He is Peyton Manning, the face of the Indianapolis Colts franchise. He's on pace to break many NFL passing records. He has been the highest-paid player in the NFL and, as a free agent, will command another huge contract.
So, naturally, the best course of action the Colts should take with him is to shake his hand, thank him for the memories and bid him "adieu."
Am I mad for harboring such thoughts? Mad, yes. Insane? No. In fact, I am quite lucid in thinking the Colts should let Peyton go.
Why should ownership let Manning go?
First of all, let's start with Manning's age. He'll be 35 at the start of next season.
The track record is unremarkable with NFL quarterbacks after the age of 35. All the greats—Unitas, Montana, Marino and Favre—started to decline after age 35.
Are there exceptions? Yes.
Should the Curtis Painter Era begin in Indianapolis?
John Elway won two Super Bowls after the age of 35. But, the Denver Broncos ownership had finally provided a supporting cast around Elway and he was not required to carry the team on his back.
That same situation is not happening in Indy. The Colts are a team in decline and their head coach, Jim Caldwell, appears to be out of his element. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: I knew Tony Dungy and he's no Tony Dungy.
Moreover, if we dig a little deeper, we will see that Manning is a player that is, quite frankly, a bit overrated. To put it another way, Manning is the Bill Cowher of quarterbacks: great regular season record, but sorely lacking in the playoffs.
Now, I won’t go into statistical depth about the striking difference between Peyton Manning, the record-setting regular season quarterback, and Peyton Manning, the ho-hum playoff quarterback—the Internet is littered with such stats. In fact, you can just stay on Bleacher Report to find the contrast.
But, to summarize what’s out there, the stats do not paint an enviable picture of Manning. His playoff stats and record are not flattering.
Next, to put Manning into some historical perspective: He has won one Super Bowl, which puts him on par with such NFL “legends” as Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson.
Hey, that’s still one more than Dan Marino, though!
Lastly, and this one is a bit more nuanced, Peyton Manning is about Peyton Manning.
He could easily give the Colts a hometown discount so that the Colts could re-load.
Manning’s current peer and rival, Tom Brady, has done it. Brady understands the Gestalt Principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And, it’s not as if Manning needs the money. He is an endorsement whore who has not met a product he will not peddle.
But Manning won’t give a discount. It’s not his style. Doing so would be an admission that he’s no longer what he was. No, Peyton will demand top dollar.
This puts the ball in ownership’s court, which means only one thing: Ownership has only one choice but to keep Peyton Manning in Indy.
Why will ownership keep Manning?
Assuming there is a 2011 NFL season, the Super Bowl will be played in Indianapolis.
It would be an absolute public relations nightmare for the team to let its franchise quarterback go the year the Super Bowl is played in Indianapolis. Jim Irsay and Bill Polian would be drawn and quartered on the 50-yard line of Lucas Oil Stadium if that happened.
Second, and more importantly, the Colts have not prepared for the inevitable: the end of the Peyton Manning Era.
The San Francisco 49ers replaced one Hall-of-Famer, Joe Montana, with another, Steve Young. The Green Bay Packers had Aaron Rodgers to more than adequately take over for Brett Favre. The Colts have Curtis Painter. Yes, the Curtis Painter.
Again, I think Manning had something to do with that. Bringing in his future replacement would be seen as an affront to all that he’s done for the franchise.
No, the Colts have no future plan and, therefore, (to quote George Costanza) have no hand. They are at Manning’s whim.
Ultimately, the payroll-breaking contract that Manning commands will lead to the downfall of the Colts, burdening them with the salary of an aging quarterback and rendering them helpless to fix holes on the team.
So, what does this mean?
It means that although the Colts should let Manning go, they won’t. As what happens in all of life, politics takes precedent over prudence, emotion over logic.
And, so it begins, the downward spiral of the Indianapolis Colts.