Peyton Manning, the Colts and the Classiest Sports Divorce in Sports History?

Jeff Kayer@thereal_kmanCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2012

Today at 12 noon ET, Peyton Manning and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay took the stage to formally announce the news that neither man would have thought possible a year ago.

Peyton Manning was no longer an Indianapolis Colt. 

The man who was quite possibly responsible for the Colts franchise still playing in Indianapolis is set to be officially released after months of rumors in which it became quite apparent what had to happen.

With Manning due to be paid $28 million, the Colts really had no choice but to cut their franchise quarterback loose considering he health is still a concern and some rookie named Andrew Luck is set to be drafted in a little over a month. Perhaps you've heard of him. 

Still, despite the move that even Manning knew they had to make, it was a surreal to see him say goodbye to the franchise. In today's sports, there is perhaps no athlete more tied to his team than Manning. 

He leaves Indianapolis with an amazing track record. He and his team along with the New England Patriots were the models of consistency since we entered the 21st century. He departs Indiana's capital with a Super Bowl title in 2006 and a record four MVP awards. 

After today, the debate will rage about where Manning will go to next. Will he be playing in our nation's capital? Will he take his talents to Miami and go hang out with LeBron James? Perhaps he'll go to Arizona where the seat Kurt Warner left a year ago still seems quite warm.

But before we look towards the future, it should be worth noting the class that was displayed by both Manning and Irsay since the news was leaked that today would be Manning's last day as a Colt. The media swarmed around Irsay's private jet last night only to find both Irsay and Manning getting off together and getting in the same car, both looking emotionally spent yet at peace with what was set to transpire. 

Today, we saw both men trying to fight back tears as they complimented each other and the relationship they have had for the past 14 years and the friendship that will likely continue long after Manning packs his bags for his next NFL team.

You could tell at today's press conference that both men were still in some state of shell shock, not believing that this moment was taking place. Neither man wanted it to end this way. Manning was supposed to be a Colt for life.

However, his injury, the team's horrid play leading to the No. 1 pick in the draft and NFL economics made his release an absolute necessity for a team that is in full rebuild mode.

Still, what we saw today is the complete antithesis from the last legendary NFL quarterback to leave a franchise that everyone assumed would stay forever.  Whereas Manning and Irsay understood the situation and respected each others decision, Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers had a falling out that was so bitter, Packer fans had the type of feud you'd see in a production of West Side Story.

You will see no such thing in Indianapolis and their fans. Manning with his eyes getting more moist by the second, thanked fans for the great memories and how he'll never forget his time here. 

As Manning prepares to say goodbye, he leaves the franchise showing the type of class that has defined him since his arrival in 1998. A pro's pro, as you'll hear from NFL analysts.

It was perhaps the greatest parting of ways I have ever seen and it would not surprise me that when Manning does decide to hang them up, that the Colts try to bring him in to immediately groom him for either a coaching role or one in the front office similar to what you see today with John Elway in Denver

Today, we say goodbye to seeing No. 18 on the field in Colts blue. Don't cry too hard, Colts fans. I doubt you've seen the last of him.  


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