What’s the first word you think about when you think of the Peyton Manning era for the Indianapolis Colts?
Dominant? Powerful? Championship?
Whatever it is, you probably didn’t pick “disappointment”. That is, however, one of the words that Colts owner Jim Irsay used when he was asked about it recently.
“I think that the disappointment of not winning more than one [championship] with some of the things we did — out of 11 [playoff] chances, seven times out after the first playoff game — that’s really disappointing and we had some great teams,” Irsay said to the Associated Press.
Irsay is sort of a lightning rod as an NFL owner. He’s never afraid to tell you exactly what’s on his mind and if you follow his official Twitter account, you know that his mind can be hard to decipher. But, that’s also part of what makes him so great for the Colts and for the Indianapolis community in general.
When he took the reins of the Colts after his father’s death in 1997, Irsay immediately set out to put a winner on the field. Partnering with Bill Polian, the Manning era began in 1998 and was an instant success. With the exception of the 1995 team that made the AFC championship game with Marshall Faulk and Jim Harbaugh, this was a sort of football heaven.
Of course, as an Indiana-born lifelong Colts fan, I’ll admit that it would have been nice for the team to win another Super Bowl or two with Manning under center.
I don’t think “disappointment” was the right word for Irsay to choose, but for someone who’s spent his entire life working to build the team into a winner, you know that he takes the job seriously. It isn’t just an investment for him — it’s a continuation of a legacy his father built.
Later in his comments, Irsay went on to say that his goal with new GM Ryan Grigson was to build the team into a more complete unit. The major drawback to the Manning era was that it was all on No. 18. Rarely was there any type of defense or running game to speak of. When the whole team really came together in 2006, that’s when the Colts were able to bring home their long-overdue Lombardi Trophy.
There’s no doubt that the front office has grand visions for the future of the team, and it all starts with Andrew Luck. While it may be too early to anoint him as the “next Peyton Manning”, it sure looks like the team hit another home run on a franchise quarterback.
The only true disappointment about the Manning era in Indy, for me, is that it had to end so early. Manning’s impact on the Colts and the city of Indianapolis can’t be understated. He’s the reason Lucas Oil Stadium was able to be built, and why Super Bowl XLVI was granted to the city.
It’s the difficulty in making painful short-term decisions to ensure a bright future, but that’s the nature of sports. Hopefully the vision comes together, and Luck can be as special as Manning was. For now, though, circle Sunday, October 20 on your calendar. Manning returns to Indianapolis, and even though it’s as the Denver Broncos‘ QB, the city will get one more chance to show their appreciation.