I write to you today (Monday, March 19, 2012), speaking as a fan first and a sportswriter second.
It is expected that sometime soon, very soon, you will make the decision regarding which team outside of Indianapolis you will choose to continue your career with.
Which team you'll end up joining is really anyone's guess at this point, though I have a feeling that you've probably figured it out by now.
What I have to share with you is as much about your past as it is about your future.
They say to always look forward but in this instance, I cannot help but look back.
I'm a Colts fan.
Not because of Mr. Jim Irsay, not because of the horseshoe, the uniform, or the beautiful new stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
I'm a Colts fan quite simply because of you.
You're gone now, never to don our helmet or take another snap.
You're gone now, never to audible, never to orchestrate another desperate fourth-quarter comeback, never to remind us why football still exists in the state of Indiana.
I don't blame you for your departure. I don’t blame Mr. Irsay either.
The sportswriter in me says that it was the right call.
Quite frankly, Peyton, you deserve better than the Colts.
You've carried a less-than-incredible organization to more wins in a single decade than any player in the 92-year history of the sport and you didn't take over a great team to do it, you took over the absolute worst team to do it.
Andrew Luck will soon be able to relate.
With as great as you were, your greatness, your productivity, your exceptional ability to cover up the Colts' shortcomings allowed Mr. Irsay to run around boasting about a team with an inflated perception of caliber.
The Colts may never have been truly "great" in totality; they just sported the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
It was your greatness that led the organization to the pinnacle of professional sports.
It was also the absence of your greatness brought the "Indianapolis reality" to light.
You gave us relevance, victories, fourth-quarter comebacks, production, leadership, sportsmanship, an incredible new stadium, a Lombardi trophy and more.
Thank you, Peyton, for giving us a past to cherish and a future to anticipate.
Thank you, Peyton, for giving us Andrew Luck.
You see, while I don't doubt that a player of your caliber deserves better than what the Colts have given you, you may have very well left us with the only man capable of filling your shoes.
Your departure is stomachable because of this and only this.
Indianapolis will be in good hands, so my advice to you is to take care of yourself.
Don't worry about your legacy, the heck with what the pundits have to say. They've never proven themselves capable of subjectively or accurately analyzing your career, so don't ever expect that to change.
Your legacy speaks for itself.
Eleven Pro Bowl selections in 13 active seasons will never be accomplished again.
Your 11 Pro Bowl selections stand as the most in NFL history at the quarterback position.
Brett Favre equaled that feat over the span of 20 seasons, with two of his Pro Bowl selections (1993 and 2008) being completely undeserved.
Whether it be your seven consecutive seasons with 12 wins or more (12-4 in 2003, 12-4 in 2004, 14-2 in 2005, 12-4 in 2006, 13-3 in 2007, 12-4 in 2008, 14-2 in 2009), nine consecutive seasons with 10 wins or more (10-6 in 2002 and 10-6 in 2010 can be added to the previous list), your NFL record seven fourth-quarter comebacks in 2009, your NFL record five consecutive fourth-quarter comebacks in 2009, your record-setting touchdown percentage in 2004 (where your 49 touchdowns would have become 57 had you thrown the extra 81 passing attempts it took Tom Brady to better your record by one), being the only quarterback in NFL history to be selected to the Pro Bowl during three different decades (1990's, 2000's and 2010's), your NFL record of 13 consecutive seasons with 26 or more touchdown passes, your NFL-record 11 4,000-yard passing seasons (second-best in NFL history is only six), your NFL record of most games with a perfect passer-rating (four), your NFL record of most regular-season 300-yard passing games (63), your NFL record of most postseason 300-yard passing games (eight), the greatest championship-game comeback in NFL history (from being down 18 points against the Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship game), the highest touchdown-to-interception differential in NFL history (+201), highest touchdown passes per-game average in NFL history (1.918), your NFL record four league MVP awards...
I could go on and on and on; there just isn't enough room.
The point being, what you've accomplished stands on its own two feet.
You don't have anything to prove to anyone but yourself.
When I spoke with Fran Tarkenton the day after you put on one of the greatest single-game performances I've ever seen (the 2009 AFC Championship), he told me that you "certainly will be in that category as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play."
Without taking another snap, you have already secured your legacy as being the greatest ever to play the position. If you want to add to the greatest resume in NFL history, then by all means.
You deserve it.
I wish you nothing but the best with the remainder of your career, and I want you to know that no matter what happens from this point forward, I am incredibly thankful for your services as the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts for all of these years.
Thank you, Peyton.
Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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