The Indianapolis Colts released Peyton Manning from the their roster this morning. It is far too soon to tell whether this decision was the right one or the wrong one for the Colts, but it’s definitely the wrong one for Peyton Manning. With that said, let’s take a look at the fallout from the biggest footballing story of 2012-2013.
Let’s begin with a snapshot of Peyton Manning’s NFL career. Manning was college football’s biggest start during his time at the University of Tennessee, and his NCAA performance made him the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Indianapolis Colts, and during his rookie season he set the NFL rookie passing touchdown record with 26 despite going 3-13. The very next season he lead the Colts to a 13-3 record and the AFC East title. Thus his legend was born. Over the next 11 seasons Peyton would go on to win a record four NFL MVP’s, Super Bowl XLI, a Super Bowl MVP, and an exhaustive list of NFL records. His biggest criticism is his pedestrian post-season record, but regardless of that he is one of the top five quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Now the Colts have cut the face of their franchise and one of the NFL’s greatest players of all time. This has only been done once before in the history of the NFL, when the San Francisco 49ers traded quarterback Joe Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs. Much like Manning, Montana was one of the top five quarterbacks of all time and he wasn’t prepared to retire at the time the 49ers were ready to move on. This resulted in a sour ending to a legendary career for Montana, and it is hard to imagine it will be much different for Manning.
The reasoning behind the release of Manning can be broken down into several points. First, Manning had suffered multiple neck injuries and undergone multiple neck surgeries to repair the damage. This forced him to miss the entire 2011-2012 season and brought up questions regarding hid durability going forward. Second, the team finished with the worst record in the NFL after never missing the Playoffs after Manning’s rookie season. This demonstrated how crappy the team was without Manning, and how important it will be to re-appropriate funds to strengthen the teams numerous weaknesses. Third, Manning is one of the highest players in the NFL and was due to receive an enormous bonus in the next few days. His salary inhibits the team’s expenses at a time when many moves need to be made. And fourth, the Colts are in a position to select quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Luck is widely considered the best quarterbacking prospect since Manning himself.
With all of these factors in mind, it appears the Colts made the sensible decision. It seemed preordained that Manning should leave the team at this time, and he is now gone from their roster. The Colts’ organization determined that Manning’s window is closing and that they can better spend their time and money elsewhere. Now they will roll the dice on Luck and attempt to bring in veteran free agents to support his development. There is no Steve Young coming off the bench for the Colts like when the 49ers traded Montana, so the transition will likely be rocky. If you are a Colts fan, you can only hope for the best. And you better hope that Peyton Manning doesn’t come back with a vengeance.