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4. Too true. With the Colts spending the early part of the week reconnecting with fans and asking for support, one salient point made by QB Peyton Manning may have been a bit overlooked. If so, it shouldn’t have been – and that’s that whatever happens in the AFC Divisional Playoff game January 16, what happened in the 15th game of the season against the Jets won’t be the reason. That’s true if the Colts win, or if they lose. Yes, the Colts’ decision to remove Manning and other starters in the third quarter of that game, and the resulting loss, caused controversy, angered fans and made the Colts the center of national media attention. But that’s over. And no, it won’t be a distraction. Nor will it be motivation for the players. This is professional sports, and the effects of outside events, blogosphere chatter and even media firestorms is vastly overblown by columnists, bloggers and talking heads leaning on an obvious cliché for the angle of the day, week and month. If the Colts win that game, the theme will be that they were motivated by the critics. If they lose, the theme will be that players turned against management and coaches, or that somehow their fire was drained by not pursuing 16-0. Silliness. It’s the NFL. Teams lose or win because they were more or less talented, or because they played better or worse on a given day. Not because of media themes or distractions.
3. A new era. With there being no game this week, and with this being the time for postseason honors, there has been a bit of a summing-up tone around the Colts’ locker room this week. As such, and with the Associated Press Most Valuable Player award looming and potentially coming his way, Manning was asked about this season. Manning last season won the award for a third time in unique circumstances, dramatically turning what was a difficult start to the season around with victories in the last nine games. Manning did so while playing as efficiently as ever had his his career, did it with WR Marvin Harrison in decline and also did it while recovering from preseason knee surgery. This season, the dynamic has been different, but in a real sense, no less difficult. Without WR Anthony Gonzalez much of the season, and with rookie WR Austin Collie and second-year WR Pierre Garcon learning the offense as the season continued, Manning completed the transition into the Veteran Quarterback role. The Triplets Era officially over and in reality long since behind him, Manning eased into a new, equally-effective stage as in-house-legend, veteran-leader, and did so while helping the Colts win every regular-season game that counted. Manning this season and over the last seven seasons has proven again why the NFL is a quarterback’s league. No, he could have and didn’t do it alone, but the Colts’ consisteny over the past seven seasons is only possibly with high quality and consistency at the quarterback position. “I’ve tried to seize the opportunity,” Manning said. “It’s an opportunity to work with some new guys. We’ve done some good things. We’ve learned some things along the way. It’s been a grind at times, but we’ve persevered through it. From that standpoint, it’s been rewarding and satisfying.”
2. On the kids. Asked this week, Manning admitted he wasn’t sure before the season exactly how 2009 might play out. Remember? Eight months ago? The national slant was that the Colts were a team in transition with a good dose of turmoil tossed in, what with the Tom Moore/Howard Mudd retirement angle, and Manning’s decision to publicly display his displeasure with how the team communicated the issue. Manning this week said he had uncertainties beyond that. Not because he didn’t think the Colts had talent, but because it was unproven talent. “To win 14 games this year, if you had told me we were going to 14 games at the beginning of the season, I might not have believed you,” Manning said. Those uncertainties were made even more uncertain in Week 1 when Gonzalez was injured. Manning talked immediately after Gonzalez’s injury about the importance of his return, and reiterated that point on several occasions. That the Colts have won despite Gonzalez, now out for the season, playing just one half of one game, speaks not nearly as much to Manning being wrong as it does to how well he and the Colts’ offense have adapted to a difficult situation. “It’s been a different season, like we’ve kind of said all along,” Manning said. “It was a challenge and an opportunity for some of these young guys to step up and play. You never quite know how these guys are going to respond. A guy looks good in practice, (but) you never quite know how he’s going to do on the field, or how he’s going to do in his first night game, primetime game. It’s kind of a first for everybody. But, boy, our young guys, I thought they really answered the bell all year.”
1. And into history. The voting for the MVP Award should be announced in the coming days, and all indications are Manning likely will be the recipient. If so, it’s a deserved honor and pushes forward the idea that Manning is not only perhaps the best quarterback in NFL history, but perhaps the best player, period. Note the use of the word, “perhaps,” because a fourth MVP doesn’t by definition put a lock on such things, and there are certainly many players you could argue deserve to be so named. Some would put Jim Brown there. I’ve always thought Jerry Rice dominated the game from his position as much as any non-quarterback I’ve ever seen in his prime – and that prime lasted a long, long time. But a fourth MVP puts Manning in the conversation, and whether he’s at the forefront of your conversation, it’s hard to deny that Manning has put together one of the greatest seven-year runs in the history of professional sports. I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating that in the last seven seasons, Manning has won three MVPs (2003, 2004 and 2007) and should have won another (2005). In one of the other seasons, 2006, he was the Super Bowl MVP and in 2007, his numbers would have earned him consideration in a normal season – i.e., one in which New England Patriots QB Tom Brady wasn’t breaking Manning’s three-year-old record for touchdown passes in a season. Manning during that same stretch has quarterbacked the Colts to six division titles, an NFL-record seven consecutive 12-victory seasons and a Super Bowl title. “He’s been such a highly accomplished performer year in and year out,” Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. “Just when you think you’ve seen his best, he improves upon it. It’s been remarkable. He keeps getting better. A lot of it has to do with his drive. He just has an innate sort of will to excel. He never gets bored with it. That, I think, it highly unusual.”
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MORE COLTS NEWS
BYE WEEK FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS. HERE.
POPULAR OR NOT, COLS EARNED RIGHT TO CHOOSE LATE-SEASON APPROACH. HERE.
Reviewing Bill Polian’s weekly radio show . . .
* Part One: “The past is prologue.” Here.
* Part Two: Pursuing milestones “right decision.” Here.
* Part Three: Colts could be fully healthy entering postseason. Here.
* Part Four: Difficulties against New York fatigue, not rust. Here.
COFFEE WITH THE COLTS. NEXT-DAY LOOK AT COLTS-BILLS. HERE.
BILLS 30, COLTS 7. HERE.
MANNING: WE NEED TO PUT LAST WEEKEND BEHIND US. HERE.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS OWNER JIM IRSAY SUPPORTED DECISION AGAINST JETS. HERE.
AN UNBEATEN SEASON THAT WASN’T: A FINAL LOOK AT AN UNRESOLVABLE CONFLICT. HERE
FREENEY: PRO BOWL NEVER GETS OLD. HERE
TE DALLAS CLARK, QB PEYTON MANNING AMONG SIX PRO BOWLERS FOR COLTS. HERE.
* POLIAN: “16-0 WAS NEVER THE FOCUS.” HERE.
FOURTH MVP WOULD CEMENT MANNING’S STATUS AS BEST EVER. HERE
CALDWELL: “THAT’S WHAT WE DO. WE STAND BY IT AND LIVE BY IT” HERE.
DOES PEYTON MANNING GET TOO MUCH RESPECT? HERE
POLIANS’ CONTRACTS EXTENDED. HERE
COLTS FANS OWE RB JOSEPH ADDAI AN APOLOGY. HERE
*** CATCH UP WITH ALL THINGS COLTS ON INDY FOOTBALL REPORT. HERE
*** READ JOHN OEHSER’S INDIANA PACERS COVERAGE. HERE.
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