The End Of Peyton Manning As You Know Him

The Colts have called a press conference for noon today to formally announce the release of Peyton Manning. Manning will be there. Jim Irsay will be there, in between tweeting Bachman-Turner Overdrive lyrics. We've been building to this moment for months now, ever since Manning was unofficially ruled out for the year (the Colts never did put him on IR) and the prospect of landing Andrew Luck became more and more realistic for the team. It's a measure of how fast the NFL moves that something this monumental is essentially old news by now. Everyone has been waiting for this moment to happen so that they can get on with their lives. But it's worth stepping back for a moment to reflect on the idea that HOLY FUCK THE COLTS ARE STRAIGHT-UP RELEASING PEYTON MANNING.

Manning's career with the Colts lasted 13 full seasons. Prior to this season, he never missed a game. In each season, he threw for at least 3,700 yards and never threw less than 26 touchdown passes. In all but his first season in Indy, he completed over 60 percent of his passes. In each of his past nine seasons, he completed over 65 percent of his passes and led the Colts to at least 10 wins. In the past eight seasons, he led them to seven division titles (although this was in the AFC South, which blows). He also set the NFL record for most DERP faces made by a single quarterback. GOD DAMMIT, DONALD!

No other quarterback in NFL history—not Marino, not Montana, not Elway, not Favre, not Brady—has ever strung together such a remarkably consistent run of excellence. And now that run is over, just like that. I'm not sure any successful NFL tenure has ended so abruptly. Twelve months ago, Manning was everything to the Colts, and now he'll be cut without recompense. You already know why the Colts are doing this, and why it makes perfect sense. But that doesn't make the whole phenomenon any less bizarre. It's still mind-blowing to think that even one of the greatest QBs of all time is still a fungible cog in the NFL's machinery, dispatched in a relatively quick manner for the sake of "building for the future." In the NFL, the future is always the prize. The now is undervalued, and the past is utterly worthless.

I'm not a Colts fan, even though I eat like one. For the dozen years before 2011, those fat humps got to enjoy watching a team on which was bestowed "special" status by the NFL. When Manning plays for your team, you get prime-time games. You get a bigger share of yapping from the pregame shows. You get playoff games. There's a certain pleasure to be had when your team gets that status. You feel like you're dating the prom queen. "Why yes, that IS my team! And that IS my quarterback! DON'T BE HATIN'." And while the Colts have the terrific fortune of stumbling ass-backward into Andrew Luck, there's no guarantee that Luck will become a Hall of Fame QB. And he'll need at least a year or two to gain his footing (though Cam Newton has proven that the developmental curve of QBs isn't always so steep). After the past season, Colts fans now know what it's like to lose your status among the NFL's favored clubs, to be just another shitty team that no one cares about. That's why so many of them, against football logic, are openly bitching about the situation:

"I'm disgusted. Manning is who Indianapolis is, he's our identity and what he's done for the community. He's more than a football player," said Bob Nellish.

"I would feel really awfully. Actually, I wouldn't be nearly as big a fan without him," said Wiggs

Fucking bandwagoners. I bet some of them end up switching team allegiances, just like the Favretards did. But you get why fans might be upset, even though this has been in the offing for so long. Manning was so good for so many years that his excellence seemed like a permanent feature of the NFL firmament. When you have a player like that, you know that their demise will occur at some point. But you can't SEE it during the good times. You can't get an accurate vision of that endgame. You don't really want to, because it's so horrible to contemplate. A year ago, no Colts fan ever imagined that the end of Peyton Manning would happen quite like this. But it happened, it's over for good, and even now Colts fans are probably left wondering, "Jesus, how in the fuck did THAT happen?" You never see it coming, even when you do.