Peyton Manning, the four-time MVP quarterback, started 227 consecutive games including postseason for the Indianapolis Colts from 1998 to 2011. That streak ended when Manning missed the entire 2011 regular season with various neck injuries. If Manning starts another streak, it won’t be with the Colts, as the club released him on Wednesday. Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com joined Bill Littlefield for some perspective on the end of an era.
Doyel, who has covered many Colts’ games, said there is one image that he will always remember from Manning’s tenure in Indianapolis.
“Just the way he walks out on that field and you can see 21 sets of eyes on him – it’s a special thing that he has. That’s not just a guy on the field. People recognize this guy is an all-time great,” Doyel said.
In addition to Manning’s injuries, a large reason that the Colts opted to release Manning was the staggering cost of his contract. The Colts would have been on the hook for a $28 million signing bonus on top of his salary. But even beyond that, Doyel said there is yet another reason the Colts decided to move on.
“I think if Andrew Luck doesn’t exist, the Colts go ahead and write that check for $28 million and hope for the best,” he said. “If Andrew Luck is what NFL scouts say he is, then the Colts had no choice but to get rid of Peyton, because Andrew Luck is apparently going to be just about as good.”
Andrew Luck enters into the equation because the Colts’ ineptitude in the absence of Manning last season was so severe that the team won just two games, securing them the first pick in April’s draft. But it is going to take more than just one player to turn their fortunes around.
“They have holes everywhere,” Doyel said. “The Colts were a great, great team about three or four years ago, and all of those guys got old overnight. Andrew Luck is not coming into a situation that Manning came into 14 years ago. It’s going to take a lot of patience, because this team will not be all that good for the next two or three years.”
Quarterbacks who have changed teams late in their careers have experienced both ups and downs. Joe Namath had a forgettable season for the Los Angeles Rams, as did Johnny Unitas with the Chargers. Donovan McNabb has not enjoyed much success since leaving Philadelphia, either. On the other hand, players like Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, and Joe Montana have moved on to other teams and had strong seasons. Doyel is afraid that Manning will one day be remembered in that first group.
“I just hope he ends up upright,” Doyel said. “For me, a success for Peyton Manning would be that he can walk when he’s done. For him, a success would be a Super Bowl ring. I just don’t see how that’s going to happen.”