|Assuming he's healthy, all signs are pointing to Manning playing elsewhere in 2012. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
Peyton Manning's change in fortune has been swift. Prior to the 2011 season, the general perception of what he meant to Indianapolis went something like this: he had singlehandedly saved the Colts from themselves, led them to a Super Bowl title in 2006, and his accomplishments were the currency that helped fund Lucas Oil Stadium.
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Now, days removed from Super Bowl XLVI -- hosted in Indianapolis by the way -- Manning has gone from patron saint of the city to public enemy No. 1. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration but not by much.
In the weeks prior to the Giants-Patriots matchup, Manning spoke with the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz about his future with the Colts. The takeaway: Peyton had no intentions of retiring, even if his future wasn't with in Indy.
Owner Jim Irsay fired back, calling Manning "a politician," the two then issued a joint statement professing great love and admiration for one another. And that appeared to be that. Neither side spoke in specifics about their situations during Super Bowl Week … until Thursday evening, when Manning's camp leaked word that Manning had been medically cleared to play. This was news to everyone, including Irsay, who tweeted hours later that "Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts."
And it was at that point that the public, which had firmly supported Peyton basically since the moment he was drafted in 1998, began to view the franchise quarterback differently.
During a Wednesday appearance on "The Tony Kornheiser Show," Kravitz talked about the he-said, he-said back-and-forth posturing by both camps and what it means for the future of Peyton and the Colts.
"I think people are starting to sway over to Jim Irsay's side on this," Kravitz told Kornheiser. "… It's such a no-brainer. It's been a no-brainer since they went to 0-13. He could give them money to play football. Andrew Luck has got to play, okay? It's not even about the $35 million anymore. I mean, the guy's arm is a noodle, he can't throw like an NFL quarterback, and by March 8, there's no way of knowing whether he's going to be ready or not."
Wow. "Arm is a noodle" is nowhere near "been medically cleared to play." But that doesn't mean Manning won't be healthy at some point. It's just that nobody knows when.
“I know some of the people that have seen him throw,” Kravitz continued. "They say he’s not throwing like an NFL quarterback yet. That doesn’t mean he never will. This thing is going to take time. Structurally, he’s sound. Structurally, he can take a hit.”
In response to a question from Kornheiser that "Manning hijacked the Super Bowl," Kravitz responded, "I'm quite sure [Peyton] did it deliberately.
"I lost a lot of -- I don't want to say respect for him -- but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and not say that his conversation with me was political and calculated, but there's no doubt in my mind that that story breaking Thursday night right around the time every single TV station is doing an exclusive on Andrew Luck (and, it turns out, blog).
"It comes out on Thursday night about six o'clock -- that doesn't come out unless the Peyton Manning camp wants it to come out. They're putting public pressure on Jim Irsay. It was calculated, it was deceptive, I didn't think it was a good time to do it. And, yes, he absolutely stole the Super Bowl. … I don't think there's any doubt that he stole some of the attention away from the Super Bowl.
"Look, that story was going to be there whether he opened his mouth or not, but he had given us every indication that he was going to go underground and only do his Gatorade and DirecTV thing and then shut the hell up," Kravitz said. "And he didn't do that. I thought that that was kind of smarmy. …
"You got Andrew Luck, just start over, I wish they could make the decision today or tomorrow and move on with it. Instead we're just … holding onto something that doesn't really exist."
So, yeah, if it wasn't obvious before, we think it couldn't be clearer now: Peyton's played his last game for the Colts, and Eli was the last Manning to play in Lucas Oil Stadium during the 2011 season.
Now the only question is if the Redskins are still interested in Manning's services. (Obvious answer: of course they are!)
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