As we wait for the noon press conference to announce that the Indianapolis Colts will officially release Peyton Manning, which has transformed from a sports story to a national story, I'm sure all Colts fans out there have mixed feelings. It's understandable. For me, I've been prepared for this ever since the Colts got romped by the Saints during the regular season last year. After that game, and after the news reports began trickling in saying that Peyton would miss the entire 2011 season, I knew it was over.
The firing of Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell reinforced it all for me. Peyton was gone. It was only a matter of time.
We all have our favorite Manning moments:
- The comeback against the Buccaneers in 2003
- The comeback against the Texans in 2008
- His record-setting day against the Broncos in the 2004 playoffs
- The 2010 AFC Championship Game against the Jets
- The 2007 AFC Championship Game against the Patriots
For me, my favorite Manning moment was, interestingly enough, a game in which he threw six interceptions. It was a November game in 2007 against the Chargers. The entire Colts roster was decimated. Peyton was throwing the ball to third and fourth stringers... and Chargers corner Antonio Cromartie. It was raining. It was muddy. It was a game so bad Dwight Freeney broke his foot.
Yet, despite the turnovers, Manning clawed the Colts back into it in the fourth quarter. It seemed as if his sheer will got them back in the game. He drove them all the way down to the Chargers twenty with just enough time for Adam Vinatieri to kick a gimme field goal that any kicker should make blindfolded. Vinatieri missed it, and the Colts lost. However, I consider that game my favorite "Manning Moment" because it displayed, for me, his desire to win regardless of circumstances.
After noon today, we Colts fans must move on, and by Colts fans I mean true fans of the Colts, not Peyton Manning fans who happened to root for Indianapolis because he was on the team. Nothing against you people, because we all totally understand how fun it is rooting for Peyton, but no one player eclipses our favorite team.
For blue fans out there, I remind you to take heart in these two things:
- We had fourteen years of greatness. Some franchises (Seattle, Arizona, Kansas City, Houston) have never had anything close to that. We were fortunate to have Peyton for as long as we did.
- It is not as if we are transitioning from John Elway to Bubby Brister, or from Dan Marino to Jay Fielder. As lucky as we all were to enjoy Peyton for fourteen years, our team has the No. 1 overall pick in a draft class that features some pretty incredible quarterback prospects. Having that pick might make this franchise's fanbase even more fortunate post-Manning as it was during Manning.
We'll be doing Manning remembrance stuff throughout the day. For now, talk about the greatest quarterback this franchise has ever had (yes, greater than Unitas, and I know Baltimore fans who concur with me on that).