No, this isn’t an article suggesting that the Colts should go after Peyton Manning as their general manager, even though they should.
Instead, this is an article about some prescient words Manning spoke earlier this year at his press conference celebrating his career with the Colts. Manning was talking about the 2006 team, but in doing so he shared some knowledge about how the incredibly successful Manning-era teams thought of going 8-8 - which, incidentally, is what the Colts have done in each of the last two seasons.
A tweet from the Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer reminded me of the quote last night, and here’s part of what Manning said when talking about that 2006 team:
“Those were players of all different teams, but that 2006 team was a special team. We had gotten close. We were knocking on the door and had some, like I mentioned, disappointing losses and some tough starts to the offseason because of the previous game that we just got beat. I’m not sure if it’s right, it’s just the way it is. We used to always kind of joke about it, we had these unbelievable seasons and we lose this heartbreaking game in a playoff game and you basically just got your soul and your heart just taken out from you. Whereas teams that had maybe won their last three games of the season and finished 8-8, they’re high-fiving in the locker [room] going, ‘That was a great finish. We get started earlier on next year.’ But they kind of leave happy. They leave happy and it’s okay, but it’s really not. They stunk. They were 8-8. Whereas we just gave it everything we had and got beat by a better team that day. But one thing we never did is we never, ever gave up and we kept fighting. We kept fighting.”
Those words should be a striking reminder to Jim Irsay and the current Colts regime that going 8-8 actually isn’t acceptable. Sure, it might be nice to win your regular season finale so that there’s warm, fuzzy feelings about the team, and it might be nice to avoid a losing record, and it might be nice to start off 2017 with a victory - but the ultimate goal is still incredibly far away. Because while some teams - like the early Manning-era teams - experience heartbreaking playoff defeats, at least they were in the postseason to begin with, and once you get in the postseason anything can happen. So for a team to feel good about sitting at home in January - particularly a team with a franchise quarterback already in place - is ridiculous. Enjoy a win, but don’t act like everything is ok.
Last year, though, that’s exactly what the Colts did. They won their regular season finale in an emotional setting, celebrated, and the next day Jim Irsay brought everyone back. This year, the Colts won their regular season finale in an emotional setting, celebrated, and... then what?
Jim Irsay would be wise to reflect on the words of his franchise’s greatest player for a few moments today, thinking about whether another 8-8 season is really worth celebrating that much anyway.