As traumatic as it was for Colts fans to watch their team basically tell one of the greatest players in NFL history to go take a hike (in not so many words), there were a few silver linings to be found when Peyton Manning was released.
For one thing, Andrew “Rocket Scientist” Luck. (Or should it be "Andrew the Giant"?)
Also, clearly, Manning didn’t even want to stick around for the rebuilding project that was inevitably about to take place in Indianapolis, so the move made sense for him too. Huge weight lifted for Colts fans.
As much as they don’t want to admit it, however, there was another unspoken reason the people in Indianapolis suppressed the urge to raid Colts headquarters the day Manning was cut: As far as anyone knew at the time, his best days were behind him. Or at least, they were supposed to be.
Apparently someone forgot to tell Manning, because somehow, at the age of 37, he’s playing so lights-out right now, he’s legitimately threatening to upstage the 13 years he spent revolutionizing the sport in Indianapolis and to make this stage of his career—any normal player’s twilight years —the one for which he’s best remembered.
Think about it. When the Colts released Manning, nobody knew if he’d ever play again. His recovery from neck surgery went about as well as a horror movie (at one point, he resorted to experimental stem-cell treatments that still aren’t even available in this hemisphere), and the consensus was that even if he did return, it would only be to add a mere footnote to his time in Indianapolis.
That’s where Manning’s true legacy lied, where history was destined to immortalize him—not as a Bronco or a Dolphin or whatever, but as an Indianapolis Colt—as the Indianapolis Colt.
Two short years later, however, and suddenly even that once-safe assumption has been called into question. That’s how good Manning has been since his return, and in case you forgot during the last paragraph, he’s doing it at the age of 37. How insane is that?
It’s not like he was ever anything short of incredible to begin with, and he’s still getting better? What’s he going to be like when he’s 42? 45? Could we be looking at the future first quinquagenarian player in NFL history?
Colts fans will see the difference firsthand when "The Sheriff" rides into town this Sunday and continues playing quarterback the same way he has all season: Better than anyone ever has.
Twenty-two touchdown passes, two interceptions and a 6-0 record? Manning isn’t just good right now, he’s historic. If he keeps up this pace long enough to win himself another Lombardi trophy, at the age of 37, what moment out of all his time in Indianapolis would even hold candle to it?
Better yet, how many moments in the history of the league could top a season like that?