THE biggest story in the NFL isn't the playoffs or the Super Bowl. It's Peyton Manning and his long-term future with the Indianapolis Colts and the NFL. This story will be an emotional one for fans. As I've always stated, there are more Peyton Manning fans in Indianapolis than Indianapolis Colts fans. Season ticket holders dish out big money to watch a healthy No. 18 play, period.
No healthy No. 18. No motivated fanbase.
Plus, there is the sentimental attachment many of us have towards Big P, or 'Pete' as some call him. We all want to see him win another ring, which would likely cement his legacy as the greatest all-time. Personally, I think that legacy is already cemented, and the 2-14 Manningless Colts of 2011 helped pour the concrete.
But regardless of whatever sentimentality or emotional attachments we all have towards Manning, the reality is that the Colts absolutely must part ways with him before March 8th. It is on that date that the Colts are obligated to pay him $28 million dollars for the 2012 season. If the Colts keep him after that date, then that means their cap situation for 2012 will be completely and utterly screwed. There will be little-to-no talent on this team capable of helping future quarterback Andrew Luck to grow and development.
Yes, that's right. Andrew Luck. The quarterback you are going to watch play next year! Not Peyton Manning.
The news yesterday, via Chris Mortensen of ESPN, is that the Colts will draft Luck No. 1 overall in 2012. Drafting Luck No. 1 means Luck will play Week One. Suggesting anything else is silliness. And no, you shouldn't believe anything Luck, Manning, or even Jim Irsay when they talk publicly about the both quarterbacks coexisting on the same roster. The reality is when you draft a once-in-a-blue-moon prospect like Luck No. 1, he plays. He plays immediately. He plays because he is now the franchise quarterback, not Manning.
For those of you out there who think that Manning can renegotiate his deal with Irsay, that he can move the March 8th deadline back a bit so that the numbers can get worked out, sorry. That's not happening. We either have Manning and his team-killing $28 million salary in 2012, or we don't.
Re questions about Manning/Colts moving back 3/8 date for $28 million option, NFLPA tells me "it can't happen." Complicated language.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) January 7, 2012
Now, for a moment, forget the money.
Forget the deadlines.
Forget about Andrew Luck.
Forget that, right now, it's likely Peyton can never be healthy enough to play the game again. Just assume, for this next portion, that he's healthy.
Focus solely on two very important, very real facts.
1) Peyton Manning will be 36-years-old in March. He has, maybe, two years of football left in him. He's a competitive guy who wants to win another ring now!
2) The Colts roster is a train wreck. They are now in a rebuilding phase, going younger and have some very strict salary cap issues to contend with.
Indianapolis will not content for a Super Bowl anytime soon, let alone in two years. Everyone knows it. Thus, if you are Manning, why would you want to waste the last two years of your career with a rebuilding team? There will likely be a new head coach here in 2012, and there will certainly be a new G.M. These people will have their own ideas on how to run things. They will also have Andrew Luck to groom and develop. He is their future, not Manning.
For me, as a fan, I know I don't want to see Peyton wasted. Bill Polian and his clueless son wasted three of the best seasons in Peyton's career, from 2007-2009. Had they drafted better, had they signed a key free agent or two, had they hired a coach to replace Tony Dungy who actually knew what he was doing on a sideline, Peyton has his second ring and I'm not writing this article.
This is why I think that not only should the Colts cut Manning before March 8th, I want them to cut him. Hell, I'm begging them to!
Peyton stands no chance to win a Lombardi here. As a Peyton Manning fan, I would prefer he have that opportunity somewhere else.
Would it be weird to see him in another uniform, his large cranium stuffed into a foreign helmet? YES! Absolutely. But, no more weird than seeing Joe Montana (who was an inferior quarterback to Peyton, and I'll say that to any 49ers fans face, thank you) in a Chiefs uniform. Or LaDainian Tomlinson in a Jets uni. Or Emmitt Smith in Cardinals red. Or Jerry Rice playing or Seattle, Denver, and Oakland.
Also, think about this for a second: Name a Hall of Fame worthy quarterback that won two Super Bowls starting for two different teams.
I can't think of one either, though I'm sure there is one in the last 50 years or so. Should Manning accomplish that feat, it would absolutely crown him as greatest ever.
All of this is why, as fans, we gotta let Peyton go. It makes the most sense for all parties involved. I'm sure there will be a few people who refuse to root for the Colts without Manning under center, and to those people I say, "Later chumps!' Manning is probably the greatest player in Colts history, including Baltimore, but the Colts had a legacy before Manning, and with Andrew Luck seemingly coming into the fold, that legacy will actually grow.
Think about that. We get to go from Jim Harbaugh to Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck... who was recruited and coached by Harbaugh at Stanford!
That's fairy tale stuff right now, my friends. You have any idea how pissed off Dolphins, Lions, Broncos, and Jets fans are at us right now? While they have suffered for decades to replace great quarterbacks, we're probably going to have 30-plus years of incredible quarterback play. At the very least, with Luck, the hope is there. In places like Miami and the New York Jets, there is no hope.
My call to all of you is to please see this for what it is: A New Era.
New era's begin by tossing out the old and bringing in the young. For some of us out there who aren't in our twenties anymore, that's a depressing thought, but it's the cycle of life. Best just to accept it. In fact, if you clear your head of all the sentimental nonsense, it actually starts becoming something you look forward to.
I look forward to Andrew Luck and the Colts. I look forward to change. I'm sure Peyton, on some level, is looking forward to it as well. He needs to. And, as fans, we need to let him go. Better for us. Better for him. Better for all.