The Indianapolis Colts have announced plans to honor former quarterback Peyton Manning during a weekend of festivities leading up to the team’s Week 5 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
An article on the team’s official website revealed that a statue of Manning will be unveiled outside of Lucas Oil Stadium during a ceremony on Saturday, October 7. The following day, the five-time MVP’s No. 18 jersey will be officially retired. Manning will be inducted into Indy’s Ring of Honor during the game’s halftime celebration.
Manning expressed his appreciation for the team’s tribute.
“I am humbled, and I am grateful to Jim and the Irsay family for this tremendous honor.”
After Manning announced his retirement last year, fans expressed their desire to see the future Hall of Famer enshrined in bronze outside of Lucas Oil Stadium. A few weeks later, Colts owner Jim Irsay announced that the team would build the statue. He added that no Colts player would ever wear the number 18 again.
October’s ceremony will bring the Colts-Manning relationship full circle. While the Manning era in Indianapolis is considered a high point for the team, many fans soured on Irsay for his actions during and after Manning’s departure from the team.
The Colts selected Manning first overall in the 1998 NFL Draft. The former SEC star stayed with the organization for 14 seasons, leading the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2007. He started every game for the first 13 seasons, but was forced to sit out his final season with the team due to a neck injury.
In a move that was expected, but still shocking, the Colts cut Manning from the team following the 2011-12 season. Twelve teams immediately expressed interest in the Pro Bowler. Less than two weeks after being released by the Colts, Manning signed with the Denver Broncos. He played four seasons with the team. In 2016, he helped lead the team to a win in Super Bowl 50.
One month later, Manning announced his retirement from the NFL. He joined a handful of football players who retired after a Super Bowl win.
One season removed from Manning’s retirement, some are hopeful that his return to Indianapolis will ease any lingering resentment that fans may still hold for Irsay following Manning’s release. As Mashable noted, fans held a negative view of Irsay in the days leading up to Manning’s ouster. Following his release, negative sentiment of Irsay’s character increased by 14 percent.
Now, more than five years after Manning and the Colts parted ways, the organization views the upcoming celebration of the Super Bowl MVP as an opportunity to put the past behind them and honor one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Irsay released a statement as part of the team’s announcement.
“Peyton will always be a Colt. This will be an event our city, state and Colts fans around the world can celebrate and be proud of.”
However, as a sign that some decisions are never forgotten, that statement was met with bitterness.
As Fox Sports noted, sports commentator Skip Bayless took offense to Irsay’s comment that Manning would “always be a Colt.”
BEST SEGMENT OF THE DAY: Peyton Manning's new statue in Indy will be a constant reminder of one of Jim Irsay's greatest mistakes pic.twitter.com/ZVwDi1o5vF
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 10, 2017
During a discussion on Undisputed, Bayless called Irsay’s remark “revisionist history,” adding that after Manning had dedicated 14 years to the Circle City, the owner “pushed him right out the back door.”
Bayless maintained that his 2012 assertion that cutting Manning would be Irsay’s single greatest mistake as a team owner still rang true.
“So, all he did was he went on to your Denver Broncos, and the next three years weren’t just good years, they were MVP-caliber years.”
As Bayless pointed out, Manning’s four year run in Denver saw him break rival Tom Brady’s record for most passing touchdowns in a single season, add to his MVP trophy collection, and win another Super Bowl.
Bayless eventually conceded that Manning was simply taking the high road in his interactions with Irsay. Co-host Shannon Sharpe also praised the quarterback, concurring with Bayless’ sentiment that Manning’s ties to the city of Indianapolis were just as significant as his on the field contributions.
Meanwhile, controversial sports analyst Stephen A. Smith drew criticism after commenting that he didn’t believe Manning had earned a statue. During an episode of First Take, Smith said that while Manning deserved respect, he did not deserve a statue. He then compared Manning’s accomplishments to Brady’s, saying that Manning would always be “looking up” at the Patriots quarterback.
— First Take (@FirstTake) May 10, 2017
Smith’s reaction aside, most fans are happy to see the Colts honor Peyton Manning for his contributions to the team and to the city of Indianapolis. As the Inquisitr reported earlier this year, Irsay has made it known that he would like to see Manning join the Colts’ front office eventually. The statue unveiling and jersey retirement ceremony could be a step in the right direction.
What do you think? Is the Manning statue a proper tribute or is Smith correct? Would you like to see Peyton Manning take on a role in the Colts’ front office?
[Featured Image by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]