It’s official. Peyton Manning has left the Indianapolis Colts. He will now play in Mile High Stadium in Denver. In many ways it’s the end of an era. The Colts without Peyton will seem strange, they were nobodies for a long time before Peyton. (Johnny Unitas won a Super Bowl with the Colts but that was in the 1970s.). When Manning was drafted in 1998, the Colts had reached the playoffs 3 times since 1978. In his 14 seasons there, the Colts reached the playoffs 11 times. The 2011 season (last season) Manning was sidelined with an neck injury. His absence was clear to see as the Colts had their first losing season since Manning’s Rookie year in 1998. The Colts won 2 games this year. Their offence was almost non-existent. The Colts had low numbers on offensive side of the ball during 2011. The fourth least scored points (15.2 game average), The third least total yards (286.8), The sixth least passing yards per play (2,995), The seventh least rushing yards per play (1,594), The fourth least receiving yards per play on average (201.4), The least kick returns on average (18.6), and tied fourth at least total touchdowns (25) of all teams in 2011. The Colts set a dubious NFL record on pass defence, by allowing 71.2% completed passes by opposing passers.
Manning will go down as one of the greatest ever to play the game. No doubt about it.
His records include:
11x Pro Bowl (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 ,2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
5x First Team All Pro (essentially an award for the best players of each position during an NFL season)
4x NFL MVP (best player in a league season)
6x AFC player of the Year (best player in AFC conference)
Pro Bowl MVP (2005)
Super Bowl XLI winner
Super Bowl XLI MVP
Fastest to reach 4,000 completions and reach 50,000 yards
NFL 2000’s All Decade Team
There is no doubting how good a player he was. In the regular season he was an amazing player. One could however question his play during the post-season (during the playoffs). In his first 3 playoff games, he threw 1 touchdown and 2 picks. In 2003 season, Manning won his first playoff games. He took the Colts to the AFC Championship game where he would face his big rival of the decade. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Manning and the Colts Offence which contained stars like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, were destroyed. Manning was intercepted a career high four times. He was also sacked 4 times. The Patriots ran out clear winners by 10 points. Despite his superb performances in the earlier stages of the playoffs (Manning had a perfect passer rating in one game and had thrown for a total of 9 Touchdowns in the 2 games), Manning was deemed to be a “bottler” or a guy who couldn’t produce when the going got tough. The same would occur in the 2004 season, Manning again performing poorly against the Patriots in a playoff game. Posting his lowest passer rating of the season and the Colts offence only produced 3 points. They were blown out 20-3. It was time for the Colts and Manning to go back to the drawing board. In 2005, they improved their defence, and with their dynamic offence, this helped tremendously. They won 13 games straight (finally beating the Patriots 40-21). They rested their starters in the final 3 games but finished the regular season 14-2. They faced the Steelers in the divisional playoffs. The Colts trailed 21-3 in the 3rd quarter but a Touchdowns by Dallas Clark and Edgerrin James as well as a two point conversion pass to Reggie Wayne left the score at 21-18. The Colts lost in the end, a fantastic tackle by Ben Roethlisberger after a fumble stopped a certain Touchdown and the resulting field goal was missed.
The Colts made the 2006 postseason once again, The Kansas City Chiefs were put to the sword and the Colts showed their defensive prowess winning 23-8. Manning may have turned the ball over 3 times but the great defensive effort was enough to see the Colts through. The Baltimore Ravens were next in line and another dominant defensive display saw the Colts through. Manning threw two more interceptions, a very solid running game and outstanding placekicking by Adam Vinatieri (a former Patriot) saw the Colts through. The Patriots were now the Colts opponents in the AFC Championship game. In 2 previous playoff games, the Colts had lost and in all honesty, Manning underperformed in those games. In what was a thrilling game, Manning and the Colts won. Manning rushed and passed for Touchdowns and showed he was capable of handling the big time with the final score coming with a minute to play. The Super Bowl in Miami was next, in terrible conditions, the run game was key to victory but Manning still played a very solid game and he ended up taking the MVP. The Colts won by 12 points, the defence again recording a touchdown and Vinatieri showing the skills that led him to winning three titles with the Patriots.
The Colts failed to retain their title in 2007, they finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and got to the playoffs. Here, they were knocked out by the San Diego Chargers, even though the Chargers lost starting QB Phillip Rivers during the game. The Chargers defence was performing solidly and were forcing the Colts to go for it on 4th down . The Colts failed to convert their 3rd fourth down attempt of the day and lost.
Peyton’s brother Eli Manning went on to win the Super Bowl that season. The 2008 season began to show some holes in the defence, Manning won 5 games in the 4th quarter by week 13 of the season. The Chargers awaited in the playoffs once again. The two had met in the regular season where the Colts ran out winners. The game went into overtime and the Chargers never gave the Colts a chance scoring on the opening drive.
In 2009, the Colts reached the playoffs. They faced a stiff Baltimore Ravens Defence with illustrious players such as Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. The Colts emerged victorious, Manning threw an interception but played a very good game throwing two Touchdowns. The New York Jets awaited in the AFC Championship Game, the offence was explosive and Manning threw for 3 scores and over 350 yards. The New Orleans Saints were the Colts’ Opponents and in a marvellous game, the Saints won. Manning played well but a crucial interception in the final quarter led to a Saints win. An incredibly courageous move by the New Orleans Saints also paid off. At the beginning of the second half, the Saints went for an onside kick. It is basically a shorter kick in an attempt to retain the ball. It is an incredibly difficult skill to execute and fortunately for the Saints, the gamble paid off. Here’s a clip of the kick:
2010 saw the Colts eliminated by the Jets in the Wildcard Playoffs. Manning had a decent game but the Jets’ rushing attack and solid defensive saw the Colts go home empty handed. It was sad to see Manning’s last game as a Colt end in defeat.
So what now for Manning? He heads off to Denver after weeks of intense speculation from ESPN and NFL Network. He will start ahead of Tim Tebow, the NFL’s biggest star, who is now reportedly seeking a trade. Tebow is a decent football player but the media circus surrounding him may force some teams to stay away. Tebow certainly could develop into a solid starting QB. Manning is doing something similar to what Joe Namath and Joe Montana have done in the past. Both left their franchises to go to the LA Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs respectively. Neither enjoyed much success in their new homes, Namath suffered from injuries and poor form in LA while Montana showed flashes in Kansas, we ultimately found out that he was just not as good as he once was.
The Broncos have a very good defence (I would hesitate to say great, their play was magnificent in parts of the season but poor in others), a very solid running game, even without Tebow, some capable receivers in Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas and you can expect them to upgrade in the Draft or in Free Agency. There is the possibility that some ex-Colts who are Free Agents such as Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark joining up with Manning. The Broncos haven’t been to the Super Bowl since the late 90s. One thing is for sure, they took a step closer to returning by signing Manning.
Conor Philpot also writes for Sportpulse.