March 7, 2012 was a gloomy day in Indianapolis. So were the days that followed. Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning held a joint press conference to officially part ways. Manning had a message for the fans, “Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback.” And Irsay had a message for Manning, no Colt will ever wear No. 18 again. And just like that it was over. Fourteen seasons, seven division championships, two AFC championships, one Superbowl and another that eluded us, and more unbelievable come from behind victories than any one fan deserved in a lifetime. Those were our years with Peyton.
But it was more than that. It was the way he represented himself, the team, the city, and all of us. We were proud to call him ours. He shined the spotlight of the sports world on Indianapolis every week and we basked in the glory. He was more than our quarterback, he was our governor, our minister, our superhero, all rolled into one. But he was also family. He was our dad, our brother, our son. We can criticize him, but we dare you to. When the Superbowl came to Indianapolis there were more Peyton Manning jerseys in the crowd than those of the Giants or Patriots. That was how we felt about our quarterback, Peyton Manning. And when it was over the city didn’t look the same, the fans were left feeling empty, numb. How do you say goodbye to all that? You don’t. We won’t.
Colts fans will move on, but Peyton Manning will always be our quarterback. Contrary to much of what is written and said, Colts fans do not wish Peyton doom. For all the good he did for us, we wish him the best as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos. We hope he gets the ending he deserves for his NFL Hall of Fame career. Because anything less would be a disservice. Our hearts are big enough to hold on to those memories and embrace new ones with our new team and our new quarterback…and to celebrate Peyton and his new success with his new team.
There are a few things I’d like to pass on to Broncos fans. First, be grateful. You may not have him at the top of his career, but even on his worst day, Peyton Manning is still better than most quarterbacks in the league on their best day. Second, don’t ever give up on him. Just when you think the game is over, there’s no coming back…that’s when it gets interesting. If you leave the game or turn off the TV, you will likely miss the start of the real game and you will live to regret it. Third, don’t rush him. All those strange movements and gyrations, the crazy words he’s calling out at the line of scrimmage, “Blue eagle. Blue eagle. 42.” They mean something, at least some of them do. And they’re all part of his master plan. And don’t worry about the play clock. He’ll get it off, he always does. Fourth, this is your quarterback now. And please embrace him as such. We’re not jealous, we’re not spiteful, we want him to succeed and your team with him. We may have lost a quarterback, but we also gained a team. We’ll be cheering for Peyton and the Broncos, unless of course, they’re playing the Colts (and maybe even then, a little). And last, take good care of him. As your quarterback, Peyton Manning will give you all that he has on and off the field. So please, do the same for him. But also, give him his privacy. You won’t see him out a lot with his family. He’s pretty private that way. But he’s doing a lot of good for you and your community behind the scenes. Respect that and give him that. He deserves it. Oh, and there’s one more thing. When you’re done with him, give him back. Because we’ll take him back. Anytime.