After 14 years of calling Indianapolis home, #18 is ready to move on. As soon as the Indianapolis Colts release Peyton Manning Wednesday, it will set the legendary play caller free to sign with any team at any moment.
While there certainly has been a buzz of excitement about the possibility of signing Manning in cities like New York, Miami, Washington, and Phoenix, Indianapolis has sat in a quiet shock the entire time. Although they knew this day was coming sooner rather than later, it's still hard for fans of the blue horseshoe to come to terms that this is really it.
This week, Colts fans won't just be saying goodbye to yet another NFL player who came and went through the Colts organization, rather, they will be saying goodbye to a player who has easily been the best athlete to ever put on an Indianapolis Colts uniform. Baltimore had Johnny Unitas, Indianapolis had Manning. This isn't the end of a player's contract with the Colts, it is the end of an era. Indianapolis will really feel the effects of the end of the Manning Era if players like Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne leave the organization as well, which appears to be more than likely.
So, where do the Colts go from here? I don't think there's any question the organization has to go back to where they started the Manning Era- the draft. It was in the draft where the Colts where able to make key decisions in taking Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf, Edgerrin James over Ricky Williams, and Reggie Wayne over Quincy Morgan. The Colts will once again have to use their skills and ability to draft the right players to reassemble a team that is in transition.
Over the next few years, we will learn a lot about this Colts organization. Were they truly a dynasty when they won 2 AFC Championships and a Super Bowl, or were they just a one trick pony? Can they repeat the draft success of the Bill Polian Era, or will they finally make a mistake in drafting the wrong quarterback between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III?
We won't know the answers to those questions for many years. But, one thing we do know is that Lucas Oil Stadium will never be the same. The building that Peyton built will never have the same vibe and charisma that it did while #18 was leading the attack. When you go to Lucas Oil Stadium, be sure to go for the architecture and the history of the building as it may be a long time before you see a winning team back on the field.