It's obligatory, if unnecessary to announce the Cincinnati Bengals will have no interest in the recently released Peyton Manning. There. But the scenario which resulted in the Indianapolis Colts letting go the greatest player in the history of their franchise is a stark reminder to all players and fans. As legendary Houston Oilers' coach Bum Phillips once quipped, "NFL stands for Not for Long."
Manning spent 14 years with the Colts, turned a moribund franchise into a Super Bowl champion, revolutionized a city's sports culture and generally endeared himself to the community in every way possible. That didn't count for much when the team was faced with the choice of paying him $90 million dollars over the remaining three years of his contract when the other choice was young phenom Andrew Luck.
For their part, the Colts rewarded Manning handsomely. CNBC's Darren Rovell tweeted last night that Manning has made over $1000 hour while breathing since the Colts selected him first overall in the 1998 draft. Yet when Manning looked at the prospect of finishing his final days on a rebuilding squad, the fact that the Colts paid him $20 million last season to wear an earpiece held no sway.
Mike Brown has made lots of money over the course of his ownership of the team, but there's not been much winning until very recently. During that time, Brown has made some bad choices personnel-wise, some of them motivated by personal rather than football reasons. Obviously that didn't work out all that well. Whether that means firing a coach who might be a heck of nice guy, but a really lousy coach, or letting go of a player with a troubled life off-the-field even though you really want to help him get straightened out, the football decisions have to be made. Fortunately, it appears that more of the football decisions and fewer of the personal decisions are being made lately.
For Bengals fans, Manning's situation is a reminder to enjoy the moment. The Bengals' seasons have failure have programmed many fans to expect the worst and to hold off their support, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Those that did so this past season missed a magical coming out party with Andy Dalton and AJ Green. They missed a spirited young defense playing aggressively on every snap. That season is gone and won't be back.
Most importantly, as each season passes, some of our heroes, those men whom we cheer on each Sunday won't be back. Cedric Benson revitalized his career and gave Bengals fans some great moments. It's a business though and both parties are moving on. Jerome Simpson electrified everyone, especially against Arizona, but he likely won't be doing any more acrobatics in Paul Brown Stadium.
We've got Dalton and Green and Peko and Dunlap, but for how long? Until their contracts expire, or worse, heaven forbid, if they're injured not that long. We unexpectedly waved goodbye to Bobbie Williams last season.
Colts fans got to enjoy Peyton Manning for 13 glorious seasons on the field. They witnessed history. Bengals fans would be wise to pay attention to the young stars in front of them. They'll be gone before you know it.
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