I am an Indianapolis Colts fan. I have followed Manning's entire career here. While I can't guarantee that Manning will be 100% healthy, I can tell you that nobody will work harder to do what is necessary to get there. If you get Manning, you will get the consumate teammate and a professional football player that will do whatever it takes to make or help his team win. The circumstances that caused his departure from the Colts was beyond his control and Irsay's control. To many questions (health) and to little time (option date and the draft) and to little time for answers. He did so much for his team and our city and he will be sorely missed in this town.
Some things about Manning:
The neck operations: His injury really came from a high low hit he incurred in the Redskins-Colts game in 2006. If he wasn't so concerned about showing up for every game, every practice, and every off season workout, he would have had the neck fusion done right away and it only would have been one surgery.
The playoff record: The Colts were built with several key players (Manning, Saturday, Clark, Brackett, Sanders, Adaii or James, Harrison, Wayne, Freeney, and Mathis). The rest were fill in players. The year we won the Super Bowl was the only year we entered the playoffs with every one of those players healthy. We literally had no margin for error if we were missing any one of these players. Couple that with the fact that the last 4 playoff losses by the Colts, the defense blew 4th quarter leads. In at least 2 of the losses, Manning walked off the field with the lead and never had an opportunity to respond as the other team won on the last series (Jets and Chargers). Other games that were lost also were lost under unusual circumstances that you would not know about unless you were a Colts fan and followed the team closely.
Is Manning declining: In the playoff loss to the Jets, the Colts had 7 possessions. The first 3 possessions ended on 3rd and 1 failures (2 running and one pass behind the line of scrimmage that was complete and the receiver did not follow his blocking). The last 4 possessions resulted in scores (1 TD and 3 field goals). The Jets had a possession that lasted almost 11 minutes in the second half and of course there was the Caldwell timeout. The Colts had to win the last 4 games of the season to win the division. They did. I realize that age catches up to everyone. The feeling around here was that Manning could play effectively here into his early 40's. He has not taken a lot of hits and he plays with his head as opposed to his body. He can walk up to the LOS, diagnose the defense, and get his offense into the right play virtually 100% of the time. Nobody else can do that.
Manning on another team: Manning knows every team's offense in the NFL. He studies film in the offseason and knows the strengths and weaknesses of every NFL team. When teams throw new things at him, it usually takes him a quarter to a quarter and a half to figure it out and attack it. In Indy, we have been saying for years that this team would be lucky to win 2 games if Manning was not on it. We have been saying for years that if the Colts had any kind of defense that Manning would have 5 Super Bowls. The reality of the situation was that Manning was so good for so many years that the lack of high draft choices and 2-3 years of questionable drafts finally caught up with the Colts.
What does the future hold for Manning: If he is healthy (the question that was always asked in every scenario about how to structure the team this year), and he is on a team with an average to good defense, he could very well win a Super Bowl(s). If that team were able to sign Wayne, Garcon, Clark, and Saturday or any combination of those, there would be literally no (or a very small) adjustment period. The offense Manning creates puts constant pressure on the opposing offense to score. He is the only QB in the game that creates this. Ask Bill Bellichek.
I wish the Colts still had Manning. As bad as we were last year, if we had Manning, we would have at least been in the playoffs. He can mean that much to a team. The decline in his numbers is as much of a result as the team around him and his injury than it is on age. The question on age will be answered when he plays again. If Manning can play one year at peak level, he can probably play for 5 more years. He would like to set the passing records for yardage and touchdowns (another reason for leaving Indy) as that will take 4-5 years.
This post is not to defend or praise Manning. He doesn't need that. Whoever gets him will immediately become a team favored to at least win their division and probably more. No athlete in sports has meant as much to his team as Manning has to the Colts. He saved football in our city and he will be missed. There are a lot of Colts (or Manning) fans that will become fans of whichever team he goes to. The only question about Manning is IS HE HEALTHY. If he is, look out, he has something to prove.