As tough as it was to watch it at times, the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis came to an end on Wednesday during a joint televised conference between Manning and Jim Irsay.
While I am sure that Irsay, Manning and Colts fans everywhere had a rough time getting through it, this was a move that had to be made. In short time, that will become abundantly clear to both Manning and the Colts.
Obviously, this franchise needs to get younger. They can deny that money was the issue all that they want, but the fact of the matter is that economics are a huge issue.
They would have owed $28 million to Manning if he was kept on the roster. You simply can't afford to pay that much money to a guy who will be 36 years old at the end of this month while still hoping to bring in the quarterback of the future with the No. 1 pick.
Indianapolis has its own past to look at to know that the right move was made here. The last time they had the first pick of the draft was 1998. They took Manning—a move that I would say worked pretty well.
In Andrew Luck, we're looking at the most complete QB prospect to come around since Manning. In Robert Griffin III, you have the most dynamic athlete with passing ability to come from the quarterback position since Michael Vick in 2001.
If both had elected to stay in school and someone like Ryan Tannehill was the best quarterback in the draft, then it would make some sense to keep Manning for a year. But either Luck or Griffin is going to be available, and the Colts need to build around one of them for the future.
Financially, you simply can't afford to keep Manning as well as one of those QBs while still building a team around them. There isn't enough in place right now in Indianapolis to forsake bringing in other key players. That is a recipe for disaster and would only set the Colts back more in future seasons.
Here, they're looking at a rough 2011 and possibly a rough 2012, just like what Manning dealt with in his first year. But now they will have a young leader in place to build around.
With Manning under the helm, the Colts might win more games in 2012 than with a rookie, but they would not resemble a playoff contender. Given that, the best move for the franchise is to take one of the fantastic rookies that will be available to them.
Again, the Colts are not going to be a competitive in 2012. They had very little to be positive about in 2011 and are facing the pending free agency of some of the past era's greatest players not named Manning—notably Reggie Wayne.
You can play the different scenarios through your head all you want, but you won't realistically come up with a scenario where they are going to be better than 6-10. So Manning, who's clearly at the end of his career, would be part of a rebuilding project, and probably taking a lot of abuse along the way.
After all, quarterback is a position where some big hits tend to happen, even with good protection. That isn't exactly what they have in Indianapolis.
So if his career is truly going to continue, it only makes sense that he goes to a place where winning is more possible and the hits won't be as frequent.
Until Manning actually signs with a team, you will hear just about every team in the NFL mentioned in some rumor. With very few exceptions, every one of those options will be better from a football perspective than the Colts—at least for a 36-year-old who just missed an entire season of action.
This is where you have to separate the current situation with the past glory. Yes, 1998-2010 was fantastic and the Colts were genuine contenders. But they weren't in 2011, and wont be in 2012.
For Manning, that is the only year that matters. For the Colts, it's not.
So yes, the era was incredible. Actually, the word may not exist if you want to describe the Manning era in Indy. But the reality is that both Manning and the Colts are better off now.