Manning's long shadow about to turn dark over Colts

March 20, 2012
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If Peyton Manning has the kind of success in Denver people are starting to predict, it will leave a shadow looming over the Circle City that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay will be unable to outrun or outlive.

If Manning even gets the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, Irsay will be forever labeled as the guy who let Manning get away. Now that Denver seems poised to pay Manning $96 million for a five-year deal, the critics have already started to howl about the valuable player Irsay let walk.

There’s a massive number of Colts fans, their emotions simmering into a slow, increasingly vicious boil, ready to blow up if Manning shows he’s back to his old on-the-field self.

If Manning wins the Super Bowl—and wins MVP honors along with the Lombardi Trophy—Katy bar the door.

Irsay’s legacy will never recover from Manning riding in the lead float down Denver’s Main Street.

And I’m going to amend something I’ve said and written earlier. If Manning pilots another team to Super Bowl glory, I’m not even sure it matters how well Andrew Luck does here. Short of establishing a post-Manning dynasty, Irsay will never be forgiven. The barrage of ill will Irsay will endure here will be merciless.

You’ll notice that Luck’s pro day this Thursday has scarcely been covered by local media to this point.

Manning so far has overshadowed Indianapolis’ first—and glorious—Super Bowl, IU’s re-emergence and NCAA tournament run and the Colts own rebuilding efforts.

The only thing mad about this March is the attention on Manning. He’s one of the world’s very few athletes who could command as much or more attention as two of North America’s biggest sporting events.

Just wait until Manning has his first press conference in Denver, first puts on the Broncos jersey, shows up for his first practice, lines up under center for the first game.

NFL season ticket holders have long complained about being forced to buy tickets for pre-season games alongside their regular season package. There will be no problem this year in Denver selling those practice game tickets for well over face value.

NFL insiders are already predicting Manning’s new Broncos jersey could be the best-selling replica of all time for a single season. There’s no doubt it will surpass the sales of Tim Tebow’s for the NFL’s top spot well before training camp starts in August.

And just when Irsay and the rest of the Horseshoe Kingdom think they can’t take another minute of Manning-mania, the barrage of new television commercials will start rolling in.

Manning was sidelined by many of his corporate partners after it was announced he would be lost for the entire 2011 season. But already this year, Manning sponsors such as DirecTV, Gatorade and Sony appear eager to put Manning front and center in new ad campaigns.

And after all that could come the worst specter of all to haunt the vast crevasses of Irsay's over-active mind. If Manning succeeds in Denver, will Irsay be seen as the man who held No. 18 back all these years from reaching his full potential?

The notion of having the greatest signal caller of all time on your roster for 13 seasons and only winning one championship is an ugly one indeed. But uglier still  is the idea that with his hires and direction, Irsay himself was the one responsible for keeping a lid on the bright light of Manning's star.

The long shadow of Manning is about to get a lot longer.

And for Colts fans, and especially for Irsay, it could get much darker.

  • The word "if" is used a lot this article. If pigs could fly we would all be amazed as well. If you wrote about fact rather than supposition, then maybe you would get more readers.
  • Over the top
    It stinks, but what Irsay did was the only rational decision given 1) age, 2) injury, 3) opportunity in Luck, and 4) the salary cap nightmare left behind by the Polians.
    • Well stated
      This article states exactly what everyone in Indiana is thinking. Payton Manning was much more to Indiana that just a great football player. He brought Indiana's reputation out of the country to the forefront of the nation. Great article. Thanks.
      • Either I am really out of touch with reality and the feelings of people in Indy, or the press is outdoing themselves on this story.

        First, I am curious what "massive" amounts of people equals out to in number terms, and and where do you get these numbers?

        Second, I am curious if these "massive" amounts of people are real Colts fans, as in they buy ticks as opposed to watching them on tv for free and if they are long time Colts fans or just band wagon jumpers. Were they in the Dome when Peyton took his first snap on the road to a 3-13 season?

        Third, do these "massive" numbers of fans understand that with Peyton at 100% this year, the Colts would probably be lucky to make the playoffs, let alone go anywhere near the Superbowl? The 2011 Colts were an old team. Many at or near retirement age. The lines were a patchwork of rookies, journeyman and old timers. If Denver wins a Superbowl with Peyton, that has absolutely no bearing on if the Colts could have even made the playoffs with Peyton.

