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Peyton Manning clearly putting himself ahead of the Colts

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Peyton Manning’s football future is in serious doubt and he’s terrified.  Peyton Manning photo: free-extras.com

He’s been publicly scolded by Colts owner Jim Irsay.  His most trusted ally and the man chiefly responsible for the Colts’ demise, Vice Chairman Bill Polian, is gone. Polian’s son Chris, another Manning enabler, is also gone. Jim Caldwell, Manning’s assistant coach, replaced by former Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano.

See a trend?  
   
For 14 seasons, the Colts coddled the 2nd son of the National Football League’s royal family. Virtually all decisions related to the offense were made with Manning’s blessing in part because he performed at an all-pro level, and partly because he is a petulant child, incapable of relinquishing control.

Clearly, the Colts were a bad football team, but they weren’t 2-14 bad.  Their porous result speaks more to the dysfunctional way they’ve tried to win games all these years.  

They ran a quick tempo offense because it made Manning comfortable. They moved further and further away from running the football presumably because Manning believed his passing—rather than offensive balance—gave the Colts their best chance to win. In fact, once he became a star, he apparently rejected the need for a real offensive coordinator.  

Now, like every other spoiled, aging and physically damaged superstar, his NFL mortality is staring him in the face. And like he has so often throughout his career when pressured, he’s trying to force things.  

He knows his career is in a 4th and long situation and the blitz is coming. Only this time he can’t insist the Colts go for it when his boss wants to punt. This time he can’t simply audible to a better play. Manning’s only chance to remain a Colt is to take a significant pay cut and co-exist with Andrew Luck.  And he knows it.Andrew Luck photo: articles.businessinsider.com

It’s impossible to know how good Luck will be, but I’ve seen the youngster play.  I also saw John Elway play at Stanford, and Luck is by no means John Elway. He does however, appear to be a safe number one pick and Irsay seems smart enough to appease his fan base by selecting him in April.

None of this should be anything new to football fans. Once a great player’s skills or body erodes or his team has a viable replacement, it always gets messy.  If the great ones would only retire when we think they should they could avoid this, but oftentimes they must be forced to deal with reality.  

The Green Bay Packers (Brett Farve) and San Francisco 49ers (Joe Montana) each had Super Bowl winning, future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and both franchises summarily dismissed them.  Steve Young waited until the 49ers traded Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs, and when Aaron Rodgers appeared ready to start, the Packers left Favre so disillusioned he announced the first of what became several self-pity retirements.    

Ironically, former All-Pro cornerback Aeneas Williams spared Young’s pride in a late season nationally televised game in 1999. Williams blitzed from Young’s blind side and knocked him unconscious. Young never took another NFL snap. The pain notwithstanding, Williams did Young a huge favor.  He forever spared Young the uneasiness and embarrassment of being replaced by the next generation. His injury forced him to retire and get on with the rest of his life.  It made Young see himself as something more than a NFL quarterback.  

Despite their feelings of immortality, professional football is only borrowed by the men playing it.  Their time throwing touchdown passes and tackling ball carriers is fleeting.  When a practical and cheaper alternative arrives, their time is up. Peyton Manning knows this all too well.  

Too often human beings (particularly men) define themselves merely by occupation. Their entire self-worth comes not from who they are but from what they do for a living. Manning sees himself as part of the NFL’s first family, so he isn’t likely to go quietly.  He fully expects to return to the playing field next season, but it won’t be with the Colts. This situation will likely get messier, and neither Archie nor Eli can do anything about it.  

Manning has earned a mint playing a game. He’s a son, brother, husband and father but none of those roles are good enough for him right now. If they were, he’d leave the game. Instead, he’s doing everything he can to keep something he hasn’t owned since last January.  

The talk of Luck being the best pro prospect in 20 years has Manning frightened and chatty.  He is going on the offensive trying to remind people of his relevance and protect what he thinks is his. But the truth is it’s too late.  The Peyton Manning era is over in Indianapolis.  

And it should be.


Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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Peyton Manning photo: free-extras.com

Andrew Luck photo: articles.businessinsider.com