Legacies are difficult to gauge and should, as someone recently pointed out to me, be largely about past performance. Players who step off the field leaving behind records, championships and a reputation for doing things the right way joule for all intents and purposes be revered by fans long after their departure.
That is, of course, unless the departure gets botched.
Some have said they should have no beef with Peyton Manning if he played for the Tennessee Titans. He was, after all, cut after months of grueling speculation by the Colts. To most who watched the painful spectacle unfold it was clearly not his decision to leave the team he had practically built. Tearfully he admitted as much during his farewell press conference. To fans in this camp the deed belonged only to owner Jim Irsay who had so adamantly claimed if Peyton wished to remain a Colt he would. Clearly a lie even if not intended to be, this claim clearly indicates Irsay made this decision for Manning thereby absolving Colts fans from having a legitimate complaint about the quarterback's choice of teams.
Still there are some, many based on feedback I have received to date, that are incredibly relieved that Manning chose the Broncos. The very idea that their once beloved icon would play for a division rival was too much too stomach. Much like the team putting Unitas out to pasture in San Diego, this move will mean that somber Colts fans will not have to watch Manning play their team twice each year. It shares much in common with a former flame moving away and finding a new love. He can go lead the innocuous Broncos so several championships and Colts fans won't begrudge him as they would have were he a Titan.
Still I wonder why the outcome so much more palatable to Colts fans?
There is one very powerful human trait at work here: pride. Fans are by nature irrational. They need to be in fact. Sports are a bit of escapism from the trials of this world--a child's game played by men for our own joy. Fans latch onto teams and players with a great sense of pride, claiming them as their own and in many ways incorporating them into their own identity. Rational people don't paint their chests and cook out all day in the parking lot of their favorite hardware store. It would be high-comedy if your butcher inspired so much pride that you insisted on cheering him each week (Cut that meat)! Fans behave rationally out of an abiding sense of pride.
To those fans Tennessee was one of several unacceptable locations--like your ex dating your best friend or sibling. Denver is acceptable because they aren't rivals and give Manning a legitimate shot at a title. Colts fans hated the idea that Manning would pick a team who couldn't get him a ring. It would mean he was driven by the most un-Manning traits: greed or worse yet, a Favre-ish desire for revenge. Heck, he might as well grow a goatee and just go totally evil. No, Denver is just fine for those (irrational) reasons.
Champions are driven by an immense amount of pride. Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest player in the history of the game was just dumped by a team he essentially saved. He knows he can still play. His pride was wounded yet Colts fans expected and hoped he wouldn't step upon his squeaky clean legacy in Indianapolis. With no reasonable claim over any part of Manning's future, fans held out for good news that Peyton would not play in the AFC South.
And once again Peyton Manning did what everyone hoped he would do--he saved the day in Indianapolis.
I'm with a lot of folks on this thread in that I find myself very perturbed with Jim "tweeter-mcgee" Irsay. I would have had fewer hard feelings if he had made it a go with Manning and had a bad season. That's more forgiving than cleaning house, clearing players, new schemes, new everything. We had something unique, and my fear is that Grigson is going to make us just another team, mired in mediocrity. One of my friends at work is a die hard Marino fan and he (like me) was hoping that Manning would come down there. He laments that since Marino, the team has tried so many things and still just cannot put together a winning season. We had something unique in Tony Dungy. We had something unique in Bill Polian. Now we just have other stuff. Sadness.
Ok, I know it's over. I know he's in Denver now. I know I've had all fall and winter to brood over this. And I intellectually know that, given the salary hit, the lack of knowledge whether he's truly 100% healthy or not, and so on, that the move by Irsay's defensible. Not what I would've done myself, but defensible. So intellectually, I know that there's really no blame to attach to the Colts for Manning leaving.
But that said - and I know everyone else has already been through this; for me, it's only hitting now - I still have this core to all my thoughts that's saying "this is wrong". I can't help but think the decision will come back to haunt us.
I hope I'm wrong. In fact, the chances are good that this is simply emotionalism and that logically I am wrong. I was, after all, completely off on my negative reaction to Manning being drafted by Indy in the first place. But still.... my gut's sounding off, and it's totally in contradiction to what my head's telling me. I'm logical enough to know that the gut is not a fact-based center, and that it's misled in the past. I'm enough of a thinking being to not be a slave to it. At the same time, it's not that it's totally untrustworthy; it's simply that it's less intellectual and more intuitive. So I must tempter it with logic.
But there's still that conflict. And I'm not resolving it by just thinking my way through it.
