NOTE: I write this post not as a dig at Peyton or a boast of Irsay. I write it as a reminder to Colts fans of what Irsay's vision was...and where it has the potential to lead us in the future.
While Peyton Manning plays lights out, putting up "Star Wars" numbers during the season,the postseason is largely a team effort. No amount of timing, pristine route running, and incredible QB play will save you from a non-existent running game, a porous offensive line, and a rather anemic defense.
This was the legacy of the Peyton-led Colts. A team, which, for all its talent...had major faults. In case you've already forgotten about the overblown situation led by Mr. Irsay's comments, I'd welcome you to take a look back.
I find myself in awe of a Denver Broncos team that, for all its talent and incredible performance....also has major faults. And while it was very capable of putting up record-breaking numbers during the season, the postseason leaves a lot to be desired.
With a team with that many faults, and an athlete as incredible as Peyton Manning, people tend to fall into the trap of believing that he is someone you build the entire team around. THAT is something you simply cannot do if you want to have a championship-caliber team.
When I speak at events, or to individuals in explaining the dynamics of how technical teams should be built, I often find myself using the phrase the "Peyton Manning Effect." The "Peyton Manning Effect" is when you have someone (or a small group) that does their job so incredibly well, that it often leads your larger team, (or company), to success. And while the success is great, it effectively covers up problems that exist within your organization. It narrows your focus, causing you to lose sight on key structural deficiencies you always knew you had, and focus more on delivering resources to those high performers to do even better.
What eventually happens with teams that suffer from this effect, is that while you will put out great results under normal circumstances, if anything were to happen to that core person or group (lose effectiveness, sickness, poached away, etc.), your team or company then finds themselves in a tailspin. And because you've neglected other parts of your business, and your resources are all tied up into a previous high performers that no longer work; you immediately lose the ability to function at a high enough level to succeed.
THIS is why, although I seriously hope I am wrong, I fear Peyton's legacy will be forever shortchanged. Because of his ability, he's effectively covered up some serious deficiencies on both the Colts and the Broncos teams. Deficiencies both teams always knew they had, but ignored because of their superior QB play.
THIS is what I believe that Irsay saw. He understood the "Peyton Manning Effect." He understood that no matter how good a QB may be, no matter how much that QB may lift your team, it still does not substitute for an entire roster's worth of talented players. He understood that there is more to an offense than a QB, and there is more to a team that just an explosive offense.
In his third Superbowl appearance, Peyton suffered what I believe to be his greatest loss of all. No, not because of the scoreboard (although that was pretty bad), but because with a short time left in his career he has still not managed to get a team that can operate and win with or without him. The vacuum he creates just by being on a team, both in terms of skill and resource, inadvertently leads to his own team's eventual demise.
For all his antics, tweets, and overall craziness...Irsay knew this. It is why he brought in Grigson and Pagano. A braintrust with the goal of delivering a team that, while it had a potentially great QB, could hold its own through its running game, and with its defense. While its still far from perfect, you've got to commend Irsay for not wanting to do a disservice to the eventual legacy of another potentially great QB.
He saw the forest for the trees