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Is it possible that Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning were both right after last season?
I think it is. And I think that’s what created such a difficult decision for the Indianapolis Colts owner when he decided to let his star quarterback leave for Denver.
Irsay insisted it was time to move on. The Colts drafted quarterback Andrew Luck No. 1 out of Stanford and handed him the reins to the team.
Meanwhile Manning insisted he had more in the tank. He signed a five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos. There were many who doubted No. 18 had anything more than fumes and a fading hope of winning another Super Bowl. But after the last couple weeks, most would agree Manning is looking a lot like his old self.
Whether you’re a fan of the Colts, Manning or both, it appears there’s lots to smile about these days. Yes, more than a few Colts fans are still miffed by Irsay’s off-season treatment of Manning.
But I hear a lot less now than I did six weeks ago from Colts season ticket holders and other team followers who say they are considering turning their backs on Irsay and his rebuilding plan.
I also hear a lot less noise locally from football fans who say they will follow the Manning-led Broncos rather than their hometown team. While interest in Manning is still intense here, it appears to be less intense than the Colts following.
TV ratings for Colts games this season have consistently been higher than those for Broncos games. On Sunday, the Colts scored a 30.6 rating (328,032 central Indiana households) with 51 percent of people watching TV at the time tuning into the Colts game, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research.
The Broncos-Saints game playing in prime-time on Sunday night tallied a 20.3 rating in this market (217,616 households), with 30 percent of people watching TV at the time tuning in.
The Colts and Broncos are both sitting at 4-3 and both still have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Both teams have soft divisions and QBs that can deliver under pressure.
National football pundits surmised after Sunday’s games that the Broncos are one of the best teams in the AFC and the Colts are one of the most surprising.
Should Irsay have done everything he could to help Manning finish his career where he started? Could the Colts be even better with Manning this year than Luck? Those questions are certainly debatable.
But is the current scenario proving to be better for both the Colts and Manning? That argument—like Manning and Luck—is gaining steam.
Does all of this diminish the pain for locals as they watch No. 18 lead the Broncos? Certainly at least a little.
Is it going to be a mix of joy and pain if Manning accomplishes the improbable and climbs the Super Bowl mountain one more time? You bet.
Will Luck erase any of that pain?
Time will tell. But long-term, it looks like a good bet right now.