On Friday, the Indianapolis Colts welcomed back the greatest player in franchise history as Peyton Manning returned to the team's West 56th Street complex for the first time since being cut four years ago.
It was a long-awaited reunion in which Manning expressed appreciation for the Colts' organization - saying "I'll always be a Colt" - but it was just as much an opportunity for the Colts to express their appreciation for Manning as well. Owner Jim Irsay announced that the franchise is beginning construction on a statue of Manning that will be located outside of Lucas Oil Stadium, and Irsay also officially retired Manning's number 18.
Former Colts general manager Bill Polian thinks that Irsay got the decision absolutely right. The Hall of Famer spoke with ESPN's Mike Wells on Monday and called the Colts' decision to build a statue of Manning and retire his number a "no-brainer."
"Well-deserved and well-earned," Polian added. "It's a great thing. I'm happy for him. It's the right thing to do, and I never doubted that Jim wouldn't do the right thing. He always does. I'm glad to see it."
Polian and Manning arrived to Indianapolis together in 1998, as Manning was Polian's first draft choice with the Colts franchise. It would up being a home run selection, as Manning went on to become one of the greatest players in NFL history. Behind the leadership of Polian and behind the play of Manning, the Colts franchise experienced a total revival and became one of the NFL's premier organizations, helping to turn Indianapolis into a football town.
"As far as what it was like when I got here," Manning said on Friday, "I mean look, the Colts had been to the AFC Championship three years before I got here and was one Hail Mary away from going to the Super Bowl. But I do recall just kind of going out and getting a poll it was basketball, basketball, basketball and it was car racing, car racing, car racing and where football was probably in that third priority and that is simply no longer the case. This is a football town. As good a football town as any. These fans love their team and they're talking about football in February, March, April, it's year round now. It was fun to be a part of that kind of transformation. There were so many people that were a part of that, Jim [Irsay] and Bill [Polian] and Edgerrin [James] and Marvin [Harrison], this long list. So it was fun to kind of witness that first hand. That is something that I'll always cherish being a part of."
Though Manning won't admit it, and with no disrespect intended toward the others who played a part, Manning was more than simply a part of it - he was the main reason for it. Peyton Manning's impact on the Colts organization and the city of Indianapolis is hard to measure, which makes a statue and retired number - the eighth in franchise history but the first for a player who played in Indianapolis - incredibly well-deserved. Bill Polian had an up-close and involved role in the Colts' remarkable 14-year run, and he thinks the decision to honor Manning the way Colts are is a "no-brainer."