The realization has finally sunk in with my wife that the Peyton Manning era is basically over for Colts fans. There are still hints of a chance as long as Peyton Manning hasn’t had his contract terminated, but I haven’t come across anyone who thinks there is any other outcome other than the Colts cutting Manning loose before having to pay $28 million.
Anything is possible, of course, just like my dreams on nights when I have an active lottery ticket in my possession. I also understand full well how hard it is to say goodbye to good things, but my response to my wife’s statement that this is the end of an era was, “At least you had an era.”
I didn’t even mean it like “you had something that I didn’t as a Browns fan.” While that is true lately, I am old enough to remember at least getting close a couple times. I am old enough to remember the pain of Bill Belichick cutting Bernie Kosar for “diminishing skills.” I remember being sad, confused and feeling like it was totally unfair that a hero had been ripped away from me. In hindsight I was in denial.
No matter how poorly Bill Belichick handled that situation, Bernie Kosar was never going to be the great quarterback who I remembered from the playoff runs in the late 80s. He became an extremely valuable teammate and backup in Dallas and Miami before retiring, but he was never a front line NFL starter again in his career.
Peyton Manning might not be completely done being a starter in the NFL, but it is impossible for him to be a long-term solution ever again. Manning turns 36 at the end of this month; he has been battling major injuries with surgery and rehab. Age catches up to everyone eventually and football players more quickly and suddenly than regular people. If Peyton Manning were to defy the odds in the most incredible ways imaginable, we’re still talking about five years.
Brett Favre played until 41 years of age and he never dealt with the kinds of neck surgeries that Peyton Manning is trying to come back from. And honestly how close was Brett Favre to turning into a punchline in his last three years between the Jets and Minnesota?
Favre is a good example for Colts fans today. The team he left behind had a pretty difficult P.R. battle as they waved goodbye to the face of the franchise and tried to indoctrinate Aaron Rodgers as the new one. It was a messy transition because Rodgers was already there in Green Bay and had a difficult tight rope to walk in taking the reigns without insulting the old guy who wasn’t gracefully dismissed. In the meantime he also had to play well enough on the football field so that everyone would stop questioning whether the Packers would have been better off with another year of good old Brett Favre.
Rodgers started all 16 games for the Packers in 2008 going 6-10 while Brett Favre helped the Jets fade down the stretch to a 9-7 season. Maybe the Packers would have been better in 2008 with Brett Favre instead of Aaron Rodgers, but that one down year gave Aaron Rodgers enough experience and know-how to lead the team to 35 wins over the next three seasons including 14 this past season in 2011.
The Colts have it pretty good, all things considered. They have a chance at a guy that everyone thinks is an obvious replacement for Peyton Manning in Andrew Luck. The guy they have to say goodbye to is in the twilight of his career and gave them the best era the franchise has ever experienced. Change is necessary, but it is never easy. All things considered it is a pretty clean break.
Browns fans know this. There wasn’t an Andrew Luck staring us in the face when Bernie Kosar was cut loose. There wasn’t an Aaron Rodgers sitting behind him either as Testaverde was 30 years old. It’s hard to know how good you have it when you’re going through the change, but I am confident that if everything plays out how we think it will over the next week or so, Colts fans will be thankful for how clean this transition will look in hindsight.