The Colts are Peyton Manning, and last night was a perfect example of that. Give credit to the defense—they played a mind-blowingly good game. They were scary good. But at the end of the day it all starts with Manning. He is the Alpha and the Omega of the Colts.
Manning is the only quarterback in the game that I know of who has the freedom to run the team when he’s on the field. He's a throwback to the old days when that was the norm: quarterbacks called the plays on the field, rather than a bevy of coordinators, all with their fingers in the pot.
A great example of Manning’s authority was at the end of the first half last night, when, with seven seconds left on the clock, Manning waved off the kicking unit, and told the head coach, “just one more play.” No other quarterback in the league is allowed that kind of freedom. But then again, what people have to understand is that there is no other quarterback in the league like Manning.
Everyone in Indy understands this; from Owner Jim Irsay on down to Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell, everyone knows that this is Manning’s team, and if there was no Peyton Manning, there would be no Colts; at least not as the perennial winners and record setters that we've known over the past decade.
It's not that the coaching staff doesn't get plenty of say in the play calling, and what plays to call on which down, but at the end of the day, when all is said and done, this is Manning’s team, and the final call rests with him.
That’s not to say that Manning is disrespectful, or a Prima Donna—like Jeff George was. Manning has earned the say he has, through his hard work and accomplishments on and off the field. So when you’re the coach, and you have the most intelligent quarterback ever to play the game on the field, you trust him to make the decisions because he has proven to you, year after year, that more often than not, he’s right.
Sure, Jim Caldwell, and the rest of the staff take care of the mundane stuff: when to pull the players and rest them, what the practice schedule is going to be like, and the overall game plan for the week (though, I suspect Manning even has a say in that), etc. But when Manning is out on the battlefield on game day, make no mistake—he's the leader.
Don’t think that this doesn’t rub off onto the defense, either. The esprit de corps of the whole organization emanates from Manning. The defense, and special teams, sees what he does on and off the field, and it inspires them to work harder and play harder.
So while Manning may not be calling the plays on defense, or making the tackles on special teams, his presence on the field inspires everyone; no one wants to let their general down.
Nowhere has it been more apparent than this season, especially in the playoffs. Manning has one goal this year; to return the Colts to Miami, and bring home another Lombardi trophy for the citizens of Indianapolis. Just like the great generals of old who went to war with other civilizations for the glory of their Empire, so does Manning go to war for the glory of Indy, and his troops follow him and never give up, because they see that he never gives up.
Yes, it truly is Manning’s world, where battle after battle, we have the honor of seeing his greatness.
To all the fans of the NFL, put aside your petty jealousies arising from the fact that your team doesn’t have a Peyton Manning, and watch the maestro play, because when he is done with his career, he'll own every significant record in the book (Favre can keep the record for most interceptions) and there will never be another quarterback like him; it’s an honor that modern technology lets us be spectators to a world that will be gone faster than we care to think about.
So every time you hear an announcer say, “Manning to ‘some receiver you’ve never heard of’ for a touchdown!” savor it, because one day all you will have are memories of those great moments from the “Peyton Manning Show.”