NOTE: This article appears in the fan posts instead of the front page because we have resolved that this is an Indianapolis Colts blog. We cover the best team in all of football, and no longer does Peyton Manning play for them. That said, however, he is still an integral part of the fandom of Colts fans and cannot be ignored, so Josh wrote this article and put it in the fan posts so that it would still get out there but wouldn't detract from our coverage of the current Colts. And because Josh only has a limited number of Peyton articles on the front page before Brad kicks him out of his mother's basement, Josh decided to save them for the week of Colts/Broncos. Yeah, he's a smart guy.
We all know it.
We all know that Jim Irsay made the right move. Parting ways with Peyton Manning wasn't just the right move, it was the only move. It wouldn't have worked to keep him - he would have been playing behind the worst offensive line in football for an old and washed up team that was devoting over $30 million to it's quarterback. That wasn't going to work, especially for a guy coming off of numerous neck surgeries and nearing the end of his career.
And from the Colts perspective, they had just lucked into securing the next sure thing at quarterback; not only the future of the franchise but of the league as well. Manning was the past, Luck was the future. And everyone knew that.
Except for, Manning wasn't completely in the past.
No, instead, he's still lighting up the NFL. After an MVP-worthy season in 2012, Manning kicked off the 2013 NFL season with a bang - throwing for 462 yards and 7 freaking touchdowns. The last time anybody did that? 1969 - the same year the first man landed on the moon.
Peyton Manning, similarly, is playing out of this world.
Armed with perhaps the best receiving talent he has ever had, Manning is poised to make a serious run at the record books and another Super Bowl title in 2013. And while he does that, Colts fans are left sitting and watching. Reminiscing. Dreaming. Longing.
No one said it was going to be easy to part with Peyton. As an analyst, there isn't really even a discussion. Andrew Luck has the makings of an absolute superstar, getting ready to start a phenomenal run with the Colts.
But the fan in me wished with everything that there was a way to keep him. I knew, however, that there wasn't.
When watching the Colts, I'm totally fine. I love Andrew Luck and absolutely love the direction the team is going. I never even have a thought about Peyton Manning during Colts games anymore, except when Luck breaks one of Peyton's franchise records.
Watching the Broncos with Peyton Manning, though? Yeah, that's hard. Really hard.
Watching my favorite player ever step up and call one of his famous audibles. Watching him have complete control of the offense. Watching him get off to a slow start only to figure out the defense and then dominate it. Watching him light up the Ravens yet again. Watching his movement and footwork within the pocket. Watching him throw a lame duck pass that wobbled a lot and still fell right exactly where he wanted it.
It was all so familiar, yet it was all so foreign at the same time.
I've always thought that the best person you could have covering a team is one who is a great analyst but at the same time keeps his passionate fandom. Those people don't just understand football; they understand the culture of the team and it's fanbase.
Yes, I'm a Colts analyst. But first and foremost I'm a Colts fan. And Colts fans just can't forget about Peyton Manning. As good as Andrew Luck is and is going to be and as much as I support him, he can't make up for a decade and a half of incredible memories. Not yet, anyway.
When Manning lights up the Ravens like he did last night, all we can do is smile. We've seen it before. When Manning changes the play at the line only to get into the absolute perfect play, all we can do is nod in approval. We've come to expect that. And when Manning sets records nobody expected him to, we just cheer. We've come to realize that's just who he is.
I watched the game with one of my good friends who happens to be a longtime Broncos fan. He was very happy Thursday night (ok, actually it was Friday morning because of that lightning delay), and rightfully so. But sitting there watching my favorite player ever, a guy who Colts fans have a unique connection with and appreciation for, play for another team while their fans cheered him like we once did - that was hard.
"He's not your quarterback! He's mine!" I wanted to yell. They never can be as big of a fan as myself and most Colts fans are - there's just something special Colts fans feel regarding Manning.
Maybe it's the fact that Manning single-handedly placed the Colts and Indianapolis on the map and made it a football town. Maybe it's the fact that Manning got the Colts a brand spanking new stadium, one that hosted a Super Bowl just two years ago. Maybe it's the fact that he won so many games, set so many records, and won 4 MVP awards. Maybe it's the fact that he was incredibly involved in the community - he wasn't just living in it, he was actually a part of it.
It's something a little different for every Colts fan, but it's all rooted in the same thing - that there's something special about Peyton Manning that only Colts fans seem to understand.
The Colts are better off now than they would have been had they kept Peyton Manning, and Manning is better off now than if he would have stayed. He's going for another Lombardi trophy (which he never would have gotten if he stayed in Indy), and the Colts are setting up for a run at multiple Lombardi's. Andrew Luck is the real deal, and I love watching him play. It's easy to root for him - and how couldn't I, with him on my favorite team?
But whenever Peyton Manning is on, playing in that shade of blue that just isn't right; whenever he's at the line changing a play for the wrong team; whenever he's setting records for another franchise - it's hard.
It has never been easy, but I was still surprised at just how hard it was Thursday night. 7 touchdowns? It was bittersweet. I was happy for Peyton, but I missed him. I hadn't felt that way in a long time, but it came back when watching him last night.
I'd choose the Colts over Peyton 10 times out of 10 and can't wait for them to get their season underway on Sunday. I'm a huge Andrew Luck fan and think he's going to be absolutely incredible. You could even call this past year my love fest for Andrew Luck, if you've been paying attention to the site.
But none of that makes it easy to part with Peyton. Even if it's the absolute right decision and one that you would have made as well, moving on is always hard. And moving on from someone like Peyton Manning? Even harder.
On October 20, 2013, Peyton Manning returns to the "House that Peyton Built" to play the Colts. I'll be at that game, wearing my number 18 Colts jersey with pride and giving him the loudest standing ovation ever when he runs onto the field that first time. From then on, however, I'll be rooting undoubtedly for the Colts to kick his butt. For Robert Mathis to sack him; for Antoine Bethea to pick him off; for Andrew Luck to prove once and for all why he is the franchise's quarterback.
But that doesn't mean it will be easy to watch Peyton Manning playing in the wrong color blue against the team that he defined for so many years. In front of the fan base that absolutely loves him. In the city that he put on the map and that he called home.
Watch the Colts for two minutes and you'll know they made the right decision. Talk to any true Colts fan and they'll tell you the same. But even then, it's still bittersweet to watch Peyton light it up for another team.
Last night was hard. October 20 will be 18 times harder.