        Have these "massive" numbers of people heard the "massive" numbers of Broncos fans who are furious over letting Tebow go? Do they realize that if the Broncos do not win a Superbowl with Peyton, the Broncos will suffer fan anger on an biblical scale?

        Here is the way a fan since '84 and a season ticket holder for almost as long sees it. The press is stirring up this story to get ratings and sell papers and tv ads until May when they have the 500 to tout.

        In reality, Irsay had two choices. Keep Peyton at a high salary and hope he could lead a badly battered and struggling team to the playoffs at best, while trying to juggle playing time and QB controversy with Luck, or blow up the entire team and rebuild it around a highly touted rookie and a coach and GM he has faith in.

        We saw what happened when the Pacers tried to keep a core team together after Reggie retired. They struggled and sold their soul for some less than desireable players and they are still paying the price. It would have been better to have blown up the team and started over.

        You will have some folks crying no matter what. the final page to this story is LOS will be sold out next year, and with luck, Luck will be selling it out for many more years to come.

        • The Rich get richer...
          IF - if wishes were horses, then beggars would own NFL teams - but they don't, rich people do, and they make the calls...we don't. The owners are rich, the players are rich, the agents are rich, the sponsors are rich - the poor everyday working spectators live with the decisions. If only the poor spectators would wise up, and would vote with their ticket dollars, their purchasing power dollars, and their stadium tax dollars - but then, it's fun to dream, isn't it?
        • MANNING
          In the next few days be ready for Clark and Saturday to sigh with Denver. Irsay has got to be relieved that the Broncos don't play here this year. Hopefull the yogart shop is still doing ok....may need the cash flow. Run Forest Run.
        • no, not really
          "This article states exactly what everyone in Indiana is thinking."

          Actually, many people in Indiana couldn't care less about Peyton Manning and the Colts. Sure, we enjoy the games and team spirit, but we also recognize that it's a business played by the fabulously wealthy.

          Some of us are thinking about art and music and local food and architecture and when to plant tomatoes and how to raise urban chickens and how to make our city more attractive to newcomers.

          We're wondering about things like preserving historic buildings and supporting the local Girl Scout Troop. We obsess about things like a sandwich from Goose the Market. We would prefer to support the Naptown Roller Girls, and like going to the State Museum and the IMA. We worry about teachers and cops losing their jobs, the quality of our air and water, and how to get a viable mass transit system working in the region.

          Peyton and the Colts have done a lot for the city. But without a community of vibrant, smart, committed citizens, they would have been a team without a town.
        • About those season tickets…
          A couple of the above commentators made a big deal about them being season-ticket holders. I choose not to spend that kind of money on season tickets, but that does not mean I am not a fan. I don't think the NFL owners discount the value of television viewers; I don't have the figures, but that's what makes them rich, not tickets to the game.

          I agree there are a lot of if's in the article, but the writer has a good point. Apparently viewers and readers of the news like speculation. Have you ever seen the newscasters say something like this: I know you don't have the facts yet, but what do think caused this airplane crash?

          I read this gentleman's blog about the news conference, and I now think I understand his point about how the scene was bizarre. We had two millionaires mouthing their respect, admiration and love for each other, but when it came right down to it, what really mattered was money.

