The city of Indianapolis in particular, and the football world in general, is being torn apart about the future of one of the NFL’s greatest players, Peyton Manning.   Peyton Manning means everything to Indianapolis, and likely always will.   He has grown to be an even bigger icon for the Colts franchise than the legendary Johnny Unitas, who until now was team’s all-time standard bearer.

Peyton Manning

Fans are wondering how this will all play itself out.  Will the vaunted but injured quarterback who until this season never missed a game be able to co-exist with his probable replacement Stanford’s Andrew Luck?  Will the Colts attempt to trade Manning, or trade the draft pick, hoping for three or four more good years from Peyton?  Questions and more questions.  But for now no answers.  The bigger question that few want to consider though is whether Manning will even be able to play again, let alone be as good as he once was.

Some want to reduce this to asking and answering whether Peyton Manning is better than Andrew Luck.  Its a silly question, for which there is a simple answer.   Of course a healthy Peyton Manning is better than Andrew Luck.  A healthy Peyton Manning is better than just about anyone who has ever played quarterback.  But he is no longer healthy, or in his prime.  And he is struggling to overcome one of the most serious injuries a football player can have.

This is not like a knee injury for which there are predictable outcomes, it involves Manning’s neck. He has had three surgeries on it in less than two years.  This particular injury not only impacts his ability to throw the football, but his brings into question whether Manning will be able to withstand a hard hit, and more importantly whether he will be able to literally walk away from the game when he actually does call it quits.

This also isn’t about the money.  Not really.  Yes, there are 28 million reasons why the Indianapolis Colts need to think long and hard about whether to pay Manning the bonus he is due the first week of March.  The clock is ticking on that.  This is really more about honor and doing the right thing.

This is why in the end, it should come down to Peyton Manning truly understanding what the right thing to do is.

There are plenty of fans who believe the Colts “owe” Manning, and should pay him whatever he asks, for services rendered and for a career of great memories for the city and the team.   But the fact is he has already been paid many millions of dollars, far more than any Colts player has ever received.   He has never been taken for granted by owner Jim Irsay, who knows full well just how important Manning has been and what he still means.  Manning is universally recognized as one of the best to ever play quarterback.

But Peyton Manning can’t play right now.  And he may never be able to play at a high level again.  No one knows this better than Manning himself.  If he cares at all about the team, he will walk away with honor and dignity.

I believe he is a better person than someone who will back the owner into a corner and force him to make a decision that will make the Colts look villainous, or worse, foolishly generous.   If Peyton can play again, that will be a wonderful thing.  But time is running out for fans and the Colts to know this for sure.

Fortunately, the Colts have a fantastic insurance policy on the future.  Its the number one draft pick. 14 years ago, Peyton Manning was that first pick.   And soon after he joined the team he changed a city and the franchise for the better.  Now with the number one pick in hand again, Peyton unselfishly has a chance to help the Colts move positively on to a new era by stepping away.   I’m hoping he does it.

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  1. Danno says:

    A healthy Peyton Manning is FAR from “better than about anyone who has ever played quarterback.” Better football mind yes, better quarterback no. The rest of the blog I agree with.