The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Sports Columns

October 15, 2013

George Bremer: Manning's return stirs old passions

There's nothing wrong with cheering for Peyton Manning. His all-out assault on the passing record books is the story of the year in the NFL, and Indianapolis Colts fans have every right to feel invested in the saga.

But that fact just serves to make Sunday's nationally televised reunion at Lucas Oil Stadium all the more complicated.

Manning's Broncos are undefeated and on pace to score more points than any other NFL team in history. And his arrival this week is certain to bring back all the old questions about his departure.

The early national marketing has cast the Colts in the role of the Washington Generals to Manning and football's Harlem Globetrotters.

But the real storylines run so much deeper.

As Manning rehabbed a serious neck injury early in 2012, Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay was plotting a course for the franchise's future. The team was locked deep in salary-cap jail, and a healthy measure of change was inevitable.

Irsay fired the first shot on Jan. 2, just a day after the regular season ended, when he dismissed front office leaders Bill Polian and his son, Chris. When Ryan Grigson was hired as general manager two weeks later and head coach Jim Caldwell was let go, the cold truth is Manning was no longer a good fit with the Colts.

A 36-year-old quarterback with nerve damage is no place to begin a rebuilding effort. No matter how strenuously everyone in Indianapolis tried to avoid the "R" word, the arrivals of Grigson and first-time head coach Chuck Pagano marked a clear start to a new era.

The best move for both Manning and the Colts was to allow the quarterback to find a new home with an immediate contender while Indianapolis started from scratch. On March 7, 2012, both parties made the divorce official during a teary news conference that still resonates emotionally today.

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