Forget about how Peyton Manning retired or for whom.
Don’t waste time arguing with a friend about where he ranks among the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks, either.
Colts fans with too much time on their hands — or bored because of their team’s lack of activity in free agency — have been expending too much energy on both topics. Social media can be as entertaining as it is a time suck.
All anyone in Indianapolis should care about is the five-time NFL MVP legend is coming back to town Friday. He’ll be honored in a noon ceremony at the Colts complex. His old boss, owner Jim Irsay, will shower him with affection and admiration for the 14 of 18 years spent in the Hoosier State capital.
Manning, more than anyone else, transformed Indianapolis into an NFL city. That’s why Lucas Oil Stadium is known as “The House That Peyton Built.” Without him, perhaps Indy wouldn’t even have a team.
When Manning announced he was retiring from the Denver Broncos two weeks ago, the only question was how soon would be return to Indianapolis, where it all began. Four years ago, Irsay and Manning stood in the same pavilion they will Friday to announce their parting. It seems like yesterday.
And for many fans, they’ve never accepted that day nor the decision. Nor will they ever. Manning’s return is as much for them as anyone.
In case anyone out there is still asking the question about Manning retiring as a Colt or Bronco, let’s clear that up once more, WITH FEELING. Manning retired from the Broncos, but when it comes time in 2021 for him to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, he will be enshrined as Peyton Manning, who played for the Colts and Broncos.
The only people who get worked up and overly sentimental about for whom a player retires don’t understand this. They see Jeff Saturday sign a one-day contract to retire with the Colts — again, it’s a tribute and ceremony more than anything — and they attach significance to it.
Hey, any time a team can celebrate a great player, it’s important. Just don’t get caught up in the stuff that’s not. Manning said during his retirement press conference in Denver that he was retiring as a Colt and Bronco. Anything else is basically a good show for fans.
For those of us who watched him play in Indianapolis, he will always be thought of as a member of the Colts. He’ll one day soon go into the Colts’ Ring of Honor. It’s where he became a star.
Anyone in Denver who wants to gush about his days with the Broncos is entitled, too. He finished his career with a second Super Bowl ring. It doesn’t matter the circumstances for how he won it (critics say the defense won it for him, but how many times did he carry teams in his career?). Bottom line, he won.
Seriously, though, Peyton Manning will never replace John Elway in the hearts and minds of Broncos fans. And back in Indianapolis, no Colts player has stirred this community like Manning.
The other topic for debate that will never amount to anything more than a waste of time is Manning being the G.O.A.T. No, this isn’t referring to his 14-13 playoff record. G.O.A.T. stands for Greatest Of All Time.
Those who bleed blue in their No. 18 jerseys will point to Manning setting NFL records for passing yards, touchdowns and wins. He’s the only player to ever win five NFL MVP awards, too.
They can also bring up how nobody has ever run an offense like he did, with a glossary of plays to choose from while lining up and barking audibles. Manning was an encyclopedia of football knowledge. Other quarterbacks had maybe one, two or three audibles. Manning had that many series of plays to which he could switch.
All that said, New England usually had the edge on him and the Colts. There are exceptions — that memorable AFC title game in 2007 — but quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick won more than they lost against the Colts. Both of those men will be first-ballot Hall of Famers, too, some day. Folks will always make the argument that Brady was better. They’ll point to the rings — four is twice as many as two.
Again, it doesn’t really matter.
Manning was one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
That should mean enough.
Get caught up in those other debates and you’re overlooking what made him unique, how we’ve never seen someone go about his business the way he did. Anyone who ever utters the word, “Omaha,” it’s difficult not to think of Manning. He made that line check so popular. That and “Apple! Apple!” while he was in Indy.
It’s unfortunate Friday’s ceremony isn’t open to the public. The fitting farewell would be at Lucas Oil Stadium, where 20,000 fans could turn out to give him one more standing ovation.
Instead, everyone can watch one more emotional news conference at the Colts complex. Manning will reassure everyone he’ll always consider Indy home. Fans will gush with pride.
And we’ll all say farewell, once more, to an incredible football player.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.