These “new era” Indianapolis Colts could use a slogan, and I think I heard one, listening between the lines Tuesday after the Colts handed coach Jim Caldwell his pink slip.
How's this sound? “Colts 2012: We're not Waitin' for Peyton”
I've been a holdout on the idea, popular among national analysts, that Peyton Manning's time with the Colts has reached its end. I didn't believe Colts owner Jim Irsay would toss aside the greatest quarterback in Indy history, and one of the best of all time, if there was any chance he could play. I heard the logic. I just couldn't envision it.
I've changed my mind, thanks to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson's seemingly indifferent attitude about Manning.
Grigson said he hasn't talked to Manning in the week that he's been the team's general manager. Grigson “reached out” to Manning. But then he “missed his call.” Come on now. You want to tell me in this age of connectivity and smart phones that the GM of the Colts couldn't once find a way to touch base with the face of the Colts? Or should I say former face of the Colts?
Grigson also said Manning's future was something that “has not been discussed.”Hmm. I thought that might have come up.
Irsay was no more encouraging in terms of Manning on Tuesday. He kept referring to how this transition is similar to 1998, and we know that change of Colts' direction included a rookie quarterback in Manning. Irsay was asked point blank if the Colts are going to have a new coach, new GM and new quarterback. He talked around the question.
Irsay didn't mention Manning's name one way or the other, but said, rather cryptically, “It is hard when you have to say goodbye to some people, but it is part of professional football and we are excited about the direction that we are going in.”
I wasn't surprised that Caldwell was given the boot, particularly after Irsay fired Bill and Chris Polian and brought in Grigson. Irsay used the term “rebuilding.” Grigson wasn't likely to undertake the task using leftover materials from the previous builder, for lack of a better analogy.
But it was fairly weird that Caldwell participated in an interview with former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo about the defensive coordinator's job on Monday, and then was fired Tuesday afternoon.
Grigson said he talked with Caldwell for seven hours – couldn't they have put Manning on speakerphone at some point? – and called him a great person and a great coach. Perhaps some credit should go to Grigson for making that effort to take a long look at Caldwell. He says he'll take the same approach with other assistant coaches. If I were them, I'd go ahead and float those resumes.
It's been interesting and a bit disconcerting to see the casual marginalizing of Manning that's taken place since Grigson showed up.
There was a time, less than six months ago, when everything about the Colts was seen through the filter of Manning. Caldwell would probably still have a job if Manning hadn't undergone two neck surgeries and missed the season. Now? Now Manning is another guy on the roster that Grigson will talk to sooner or later.
"I have not had a chance to even get with him yet," Grigson said. "We are taking this thing piece by piece in the way that we feel is in the best interest of the franchise moving forward."
Irsay mentioned salary caps and alluded to financial issues when he said some players and coaches could be back. The Colts would have to pick up Manning's $28 million option by March 8 to keep him from being a free agent. He'll be 36. He's had three neck surgeries. It seems unlikely that he'll be given a clean bill of health by that time.
Now Caldwell, Manning's quarterback coach turned head coach, is out. Former offensive coordinator Tom Moore has already left the building, former coach Tony Dungy before that. The links to the past are disappearing.
On a logical level, it makes sense to rebuild with the No.1 pick, presumably Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. But Manning isn't Marshall Faulk or Edgerrin James or even Marvin Harrison. Without Manning, it's likely there would be no Lucas Oil Stadium and no Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
I like the tweet Colts defensive end Robert Mathis sent out when news broke that Caldwell was fired: “Another domino falls in the #CleanHouseMission2012 so y'all getting what y'all wanted. A record breaking 10yr run but #WhatHaveYouDone4MeLately”
There will be an Indianapolis Colts team after Manning. There's no doubt about that. How's 2012 sound?
To borrow from Mathis, the biggest domino is teetering more than ever.