I want Manning to succeed. I really, really do. I want him to get another ring, and to get to the point where the idiots have zero room for complaint about his legacy. I want him to have the hardware so he can be be given the proper due. I don't buy into the whole "Rings Are Greatness" argument myself for the obvious reasons (Dilfer is not better than Marino, case closed). But I'd love for his legacy to be so far beyond question that even *that* avenue of argument is completely shut off. I want him to succeed. But with that - if it happened - would come the fact that his success would mean that the Colts were the ones who jettisoned him with gas left in the tank. So it'd be a mixed blessing. And I **DON'T** want the Colts to be labeled as the team that only gave Manning 2 chances. I'd be sick to death to think that Green Bay and Pittsburgh were better able to give their QB's more chances than Indy was for theirs. So rooting for Manning's success means opening the door to Indy re-relegating itself to non-elite status. And I don't want that either.
The two desires are in conflict.
I'm not going to root for Manning to not get more rings. I'll be bitterly disappointed if he doesn't. At the same time, I can't bear to think that the situation will end up being Indianapolis watching him succeed elsewhere. That makes me ill.
So, what to do? Well, grin and bear it. I certainly refuse to take anything out on Luck; that kid deserves the shot to create his own legacy. And he appears to be a guy Indianapolis can and eventually will be proud of. There's no more "Jeff George quarterback syndrome" in Indianapolis anymore. It's now a team that's known for good QB play. Manning built that, Luck will expand on it. Count on that. So, grin and bear it. Realize that Indy has moved on, and stick those problematic thoughts on a shelf where they can sit with pictures and trophies and all other relics of the past. Let it stand there as something that's from a bygone era. And try to give the new regime a real chance to earn my fandom.
But in the end, until I see how things work out with Manning in Denver, and Indianapolis past 2014, there will just be that part of me saying "This is wrong". The logical part of me will be telling it to shut up, but that part will still have its say. I can't help it.
@AJ_ Yeah, man, I think you nailed it. Like Nate said a couple weeks ago, head and heart. The tendency seems to be that we think or feel like we should be able to reconcile the two, or even that we must. But I think doing so in a case like this is easier said than done.
@pierrezombie Nate was dead on with that Head/Heart allusion. It couldn't describe how I feel any better.
Objectively, I admit that it's the tension between the head and the heart that helps develop wisdom. In life, there's a ton of stuff that you lean one way on for one thing, but the other for something else. A job opportunity, a friend's friend or significant other, a large purchase, any life choice... but the thing that really stinks is the realization that such wisdom is not easily earned, nor is it painless. The Manning situation is actually minor compared to so many other life issues - marriage, health, etc. - but it's not *un*important. Not to a fan. Not to me. And that's why such issues hurt, even when objectively it has zero effect on the rest of my life outside of entertainment. It hurts because we *invest* ourselves in our choices of entertainment. We dedicate ourselves to it, and add value of our own free wills to it. That's why so many of us complained about Jar Jar in the prequels. That's why so many of us debate which season of Buffy jumped the shark, or why the JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek is a good thing or a bad one. We place value there. And by that act, value is generated.
The value is intrinsic after all because all art is in the eye of the beholder. And the act of observing the value there places it there.
So because of that, we hurt when things work out badly in our views. I'm reminded of Leonard Nimoy's amused mention of fans who walked out of Wrath of Khan because of Spock's death. Even to a really invested Star Trek fan like me, that seemed excessive. But nowadays, with age and my own investments in such things, I understand better why they felt that way. Even if I wouldn't take the same action, I understand where it comes from. That's the result of our investment. The emotion is real, even if it's ultimately about nothing tangible. And that's why such things are important. They're important because we hold them to be.
So when the real world complexities of life affect what we place value in, we don't react well. We try, but it's simply being human to act the way we do. I know objectively that any employment ends at some point, more so in the profession of sports than anywhere else. I know objectively that Manning not being there doesn't have to color my opinion of the team; they have, after all, only done what's been done in the past and will be done in the future. If it could happen to Joe Montanna, it could happen to Manning. I know objectively that Luck is a talent that a team would be utterly, ridiculously foolish to pass on, even if he's not guaranteed to be any good in the pros. Bust or not, given what's known you take the chance, period. No one could say they saw a bust coming, not with **him**. It's stupid to pass on the chance. But objective doesn't change the gut churning, nor does it convince the heart that it was the right move. It's merely human nature to doubt such things. It takes real discipline of thought to work past such feelings, and properly evaluate and value them in the context of what your intellect tells you.
And sometimes, it speaks so loudly that even your intellect says "Ok, let's think about this..".
