By Josh Kramer
April 18, 1998 and March 7, 2012. Both are dates that will forever be remembered in Indianapolis. The city of Indianapolis and the whole state of Indiana was once-upon-a-time only known for basketball. Now they are known for both football and basketball (and yes I put football first). An era has ended in the Hoosier State though. With the departure of Peyton Manning, not only does Indiana lose a great football player, but they lose their savior.
I by no means have ever been the biggest fan of Peyton Manning. But I have always respected the guy. Not only is the four-time MVP Award winner and future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer obviously a great player, but he seems to be a good all-around person. And Manning is by no means the type of in your face “Great Guy” like Tim Tebow, but more of a subtle good guy. Peyton has always in essence been a player/coach. A leader in the locker room. Someone who keeps his nose clean on and off the field. And a leader in the community. Not to mention his commercials have always been hysterical and vastly entertaining.
In five years, when Jim Irsay revisits the vaunted March 7th, 2012 day that he let Peyton go, he may not look back on it so fondly. Now this day is just a blimp on the radar in comparison to the real “Decision” that took place on July 8, 2010. But it is still a very big deal. I obviously have no clue where Peyton’s health is actually at. Maybe Irsay and the Colts know something that we don’t know? We do know that Colts ownership has sided with Luck. Hopefully the Stanford star will bring a little “Luck” with him to the Hoosier state. According to most sources, Peyton seems to be healthy enough to play in 2012. And I would take an 80% healthy Peyton Manning over the vast majority of the current quarterbacks in the NFL.
There is much more to this situation than meets the eye. Manning has had multiple surgeries in the past year. Andrew Luck has been declared a once in a generation type of prospect. And Peyton was owed an absurd amount of money. Either way, Irsay has taken a major risk. With Peyton Manning, you know you have a guy that will pretty much guarantee your team 10 wins no matter who you put around him. And as we saw this year, the guys around Peyton in Indianapolis were not exactly stellar in their own right (2 and 14 record this year). Andrew Luck appears to be a can’t miss prospect though. Kiper’s most highly rated player since John Elway back in 1983. Ryan Leaf was a fairly highly touted prospect at a time too. Irsay and Co., made the overwhelmingly right decision back on April 18, 1998, taking Manning over Leaf. I do not think they made the right decision on March 7, 2012, taking Luck over Manning. Who knows though? I could be wrong and Andrew Luck could be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February of 2013, while Peyton is sitting on his couch with an injured neck.
Professional sports have all adopted the aggressive “Win Now” mentality. Moral victories are few and far between, while close but no cigar is unacceptable. In addition, professional sports are as unpredictable and parity filled as ever. As Andy Roddick once famously said, “If sports were predictable, they would be like watching a DVD.” Well “Win Now” is exactly what Peyton will do for any franchise. There is no real unpredictability to it. No matter where he lands, which could be a wide variety of places, you better believe that team is going to win at least 10 games (unless people have lied about his health). Can you say the same for Andrew Luck? Maybe five years down the road you could, but not in the present. Call me crazy. But I would take a sure thing over an “almost” sure thing nearly any day of the week.
Peyton’s teary-eyed press conference yesterday signaled the end of a remarkable era in Indianapolis sports. They also marked the beginning of a new era in the NFL. A “Peyton playing somewhere other than Indianapolis” era. This will take some time to get used to.
Start your engines and let the Peyton Manning sweepstakes begin.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.