There was something magical about the Colts’ inspiring 34-28 comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. I don’t know what it was, but as it unfolded, it looked very reminiscent of the Green Bay game last season.
That’s when the Colts mounted a miraculous second-half comeback against the Packers with their leukemia-stricken coach watching the game from his hospital bed.
Exactly one year later, the Colts found themselves in the same spot again. Needing another fourth-quarter rally to overcome another NFC power, the Colts again turned to their franchise quarterback.
Sounds strange, but it wasn’t Peyton Manning. Rather, it was his successor, Andrew Luck.
Countless conversations have formed between the two quarterbacks, and all of them have posed the same question: Did the Colts make the right call in releasing Manning to draft Luck?
It’s a topic that will be debated for years, one that IndyStar columnist Bob Kravitz is already tired of addressing. I understand why people still cling to the past–heck, even I do–but no matter what the minority (or what’s left of the minority) still insists, Jim Irsay’s decision to cut Peyton Manning loose and start over with Andrew Luck was, still is and always will be the right decision.
If you still weren’t convinced before last Sunday, you better be now. Just see what Brad Wells of SB Nation’s Stampede Blue had to say on Twitter after the game:
Seriously, folks. Andrew Luck is exactly who the Colts need right now.
I don’t care if Manning is having another MVP caliber season and wins another Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos–for his sake, I hope he does. When you have the chance to grab the best quarterback prospect since, well, Manning, you get him and move on.
That’s exactly what Jim Irsay did, even if it was the most difficult thing he’s had to do as an owner.
The sadness and grief shown on the dark day of March 7, 2012, was understandable. We develop special relationships with our great athletes and citizens and never want to say goodbye or see the good times end.
But Manning was coming off a career-threatening neck injury, and at 36 years old, his career was nearing its end. And he was due $38 million, which would leave it impossible to keep veterans Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, among others.
Manning knew that, and he wanted to win another Super Bowl. Who can blame him? I give him credit for realizing that he was better off elsewhere in his pursuit of another ring.
All you need is a little common sense. Do you sacrifice another decade of excellence from Luck for just three to five more years of Manning at his finest?
The answer is simple: No. The Colts had to think long-term, ahead to when Manning is hanging up his cleats and Luck is chasing his first league MVP award.
It’s still a joy to watch Manning play, even if it doesn’t feel right seeing him play in a different uniform. I’m thrilled that he’s seemingly come back even stronger than he was before his injury by playing at an inhuman level.
It’s always nice to reminisce and hang onto wonderful memories, but in the words of The Beatles or even John Mellencamp, “Life goes on.” And for the Colts, to say life goes on would be an understatement.
Who could’ve predicted an 11-5 finish in 2012 after that 2-14 fiasco the year before? Forget about the playoffs; the Colts had the look of an expansion team.
But yet, for whatever reason, they vastly overachieved. They played with heavy hearts as their recovering head coach watched from the press box. Andrew Luck looked just like his predecessor, working his magic in the fourth quarter of an NFL-record seven comeback wins.
The Colts’ 2012 season was undoubtedly inspiring. However, the general consensus was that it was unlikely to be duplicated in 2013, that the Colts would fall back to Earth.
So far, that hasn’t been the case.
The Colts are still playing the same inspiring football we saw last year. Andrew Luck is still the king of fourth-quarter comebacks, and he’s done it with an offensive line that allowed 41 sacks last season. (It’s even worth wondering if Manning would have survived behind that same unit, especially with a bad neck.)
This is a team that keeps defying the odds, willing its way to victory over any opponent (well, almost). At 4-1, they own sole possession of the AFC South lead for the first time in the post-Manning era.
It was unimaginable to ever see Manning wear another uniform. But the perfect storm of imperfect circumstances led to his release, and on came Andrew Luck and a new era of Colts Football.
A new era that, to say the least, has worked out well. For both parties.