If you have been living under a rock since Wednesday morning and have not yet seen the tearful Jim Irsay/Peyton Manning press conference, then I recommend you watch the theatrics here. It is truly the end of an era in Indy and for the NFL. No matter what colors and logo #18 trots out of the tunnel wearing next season, it's going to be weird not seeing Manning with the familiar horseshoe on his helmet calling the plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
It's hard to argue that today's events aren't the best for both parties. The Colts can finally rebuild after the long fourteen year Manning run, and Peyton is free to sign with a contender (if and when he proves he has the arm strength to be the Peyton of old not an old Peyton). It's rare to see a superstar athlete play for one franchise his entire career, and we now know that even applies to a four-time MVP.
There is a small percentage of Volunteer fans who are not completely enamored with Manning. These fans hold the Florida losses against Manning and also point out that the Vols won a National Championship not with Peyton but rather with Tee Martin in '98 when Manning was a rookie with the Colts. That being said, there is a much larger percentage of Volunteer fans that are HUGE Peyton Manning supporters. Many of these UT fans adopted the Colts as their favorite NFL team. Others may not have completely converted to the Colts, but they rooted for Peyton in the playoffs after their team(s) had been eliminated from contention. Whatever the case, Volunteer fans forged an unbreakable bond with Manning during a very successful four-year run in Knoxville. If Volunteer fans could form such a strong affinity for a player in only four years, imagine how Colts fans feel after a fourteen year run. Colts fans had ten more years than Volunteer fans for the roots of loyalty to entrench themselves. As much as residents of the Volunteer State love all things Peyton, residents of the Hoosier State owe much more to the man, the myth, the legend. How bout a new stadium (Lucas Oil), would it be there without Manning? No. Would Indy have hosted a Super Bowl without that stadium? No. Manning has made millions during his run in Indy, but I would be willing to bet that the Indianapolis economy has benefited to an even greater amount from Manning's greatness.
Where will Manning land? As a Middle Tennessee resident, I would love to see him with the Titans, but the Titans Organization has already stated they feel they are "in good hands" with Hasselbeck and Locker. The Cardinals would be an interesting fit, but the ideal situation is in Miami. Let's say Manning signs with the Dolphins, and Reggie Wayne goes "back home" to where he played in college for the U. That would give Manning some serious weapons with Marshall and Wayne on the outside and Davone Bess (a poor man's Wes Welker) in the slot. Manning would also benefit from the versatile Reggie Bush in the backfield. The Dolphins are a sleeping giant; they only need a proper trigger man to make it happen. The owner, billionaire Stephen Ross, is always looking to make a splash to get butts in seats, and Manning would be the ultimate rolling out of the red carpet for fans on South Beach. LeBron James and Peyton Manning in the same city; that's some star power. The Dolphins have been looking to replace Dan Marino since his retirement in '99, and I can think of no better way than to bring in Manning for a three year magic carpet ride. Can you imagine Manning vs. Brady twice a year inside the division? Can you imagine a Giants/Dolphins Super Bowl with a Manning under center for each team? I'm getting fired up just typing this.
Maybe this post is getting the cart before the horse. After all, Manning has to fully recover and prove he still has the zip/mustard to make all the throws. Personally, I don't think it will be a problem, and I can't wait to see Manning in aqua and coral. Manning flew to South Florida Wednesday after the press conference. If that's not foreshadowing, then I don't know how to define it.