The Peyton Manning era is over in Indianapolis after 14 years. The Peyton Manning in (fill in the city) will begin soon.
As a lifelong Colts fan, from Johnny Unitas to Bert Jones to Manning, it’s pretty tough to accept. But only half as bad as seeing the four-time MVP wearing anything other than the horseshoe.
Like seeing Unitas with a lightning bolt or Jones in a Rams uniform. The only saving grace, from my point of view, is that the Colts’ Andrew Luck era gets underway next season.
The Dolphins and Redskins are considered to be the favorites to land Manning’s services, but there will be a number of teams showing interest. And if I’m Mark Sanchez, I’d go into a media blackout until this situation sorts itself out. The Jets will be a player in the Manning sweepstakes because that’s what the Jets do. They covet the back page of the tabloids, and Sanchez be damned, they would love to enlist Eli’s big brother in the battle for the New York football world.
Even if it’s only for three or four seasons. There’s a lot of back pages to be had in those three or four years, and a load of front pages, too.
In the end, Manning will call the shots when it comes to where he plays next season. Even if he has no intention of coming to the New York area to compete with his brother, the businessman in Peyton will not allow him to rule out the Jets as long as they’re willing to pay. And drive up the price. Let the media blitz begin.
Sanchez has had to develop a thick skin since arriving in New York from Southern California, but he’s going to need to grow a few more layers even if Manning decides to go elsewhere. Today, I still believe Sanchez will be the quarterback of the Jets next season. Although he may show up for training camp with a bruised ego, it will be no time to mope: “they don’t love me anymore.” It will be time to grow up and become the quarterback the Jets thought they were getting when they traded up in the draft for him.
The fan in me would have preferred Manning to retire as a Colt. In this way I’m no different than Colts owner Jim Irsay. But Manning has made it clear that he has no intention of quitting anytime soon, and reports are increasing that he will make close to a full recovery.
I wish him well, but I have my doubts. Not 28 million of them, like Irsay, but enough. Manning is 36 years old and none of the teams he has been linked to – other than the 49ers – appears to be only a quarterback away from winning a title. Indeed, if San Francisco isn’t interested, the Jets may present him with his best chance of getting back to the big game.
As strange as it would be rooting for the Rex Ryan-coached Jets to win a Super Bowl, I’d still climb aboard the Jets’ bandwagon. As long as Peyton is driving, that is.
So I will root for Manning to win another Super Bowl with just about anyone he goes to next, as long as the Colts are out of it. That shouldn’t be a problem next season, but there is a worst case scenario: He goes to Dallas. In that case, Peyton, you’re on your own.
And here’s a thought I never had before: Thank God the Patriots are set with Tom Brady.
With that, I close the Colts’ Peyton Manning era. In my heart and in my head.