By now, you’ve probably heard that the great Peyton Manning’s time is over in Indianapolis. Cue the Andrew Luck era for the Colts.
But if you’re aware that Peyton’s days in blue and white are over, you’ve probably also seen the range of immediate reactions to this momentous announcement. For the most part, those in the national media are throwing up their hands, asking Colts owner Jim Irsay how he could do such a thing, promising that Peyton will make the Colts rue the day they ever cut him and damning the cold and cruel business of football for ending the career of a legend in such ignominious fashion.
But hold on just a second. Take a step back and remove the emotions, and you’ll see that the Indianapolis Colts organization did the only logical thing for the prolonged success of its football team.
You don’t have to ignore how great No. 18 is (was), but don’t ignore the facts in this situation. Peyton Manning is old in football years, missed the entirety of last season with a significant neck injury and was due a huge bonus that would have forced the Colts to break the bank for him, a guy who could conceivably never play in the NFL again if there’s any setback in his rehab process.
When you’re faced with all those morbid details, holding the No. 1 pick in the draft and the incoming player happens to be the most pro-ready NFL quarterback prospect since Manning, the choice you should make is obvious.
In the NFL, you always want to get rid of a talented player too early instead of too late, and when you’ve got a younger talent waiting in the wings, the choice becomes even easier. That’s why the Packers got rid of Brett Favre for Aaron Rodgers. That’s why the 49ers got rid of Joe Montana (who was better than Manning, by the way) for Steve Young. That’s why the Patriots routinely trade away great veteran players to get draft picks, a strategy that seems to work pretty well for them.
But instead of many in the media fully realizing all these details, you get writers like ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski making arguments for why the Colts should have kept Manning.
He writes, “Irsay would rather roll the bones on Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III than on Manning. Luck and RG3 have a combined zero NFL snaps. Manning has a Super Bowl ring and four league MVP awards, and has thrown for more yards in NFL history than everyone except Brett Favre and Dan Marino. And never mind what caused this divorce or where he’ll end up next.”
No, Gene, we have to mind what caused this divorce. You can’t ignore Manning’s bum neck just because of what he did in the past. You also can’t ignore that you’re sitting on the first pick in the draft and all you have to do to secure your team’s future is cash in your winning lottery ticket by writing “Andrew Luck” on a piece of paper in April.
Oh, but Gene says that’s not good enough. He continues, “Luck, the presumptive No. 1 choice, was a remarkable college quarterback. But show me the documentation that guarantees he’ll be a remarkable NFL quarterback. I’ll go read–and finish–James Joyce’s “Ulysses” as you try to find that paperwork.”
Tell you what, Gene, while I find that paperwork on Luck, why don’t you go find the paperwork that says Manning will definitely return to full form once he hits the field. Oh, wait, that paperwork doesn’t exist…and your argument is specious and totally idiotic. Once again, the Colts’ choice is obvious.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the way the Colts let go of Manning was more than classy. They called a press conference, laid out all the details of the lamentable split, Irsay and Manning both cried and Irsay promised that no Colt would ever wear No. 18 again. The Colts reiterated just how important Manning will forever be to their franchise and wished him along in the classiest way possible. We should all be so lucky when we get fired.
So when you look at the whole of this Peyton Manning situation, remember that, at a certain point, we all have to face facts. When Manning gets into the Hall of Fame someday, there’s no way he’ll deliver a bitter, Michael Jordan-esque rant about how the Colts slighted him by letting him go. He, and we, all should realize that this situation doesn’t come up often–and the Colts made the only logical decision.
Jack Blanchat just praised the Patriots for the first and last time in his life. Kick him off the Brady Bandwagon at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter “at” jmblanchat.