlers can do that.
I do think Manning will play at a high level next season...someplace. My only hope is that it's a team that I can actually casually root for (read as: not the Jets). What I don't know, and what no one knows is how long Manning will be able to play at a high level...If I were a betting man, I'd say two to three seasons is the absolute best-case scenario for that.
I love seeing Drew Brees succeed...and root for it. I'll do the same for Manning in almost any scenario. If you've been visiting this site for long, you know that I don't have the passion for the NFL that I do for the college game- specifically, the Colts are no where near my true love, My Boilers. But, the team that moved to my hometown when I was 9 years old, is the team that I'll be cheering for, regardless of whom is playing QB.
Today is the first time I've been sad about the loss of Manning. Maybe it's the fact that I talked to my 6 year old about him no longer being the Colts' QB this morning...or perhaps its just a lot more real when there's a press conference in the very near future about what's next for the Colts and Manning. Regardless of the reason why, this stinks.
But, it's time.