After 14 glorious seasons in Indianapolis, The Colts parted ways with future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, making him the hottest free agent in the history of the game.
With the 2012 free agent signing period around the corner, the game’s biggest name of our modern day era is free on the market. Joe Montana and Brett Favre, like Peyton Manning, footballs greatest players ever to play the position time came to an end with the organization they helped build into winners for more than a decade. From league MVP’s to super bowl MVP’s and record setting performances, the reality of cold hard business decisions has struck us again. All things must come to an end, even the greatest things that we’ve seen with our own two eyes. And as expected, Colts team owner Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning parted ways as business has proven to us time and time again that friendships aside when organizational business matters come about.
Age and injuries came into play with Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in the early 90’s as a shoulder injury sidelined the Hall of Fame quarterback for nearly two seasons before the team decided to ship him to Kansas City in a trade making Steve Young the starting quarterback. The move turned out golden for the 49ers as the organization went from one Hall of Fame quarterback to the next. The decision at the time for 49ers team president Carmen Policy and team owner Eddie DeBartolo was as difficult as Jim Irsay’s in Indianapolis. Policy and DeBartolo had to take a hard push of friendship aside as they knew the best thing for the organization was to trade Montana as both of them envisioned Steve Young as the games next great quarterback in the matter of personnel decisions.
The Green Bay Packers said good bye to Brett Favre in 08 when the team traded him to the New York Jets. Age and injuries played a key factor in the organizations move as well to begin the Aaron Rodgers era that took off right from the get-go, as Rodgers led the Packers to their fourth title in franchise history in 2010. The only difference out of the three great’s era that came to end with their beloved franchises is that Montana and Favre were traded unlike Peyton Manning who was released. Coming off four neck surgeries in a span of 19 months and soon to be 36 years of age with the #1 pick come April’s draft, and former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck on the board, Jim Irsay decided to release Manning before the March 8th deadline when he was due a $28 million bonus option.
Irsay, like San Francisco and Green Bay before they let go of their franchises great quarterbacks, has a vision for the organizations future with another young quarterback that can possibly turn out to be the games next best player at the position. With Manning sidelined for the entire 2011 season, the Colts finished 2-14, the worst record in the league claiming the top pick of the 2012 draft. And with that pick, the Colts will draft Andrew Luck, a player who’s scouting report that has nothing but all implications of being one of the better players to quarterback at the pro level. Prior to the release of Manning, Irsay and the Colts began cleaning house when the franchise decided to let go of the entire coaching staff including one of the best personnel men, Bill Polian who helped scout and draft for the Colts dating back when the team drafted Manning in the late 90’s. The moves gave indication that the organization was in the process of a change and ready to start all over by letting go of the old and bringing in the new. And the new beginning will officially begin when the team drafts Luck come late April.
So now that the Manning era has been erased in Indianapolis, setting him free out in the market, it’s time begin the process of which teams are most likely to make a run for him.
Miami Dolphins: Haven’t had a household name at the position since Dan Marino. South Beach sports great weather and young talent with a top receiver Brandon Marshall to throw the ball to. Word out in the street has it that Reggie Wayne a Miami University alumni and longtime target for Peyton in Indianapolis would consider going to Miami should it be the next home for the future Hall of Famer.
Arizona Cardinals: Another squad that features a top receiver, Larry Fitzgerald and young talent across the board. The Cardinals have been shuffling quarterbacks recently trying to find a pure future starter and have come up short. Bringing along Peyton would be worth the risk taking process despite his health condition. And why not? The franchise took the same gamble on Kurt Warner who led the team to super bowl appearance in 08.
Denver Broncos: Even though “Tebow Mania” caught the nation by storm, executive vice president and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway has expressed interest in Manning. Tebow’s story book season still has Elway and the Broncos on the fence on Tebow’s ability as a pure quarterback of the future, and Denver like Miami has been looking for the right quarterback since the days of Elway to lead the Broncos to a super bowl. And with one of the league’s top defensive units and young receiving core that has potential to only get better, Manning could instantly turn the Broncos into a contender.
Houston Texans: Matt Schaub has been injury prone. The Texans are by far the most talented team for Manning to land. Houston is a standout super bowl contender in 2012, but the injuries of Schaub can put a halt on their super bowl plans as it did in 2011. The team is still caught in a cross fire with free agent pass-rusher Mario Williams on whether or not they’ll re-sign him. And should they decide to let Williams walk, the more cap space to sign Peyton will be available. This is a 50/50 gamble across the board. With a healthy Schaub, Houston’s chances of reaching the super bowl are at a high percentage. The same with a healthy Manning. But Manning’s age factor and recent neck injuries should play a huge factor for Houston to retain Schaub, a much younger player the organization has invested in.
Kansas City Chiefs: Head Coach Romeo Crennel has stated his interest in Manning and that the team has lots of young talented players at multiple positions that can turn into a contender with him aboard. The Chiefs have lots to offer Peyton, but the question remains will it be his ideal fit? After all, Manning will make the decision he best feels he has a chance to win and Kansas City may have the least talent out the five team’s I’ve listed.
Like Lebron James’ “The Decision” that hit the media airwaves on an ultimate level, the same with Peyton Manning’s decision soon to be made. All we can do is guess were the future Hall of Famer will begin his next chapter outside of Indianapolis. And wonder if he’ll be healthy enough to sustain a full season of the most brutal sport coming off a slew of neck injuries.