          If Peyton had wanted to stay here, I suspect there would be have been a price that was right him and the Colts. If Irsay wanted him to stay, there will been a way to have both Luck and Manning on the roster. It's not Manning's fault; it is not Irsay's fault; it's just business.
          • Indyman Nailed it
            Read Indyman's comments closely, he captured the situation exactly. With Peyton at 100% the Colts will not be contenders in the next few years. No D, no run game, shaky offensive line, terrible special teams, on and on.
          • Go Broncos (from a FORMER Colts fan)
            Jim Irsay is a liar, and I have lost all respect for him. I've been a very devoted fan of the Colts since they moved to Indy, even through the bad years before Peyton, partly because the management and players, with a few exceptions, earned our loyalty and respect both on and off the field. But I cannot continue to support a team whose management has so little respect for the team's fans that it lies outright to us so easily and makes decisions like it has, such as releasing quality players like Peyton, Dallas, etc. (the list goes on and on). Irsay said so long as Peyton plays football, it would be in a Colts uniform. LIE! He could have made that happen, but he choose otherwise (probably following the advice of the new GM, who is getting off scot free but I believe bears much of the responsibility for the unwise and callous decisions that are being made recently). Even in the press conference with Peyton, in one breath, Irsay said it's not about money, and in the next, he talked about the salary cap. LIE! If that $28 million bonus was not there, we all know the Colts would have kept Peyton. If Andrew Luck is such a great prospect, he could only have gotten better by having the opportunity to learn the NFL game from the best quarterback who every played it, and the Colts could have found a way to make it work if they wanted to. Peyton, on the other hand, is a real class act, and Indy will miss him greatly! Although I have not been a John Elway fan in the past, I do respect his obviously excellent football judgment evidenced by pursuing and now signing Peyton. With Peyton (and possibly Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday and other former Colts) becoming a Bronco, I look forward to having a new team to follow and cheer on to victory. Good luck, Peyton! Here's wishing you and the Broncos a Super Bowl victory in the very near future! As for the Colts, I doubt if they'll win more than four games next season, and I really don't care anymore since I don't plan to be watching them anyway. Yes, I know it's only a game and there are important events and issues in the world, but part of being a well-rounded individual is having free time pursuits that one can be passionate about. I loved the Colts and have spent many enjoyable hours of my precious free time following the team, but Irsay has spoiled it for me. It's a shame and I regret it, but I just can't find it in my heart to continue following a team that bears so little resemblance to the Colts I have so enjoyed watching!
            • Hey Vicki
              Take a breath, it'll be OK. When you've stopped hyperventilating, take a look at what Joe wrote. He's got the right idea. That's the stuff that matters. So I'll cheer for the Colts and hope the new quarterback (I'm really hoping they take Robert Griffith III....) has a nice career here. Maybe even lead the team to a Super Bowl or two. But I'll pay more heed to the issues Joe raises and do what I can to make things better around here.
            • Steve

              Irsay did nothing to detract from television viewership. In fact, this may increase viewership.

              Regardless of that fact...The ticket holders are really important in the NFL as they are the barometer for television viewership. If people are not willing to fill up the stadiums the demand of the product must not be there and the television revenues would be vastly reduced. The NFL is in the position it's in today because of competitive balance, which gives hope to all 32 teams, which creates demand and puts people in the seats.

              If the stadiums were empty then no one would be watching on television as that would be a key indicator that the product is not desireable.

              People can choose to spend their money as they please but when the ticket holders say they are in it for the long haul the article becomes hyperbole.

            • Nope
              Agree with Bob.

              If we want to play the if game, there can be an argument on the opposite side of the spectrum. If they pay Peyton $35M in 2012 and he can't play or only plays a year or two, you have set your franchise back years or perhaps decades. The risk/reward to signing Manning was not worth it with the questions of health/age/salary cap implications of his deal and the opportunity to draft Luck.

              If Manning is a shell of his former self, plays only a few years with limited success or perhaps not at all, will these same people you say will never forgive Irsay turn around and applaud Irsay for making the right call? If so, that's hypocritical.

              See all those if's in there? This move was the only rational decision to be made.

            • Hey Tom Brink
              Tom, don't you have anything better to do? Don't like it, then don't read it. And go get a life after you get your pompous ... off your high horse.
            • Bulldog:
              I am, as Joe puts it, a vibrant, smart, committed citizen of Indy. I have many other concerns and interests. Being a Colts football fan did not preclude my involvement in other activities. It was simply one of many that brought pleasure so I guess since it no longer will, that just frees up some time to devote to other of my passions. Maybe that's the best way to look at it - more free time on Sunday afternoons this fall.
            • PLEASE, Anthony...
              1. Who said Peyton wanted to stay here with a shell of his former team?
              2. The reason Peyton became an icon here was because he WON. Winning trumps everything. Irsay really made the smart, odds-on move (in which, I am sure, Peyton had a say) for the long-term success of the team.
              3. Denver SHOULD sign Dallas Clark, Addai, Saturday, but why stop there? Add Marvin, Edge, Bob, and Marlin Jackson while they are at it.
            • future
              I can't predict the future, nor does it really matter now because what's done is done. But seeing Peyton wearing anything but Colts blue was sad and wrong.
            • Sad?
              I believe Peyton had as much to do with this as Irsay did. But players cannot play forever, and he certainly will not get younger.
              GO COLTS, regardless.
            • What if...
              Vicky, what if Peyton did not WANT to come back? No one talks about it, but for all we know Jim Irsay may have been protecting Peyton.
            • Damned if you do...
              Irsay was either going to be the man who let Manning go or the man who passed on the next "sure thing". Either way the critics were going to have a field day. Only time will tell.

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