This may not be too popular to think about, but maybe when Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay released Peyton Manning last March it was the best move of not just for the team but in all of sports. Think about it.
The Colts were coming off of a 2-14 season and looked like they were going nowhere fast. They had the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, but how many times have we seen that script before?
Releasing Manning wasn’t popular in Indianapolis as most wanted to keep him and let Andrew Luck sit and learn from the best. By doing that though, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, Pierre Garcon, Melvin Bullitt and Gary Brackett aren’t released and the team is deep in the hole financially.
I’m a firm believer the Colts wouldn’t have made the playoffs with this system and those players last year. Manning isn’t mobile and would have been sacked a ton more than Luck. He could have been injured back there.
Fast forward two years, where would they be with all of those guys gone? Guys like Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard, LaRon Landry, Ricky Jean-Francois and Cory Redding aren’t here.
Who’s Luck going to throw to? What guys on defense are going to stop the opposition? Where’s the money going to come from? They would be so far in cap problems they wouldn’t be able to sign help.
They’d be two-to-three draft classes away from being relevant.
Rewind back to where they sit now. The Colts are coming off of an 11-5 season where they made the playoffs and had a ton of cap money to spend. They drafted a very good class last year and signed several members last week that instantly made this team a Super Bowl threat.
They’re just 12 months from releasing everyone but Lucas Oil Stadium for a high school field. We’re already talking Super Bowl-caliber players on this roster. Many are saying this could be the best 53-man roster ever assembled. Look at how much star power is on it. It’s no longer filled with a dozen superstar guys at the top and 40 guys off the streets filling spots at the bottom.
How many times have we seen dynasties crumble after losing their franchise player and take years to get back to the limelight?
Take the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos for example. Besides the Broncos who happened to get Manning last season, look how long it took those four to get back to being a contender again. In fact, none of them besides Denver is relevant as they’ve been searching for their next great quarterback for over a decade.
The Colts didn’t keep their quarterback past his prime and rebuild after. Many think “where’s the loyalty?” Well the question is back at you, where’s your loyalty when the team is 2-14 for two or three years before being good again?
Irsay and Ryan Grigson did it right and took the wrath of everyone to build a successful franchise in not even one year. This Colts team is built for better playoff success than before.
Not trying to sound harsh, but Manning and that prior regime choked when the games counted the most. They were among the best regular-season teams in all of sports when the games didn’t matter as much. Put them in the playoffs when it’s do or die and they just flat out choked.
Counting last season’s loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions, Manning has a 9-11 record in the post season with eight of those 11 losses coming in the first round of the playoffs five of which were at home.
In his 11 playoff losses, his teams scored 20 points or less in nine of them. In the year he did win the Super Bowl he threw for three touchdowns and a dismal seven interceptions in those playoffs.
Compare that to a 154-70 regular season record with an NFL-record 45 fourth-quarter comebacks and he is one of the best to ever play in the regular season. He just doesn’t perform when the season is on the line. He brings his team back obviously in the reguar season but in the playoffs he only has one fourth-quarter comeback.
How does he quarterback a team that goes 13-3 three times, 12-4 three times and 14-2 once and not win the Super Bowl in any of those seasons?
Listen, I’m not here to bash Manning as he’s one of my all-time favorite athletes, but Luck has shown the poise and moxxy in one year that Manning never had.
Instead of getting the happy feet Luck stands tall and fights through adversity. He keeps his team in the game and isn’t afraid to make plays with the game on the line.
Factor in he has a “team” around him and making the decision to release Manning may have been the best move in the history of sports. The Colts could arguably have multiple Super Bowl championships in the next decade where the prior regime only had one.
What if they hoist the Lombardi Trophy at least three times over the next decade? They have the team and talent to now.