That's life. I can't get past it, and I won't apologize for it. The best I can do is agonize over it. If there was a clear right and wrong to this, then I could accept much better and look forward. But I can't, specifically *BECAUSE* the right and wrong is unclear. You can argue either way. And that's why it's all a tragedy.
I read once that someone said the biggest tragedies do not exist between wrong and right. They exist between two "rights", two properly valid and logical choices, two opposing viewpoints that don't exceed one another from the perspective of the person making the choice. It's the tension that made the movie Sophie's Choice so heartbreaking. When both are valid, and heartbreak can result...well, it's human nature to wonder, to play "What If". It's just being human.
I wish I could rest easier about this. But I don't think I'd be true to myself if I claimed to be. The tension is just there. I just have to live through it, and see what it teaches me.
So now I'm thinking that my fanaticism about Manning, above and beyond my love of the NFL and devotion to the Colts, relates to what you said about art, and how we imbue these things with meaning. Manning is a world class athlete, but he transcends the game and his position by doing it not just as well as anyone else, but by getting there differently. He makes/made quarterbacking an art, which is a kind of greatness beyond merely winning a lot. I think that's getting to what's happening for me in the complex head/heart interaction. And seeing him get replaced by Luck is so jarring, such cognitive dissonance, because it's such a remote possibility that Luck will replicate that quality of greatness, even if he manages all the winning.
@AJ_ Damn, AJ, that may be th most profound thing I've ever read here. I mean than in all sincerity. And the fact that you worked in a Jar Jar reference about blew my mind.
Honestly, the thought of him playing in Denver petrifies. Woody Paige (Denver Post) has suggested that Elway has offered an ownership share when he retires. Compound that with a 5 year, 90 Mil. deal and we could have disaster because Manning's career and identity could be transformed into a Denver Bronco.
Lets say Peyton plays all five years of this contract, wins two super bowls, breaks every passing record and when he retires takes a front office position with the Broncos. These things PROBABLY won't happen, but they could. If this happens, Manning's legacy could be drastically changed.
Whose jersey would he retire in? Maybe it is still as a Colt, but I think that there would actually be discussion about it. That for me would be the most demoralizing thing of all. I hope for Peyton's success, but I don't want to watch highlights of him in another jersey, or worse yet, see him go into the Hall in a Bronco's jersey. I may be being irrational, but that's the job of a fan, right?
@Brandon116 I totally get where you're coming from, but I feel differently. I hope for his success to the extent that if all that other stuff you listed comes out of it, them's the breaks. That's why I'm so frustrated at Irsay for moving on with his "New Era" so quickly -- I think that's what's at stake in his decision.
Stokley to Denver would be great. Sure, he's a lot older -- and probably slower -- than in 2004. But he knows Manning's offense, could help teach it to the other WRs, and as the 4th guy in a spread set, I bet he can still put a move on most linebackers in the league.
Watching Manning reunite with former Colts would be sweet; even better if he takes a bunch of fellow "old heads" and wins with them.
a) SB Nation Broncos' blog poll: Feelings on Manning choosing the Broncos?
Upset, would rather stick with Tebow: 43%
b) Tebow's 2011 completion rate: 47%
Somehow that explains everything.
@pierrezombie I think the diehard Tebowites are a small, extremely loud percentage of Broncos nation.
So... Nate has said from the beginning that the biggest mistake Irsay could make would be cutting a healthy Peyton Manning. He's thrown for several teams and looked good enough for them to pay him a lot of money for the next five years. Peyton's also on saying he'll be ready come OTAs, and he no longer has any reason to upsell his condition. Does this mean Irsay made that mistake? Or do we still wait until the season starts to make that call?
@Sinn0331 One thing that struck me during the last two weeks was how the Colts' front office seemed to be the only one in the NFL to doubt that Manning would return to his former self. And the four years, $64 million left on his contract seems pretty reasonable given what Denver ended up paying for him. I may cool off before the season starts, but today, I honest-to-god hate Jim Irsay.
@GeoffreyHarmon @Sinn0331 The day they cut him, I was walking around like a toddler having a tantrum,"NO! I Hate you, Jim Irsay, with your stupid goatee and your manicured haircut and your big dumb New Era!" But now I'm pretty much over it; he made his choice, and he'll reap the rewards, good and bad. The Football Gods happily dispense the karma appropriately.
@pierrezombie Karma should be the scariest word in the dictionary when it comes to an Irsay. History will judge this decision to be "mayflower" like.
Coorect me if I'm wrong but didn't Manning actaully have a goatee for a short time? Was it after the first Giant@Pats Super Bowl? Or maybe a year later? It was some offseason.
Anyway, great article.
