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Saturday, May 23, 2015

The real reason that Manning left Indy

Posted Friday, April 6, 2012, at 6:16 PM

Peyton Manning was all smiles back in February 2007 after leading the Indianapolis Colts to their first Super Bowl championship. Manning recently signed a contract with the Denver Broncos and waved goodbye to Indy after playing 14 seasons with the Colts. (By B.J. Hargis/Greene County Daily World).
With Tim Tebow's trade to the Jets and the headhunting New Orleans Saints and their fines and appeals dominating the most recent news leading up to the NFL Draft on April 26-28, the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes almost seems like a distant memory these days.

But before the former University of Tennessee quarterback actually dons a jersey other than the familar Blue and White of the Indianapolis Colts, I would like to throw in my two cents on Mr. Manning.

Man what a ride it was for Colts fans, ever since they decided on selecting Manning over Ryan Leaf with the top pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. Other than that first season and last year, it was a great 14-year run as a Colts fan.

Sure there were first-round playoff losses as the No. 1 seed and there were frustrating setbacks to the hated Patriots in Foxboro when Manning looked nothing like the Hall of Fame quarterback that he became.

But all of Indiana rejoiced (with the exception of Bears and Bengals fans) with the Super Bowl title after the 2006 season and that sweet comeback to beat New England in the AFC title game that year.

The Colts made another trip to the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, after they tanked a shot at the perfect season, but came up a play or two short of beating the Saints, who were then the league's darling after Hurricane Katrina.

Still wonder what would have happened if Pierre Garcon catches that Manning pass to go ahead 17-0 against New Orleans?

Who can forget the sustained excellence -- 11 years with double-digit victories, the most during the Super Bowl era (Brett Favre had 10)? From 2002 to 2010, the Colts set an NFL record with 10 or more wins per season. How quickly us fans forget.

Manning (11) is NFL QB leader during Super Bowl era for most double-digit victory seasons as a starter (10, Brett Favre).

Manning's 141 wins as a starter, is more than Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Fran Tarkenton and John Unitas, quarterbacks with at least 100 wins. Only Marino with 147, Montana with 148 and Favre with 186 have more.

His 208 consecutive starts, which came to an end last season after his fourth surgery on his injured neck in a period of 19 months, is the second most by an NFL quarterback.

Manning is just one of 11 players to pass for 40,000 career yards and the fifth to toss at least 300 TDs. He threw for 25-plus touchdown passes in 13 consecutive years, another NFL record.

And the biggest thing was he did them all while wearing the Colts Blue.

But that is all spilled milk now.

Peyton will be wearing Bronco Orange, a little different than UT Orange, starting this fall and Colts Nation will just have to sooth their wounds with Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, whichever quarterback they decide to nab with the first pick in this month's draft after last year's forgettable 2-14 debacle.

Before we move forward with hopefully another franchise quarterback (can Colts fans really get this lucky), I was going to raise a point about why I thought that Manning left.

If he had wanted to stay, surely Manning and owner Jim Irsay could have restructured the $28 million roster bonus that he was set to receive on March 8. Irsay was the one that gave the new deal to Peyton, including the bonus, and suppossedly did not even make Manning take a physical before the contract was signed.

How smart do those decisions look now, Jim?

My contention is that Manning did not want to have to deal with a new coach, new system, new general manager (Bill Polian was not fired, his son Chris Polian was and they were a matched set), a corps of new players and a roster that is woefully lacking in so many places.

The 36-year old Manning, who's $96 million deal with Denver is just guaranteed for the first year, knows his window for another shot at a Super Bowl title is closing and he did not want to be a part of the rebuilding project in Indy.

I believe the tears that Manning, who is still no guarantee to ever suit up again, fought back were real as he really did not want to leave Indy. I think the tears were similar to any relationship that lasted more than a dozen years but ended via divorce, amicable or not.

But deep down, I wonder how much he really wanted to stay with the sinking ship that is the now Indianapolis Colts?

I know some fans are bitter, but I think it is time to move forward as the Colts start a new era with Luck or RGIII, who are both viewed as can't miss prospects. Can the Colts get lucky again? Can anybody say Mark Herrmann, Mike Pagel or Art Schlichter? It could be worse, believe me, a lot worse.

B.J. Hargis is the sports editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12 or at hargisbj@gmail.com.

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