American Football: With Luck on their side Colts were happy to lose Manning

Aptly named No 1 draft pick can dry Indianapolis eyes after a legendary quarterback's tearful farewell

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The Independent Online

It is a case of bad luck for Peyton Manning. Amid choked words and bittersweet tears, the iconic quarterback said farewell to the Indianapolis Colts after he was released this week. The 36-year-old leaves behind 14 legendary seasons that included four MVP trophies, 11 play-off appearances and two AFC championships. He is third all-time in NFL history for passing yards (54,828) and touchdowns (399) and he was MVP in Super Bowl XLI in 2007, when he captained his team to victory over the Chicago Bears.

"I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts," Manning said, fighting back tears during Wednesday's press conference.

"For 14 wonderful years, the only professional football I've known is Colts football. But I guess in life and in sports, we all know that nothing lasts for ever. Times change, circumstances change, and that's the reality of playing in the NFL."

Despite his pedigree, Manning's release came as no surprise. His career with the Colts was cut short due to events that had one thing in common. Luck.

Manning has always been known as one of the most durable athletes. From the day he was selected by the Colts with the No 1 pick in the 1998 draft, all the way to 2010, he did not miss a game. It was an incredible feat for a player in such a vulnerable position – his 227 consecutive games constitute the second longest streak for a quarterback in NFL history. But this year, his good luck turned sour. He sat out the entire 2011 season with a serious neck injury, having to undergo four operations in a 19-month span.

"To say I am disappointed in not being able to play is an understatement," Manning said in a statement in September. "I simply am not healthy enough to play, and I am doing everything I can to get my health back. The team will do fine without me, and I know for sure that I will miss them much more than they will miss me."

The Colts were not fine without Manning, and the bad luck continued to spread. They struggled without their quarterback and had the worst record in the NFL, winning only two of their 16 games. However, such a pitiful season gave Indianapolis not only the No 1 pick in this year's draft, but the opportunity to reverse their bad fortune with the best luck available. Andrew Luck.

The Stanford quarterback is the consensus No 1 draft pick this year, and although the draft is not until 26 April, it is expected that the Colts will select the 22-year-old.

"Andrew Luck is the most dynamic quarterbacking talent to come out [of college] since John Elway," said the former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, comparing Luck to the Hall of Famer who was drafted No 1 and played for the Denver Broncos. "Luck has more credentials than anybody since Elway."

In three seasons at Stanford, Luck passed for an incredible 9,430 yards and had 82 touchdowns. He was runner-up twice for college football's most coveted award, the Heisman Trophy.

While many fans are excited about the extremely good Luck the Colts are destined to acquire, others wonder if it was worth cutting Manning. In truth, it made perfect sense. By releasing Manning, the Colts avoided paying a $28m (£17.8m) bonus that he was due to receive on Thursday, and while Manning now claims to be healthy, questions remain over whether he will ever be able to recuperate fully.

"I've got some progress to make, but I've come a long way," Manning said. "I've really worked hard. I'll continue to work hard and hopefully make some progress. I don't want to retire. And no, I don't feel like I have anything to prove. Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do. I still want to play."

Manning will have suitors, among them the Kansas City Chiefs, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Jets and the Washington Redskins. The Colts can only hope their new quarterback achieves the same success as the man he is due to replace.

"Peyton was my football hero growing up," Luck said. "That's who I modelled myself after. You never truly replace a guy like that."

If he tries to do so, he will need all the luck he can get.