@gizzardfanny He did, but I can't remember exactly when. I actually kinda liked it... it was such a different look for him. Like in a movie, where the "bad" twin is always the one sporting the goatee... Peyton rocking the facial hair kinda made him look more like a bad ass.
He should have went to San Francisco if his main goal is winning in the next year or two. They are loaded on defense. They have Davis, Manningham, Crabtree, Moss, and Gore to throw to, and Gore to run the ball. That team is an instant Super Bowl favorite, especially when you consider their division. That leads to a regular season record that gives home field advantage in the playoffs.
Too Good for the Colts Horse Face must have a good relationship with Manning. A relationship that doesn't care about what Elway did to the Irsays in '83. That says something. That is considered a bygone by Jim Irsay, or Manning doesn't care about it. I know Eli did the same thing to SD. Either way, it is not a factor now. Manning and Elway are good buddies.
That is the only way his decision makes sense. Manning and Elway are good enough friends that Manning chose Denver, a lesser roster than the 49ers. It is possible that Denver can contend for a Super Bowl in the next four years. NFL rosters can morph into contenders quickly.
I guess I am stating the obvious that Elway brought Manning to Denver somehow. Things going on that we don't know. I hope that Peyton does well there and wins. I hope that Andrew Luck is as good in the NFL as he looked in the college game. If he is, our Colts have a solid foundation to build with.
@Cliff I don't know if your Colts fandom predates the move, but as an *Indianapolis* Colts fan specifically, I'm forever grateful to Elway for what he did. If Elway had gone to Baltimore in 1983 would it have created enough goodwill for the team that there would have been a deal to keep the Colts in Baltimore? We'll never know for sure, but it worries me. Personally I credit Elway for helping my town secure a team.
I'm not trying to criticize or question your fandom, I just wanted to offer a pro-Elway perspective.
@GeoffreyHarmon Hadn't thought of that. That draft was before the move, and Elway could have kept the Colts there. Good point.
I became a Colts fan when they moved here. I was 8 years old.
@Cliff Marshall Faulk was quoted in an interview saying how Peyton wouldn't want to keep his brother out of the super bowl? I don't know how much weight that really holds, but if it's true might be why he didn't want to go to the NFC
An attempt at ranking his reasons for choosing Denver over SF:
1. Elway and Fox offered more offensive control than Harbaugh
2. More cap space (perhaps with some input on how to use it)
3. Weaker division
4. Weaker conference
5. Elway "gets it"; promised to go all in right away
6. Home field advantage at altitude
7. Great owner; willing to spend to win
8. Avoids meeting Eli in playoffs
9. Smaller market; less media attention (assuming that's possible)
10. Joining Elway is a subtle middle finger to the Irsay family for showing him the door too soon
@DougEngland Interesting/weird that the NYT blog didn't even touch on half of these: http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/the-mystery-of-why-manning-chose-denver/
@pierrezombie I think you nailed'em all. As I mentioned in another post, I was skeptical at first, but I really believe being in a different conference than his brother was a much bigger factor than anyone could imagine.
@Cliff I agree that he should have gone to SF, but that division will be tough. Seattle already had a top15 defense and they will add to that and Flynn will be better, than Tarvaris Crap.... Arizona has a very good defense too with some playmakers. The Rams have loaded up in free agency and have a ton of high draft picks from Washington.
Very disappointed with the Denver pick, they have no one on offense and a semi-decent D that will likely regress. Would have preferred the niners, they could beast the NFC for years.
Oh well, I guess Peyton felt sorry for all those times he SHREDDED the Broncos D.
@Coltsheadben I hope, instead of loading up on former Colts, Denver gets some defenders in free agency.... I would take the Colts defense over them any day.
I made a post here a couple of weeks ago that I'm Manning-first. That is still true, but while investigating Denver's fan blogs, I have to hand it to this site as being far superior. As a kid I was a 49ers fan (after my first game being the 1984 Super Bowl vs. Miami). I generally liked Denver then because of Elway's class and amazing comebacks. I had more reason to like Denver recently as a decent Tebow fan. Yet, with even more reason to like Denver now, it finally does feel dirty to go to their blogs and (at least to myself) say "Hey, you're my team now." The truth is, that I would totally abandon Denver without regrets (unlike Colts) if Manning left. I was born/raised in Nashville, TN but only a very mild Titans fan because they got there after my childhood and because I was a big Peyton/Colts fan. Still, had he gone to TN I could have finally embraced the Titans where my family still lives. Denver just feels sooooooooo alien to me; at least with Indy, I've been there a handful of times. Upshot: I have more reason to stay a Colts fan in the long run while still being Peyton-first until he retires (hopefully after another ring or two). Sorry for the rambling....
