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Commentary: Peyton Manning’s classy departure a sad day for Indianapolis

Courtesy of MCT

Part of me wants to hop on Interstate 70 West and drive to Indianapolis to revel in the misery of the Indianapolis Colts fans on this trying day.

You see, I’m from Northwest Indiana and that’s Chicago Bears territory. Compounded by the fact that Peyton Manning has his only Super Bowl at the expense of the Bears, today should be a day of celebration for me.

But it’s not.

I have far too much respect for what Manning has accomplished during his 14 years with the Colts’ organization. He made Indianapolis a football city. For anyone who has ever driven through or had the chance to visit Indianapolis, it is clear that Manning was considered nothing short of a god. Manning’s likeness could be found around every corner.

In short, Peyton Manning was Indianapolis.

That will no longer be the case as the Colts officially announced Wednesday that they will be releasing Manning. The decision came one day before the team was scheduled to give Manning a $28 million bonus and begin the second year of the five-year $90 million deal that he signed before last season.

Manning choked back tears as he thanked Colts fans and expressed his gratefulness to the city of Indianapolis. It was apparent that Manning truly didn’t want to leave.

Manning and Colts’ owner Jim Irsay insisted the decision had nothing to do with money, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Irsay would have been making a significant financial investment in a player who missed an entire season to recover from a neck injury.

On one hand, it’s hard to understand Irsay’s reasoning in letting Manning go. If your quarterback of 14 seasons tells you that he is confident he’ll play again, and at the same high level that he was at, wouldn’t you listen to him?

And on the other hand, it’s rather impressive how Irsay has been able to emotionally remove himself from the situation and assess the situation from a neutral standpoint. If Manning isn’t healthy, $28 million is a lot of money to invest in a damaged asset. Irsay’s decision has no doubt been made easier by the knowledge that his organization owns the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

In Manning’s first season the Colts finished 3-13. That was 1998. With Manning under center, the Colts would only have one more losing season (2001) until last season.

He is a four-time MVP, owns every major Colts franchise passing record and helped the team to eight division titles, two AFC championships, and a Super Bowl win during the 2006-07 season.

He’s had a hall of fame-caliber career up to this point and still believes he has more left in the tank, telling reporters at his press conference that he is “confident” that he will play again.

Manning will never again suit up in Colts’ blue and white and put on that customary No. 18 jersey. And according to Irsay, neither will anyone else.

“It’s a difficult day here of shared pain between Peyton, myself, the fans, everyone,” Irsay said at the press conference. “I think in that vein as well. The 18 jersey will never be worn again by a Colt on the field.”

Fans in Ohio are all too familiar with bad divorces. Irsay and Manning seem to have proven that it is possible to leave on good terms.

Any team that lands Manning in the future will be lucky to have him. He’s a classy individual who clearly wants nothing more than to be back on the field playing football.

Here’s hoping that the team doesn’t happen to reside in the NFC North.

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