I can't believe 76% of voters on NFL Network think that the Broncos will win the Super Bowl in 2012.
@buymymonkey this siTe really needs proofreaders.
Not upset with him going to Denver but I think he could do better with the 9ers. I do think the money had something to do with it on Manning's side.
Manning wanted to get paid what he is worth when he is healthy. That is, the same that the Colts paid him last summer, in the $90 million over 5 years range. The Colts couldn't afford to pay him that, not with his health concerns, not with the owner choosing to rebuild, and not with Andrew Luck sitting at the 2012 NFL Draft. Irsay chose to rebuild as soon as it was clear that the Colts were going to be awful this year.
Was the choice to rebuild right? We'll see. I'm under the opinion that they should have retooled for another run for the next 3-4 years, but with Luck there, I understand the decision.
Once Irsay made the decision to rebuild, completely start over, he had to let Manning go. This team can't afford what Manning wanted. Manning was willing to restructure, not take less money. There's only so much restructuring you can do to avoid paying the money. At some point, Manning's contract was going to cripple the young team.
@Kyle Rodriguez I know you are right, although Phil B. was saying on the day of the press conference in his live blog, that Peyton was willing to take less money to stay with the Colts. How much less, who knows?
I have mentioned before that maybe this will be what is best for both Peyton and the Colts. But I am still trying to come to grips with the fact that Peyton would rather have stayed a Colt, than go to a situation of his ideal choosing. (49ers, Broncos whoever)
When and exactly why Irsay made the decision to move on, we'll probably never know. I guess Irsay deserves some credit for having the courage of his convictions. But when I see things like that ESPN creation of Peyton in a Broncos uniform, I just get a sick feeling in my stomach.
I could have fully understood Peyton going to Tennessee. I don't think he was considering it for revenge, but because he'd played his college ball there. He already has a fan base there, and I think that was a big part of his consideration. But it would have been really awkward rooting against him twice a year.
Great article! I didn't care where he landed as long as it wasn't in the AFC South! I did want him in Miami so I could go to the games, but it definitely wouldn't have given him the chance to win another ring. Poor Tebow, lol! I will be curious to see where he lands from this deal. And I will also be curious to see how many other Colt's go reunite with Manning in Denver. What an interesting season next year will be. Final thought.... IF the colts can rebuild in time, how about a playoff game where Luck faces Manning... It COULD happen 3 years from now, and that would be a fun game to watch!!
He really should have gone to the Niners. He'll make the playoffs with Denver, but his chances of winning it all there are no better, and maybe even worse, than most contenders. I don't care if Eli plays in the NFC, he has two rings already despite playing QB two tiers below Peyton. Pretty disappointed.
Excellent post! I would have preferred he go to the 9ers, but I can certainly cheer for the Broncos. The Titans would have been too much to stomach. Here's to his getting at least one more ring!
According to postings from Phil B. and others, Peyton was willing to renegotiate his contract to stay with the Colts. Every Colts fan should always remember that... the greatest QB of this generation and possibly ever, was willing to renegotiate his contract to stay and has proven recently almost beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will be ready to play, and yet the Colts decided it was in their best interest to move on.
Perhaps is will end up being best for both the Colts and #18. But I wouldn't have begrudged Peyton wherever he went.
@DougEngland And when it turns out not to be the best for the Colts, and we see next year and the next year a total disaster... I don't think I'll laugh at Irsay's tweets anymore.
Favre was driven by revenge, but he did pick two situations that could have given him another title. His injury was really the issue for the Jets. We forget that the Jets were 8-3 that year, fresh off beating the 10-0 Titans, before losing four of their last five largely due to Favre's own issues.
Then, wanting to go to the Vikings was purely about revenge, but it was a great situation. That 2009 went into the house of the Saints and massively outplayed them, but lost because of 20 fumbles and the Saints laying Favre out for money.
Anyway, about Manning, I'm fine with the Broncos. The 49ers probably would have been a better team with Manning than Denver, but the NFC is definitely tougher.
Speaking of irrational fans, I am going to actively root against Denver and don't want them to win any Super Bowls. I don't have any ill will toward Manning, but if he takes the Broncos to a Super Bowl then Indianapolis has to share Manning's legacy with Denver and I don't want that.
@TrueBlue87 I'm now a Denver fan. Denver may share the legacy if Manning wins there, but I'll share it with them. I'm still a Colts fan too, don't get me wrong. And when Manning retires, I'll be only a Colts fan again. And with any luck (not a pun) the Colts should be good again by then. But who knows.
@TrueBlue87 I can say I couldnt root for Manning if he was playing against the Colts. Some part of me is irrationally OK with Denver however.