First of a Position-by-Position Series Looking at the Colts' Roster
INDIANAPOLIS – One thing Peyton Manning made clear immediately:
All of the success this past season, and in previous seasons? All of the 4,000-yard seasons, the league Most Valuable Player Awards and the Pro Bowls?
Manning, entering his 13th season as the Colts' quarterback and coming off back-to-back Most Valuable Player seasons for the second time in his career, said recently none of that is possible – not even remotely possible – without what's going on around him. Teammates. Coaches. Personnel officials.
It's not all about him, Manning said. Not even close.
Never has been and never will be, either.
So, while Manning indeed was named the Associated Press' Most Valuable Player – the NFL's most-prestigious individual award – for a second consecutive season and NFL-record fourth time in his career this past season, he said the reality is the award isn't really an individual award at all.
"I do accept that as a team award, because so many guys worked hard this year to do their job at a high level and bring along some of these younger players," Manning said recently. "So I am very grateful for the help that I have had from all of my teammates and grateful for the work ethic of these younger guys and obviously I have had some excellent coaching throughout my years and certainly this year as well."
Manning, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, has started every game in his Colts/NFL career – 192 regular-season games in succession. His presence is the primary storyline of the team's quarterback position, the subject of this story, which is the first of a position-by-position series on the Colts' roster that will run this month on Colts.com.
Manning, the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2003-04 and the Super Bowl XLI MVP following the 2006 season, won his third MVP in 2008, returning from off-season knee surgery to lead the Colts to nine consecutive season-ending victories, helping them qualify for the playoffs following a 3-4 start.
He completed 371 of 555 passes for 4,002 yards and 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2008, finishing the season with one of the best stretches of his career, throwing 17 touchdowns and three interceptions in the final nine games of the season.
That effectiveness continued into the 2009 season.
Manning, playing for the first time in his career without eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison, adjusted to two new, young receivers – rookie Austin Collie and second-year veteran Pierre Garcon – and turned in another elite-level season.
Manning, with wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez sustaining a season-ending knee injury in Week 1, threw for more than 300 yards in each of the Colts' first five games and eight of the first nine, finishing the season completing 393 of 571 passes for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
"This year (was) a lot different because of the young players that (we) had on offense," Manning said recently. "(I) learned more about them. I kind of almost (went) back to some of the things I learned when I was a rookie, the nuances of our offense, teaching those guys, helping those guys."
With Manning's success came a slew of post-season honors:
• AP Most Valuable Player for a record-setting fourth time.
• AP First-Team All-Pro.
• NFL All-Decade Team (2000-09).
• PFW/PFWA NFL Most Valuable Player.
• PFW/PFWA NFL Offensive Player-of-the-Year.
• PFW/PFWA NFL All-NFL Team.
• PFW/PFWA NFL All-AFC Team.
• AFC Offensive Player-of-the-Month (September).
• Kansas City Committee of 101 AFC Offensive Player-of-the-Year.
• AFC Offensive Player-of-the-Week (11/15 vs. New England).
• The Sing News NFL Player-of-the-Decade.
• The Sporting News NFL All-Decade Team.
• Sports Illustrated NFL Player-of-the-Decade.
• Sports Illustrated NFL All-Decade Team.
• AFC Pro Bowl Team Starter.
Beyond the statistics and honors, Manning this season also directed the Colts to not only one of their most successful seasons in franchise history, but one of the most dramatic as well.
The Colts, who became the third team in NFL history to start a season 14-0, came from behind to win seven of those games after trailing in the fourth quarter. The Colts went 5-0 in November, trailing in the fourth quarter in each of those victories and setting a league record for most consecutive fourth-quarter rallies for victories in the process.
The seven fourth-quarter rallies were also an NFL seasonal record.
The Colts beat the New York Jets, 30-17, in the AFC Championship Game, rallying from a 17-6 first-half deficit and Colts center Jeff Saturday called Manning's demeanor in such situations perhaps his greatest attribute.
"He's confident and poised no matter what the situation is," Saturday said. "When things haven't started off great in the playoff games, he doesn't get rattled, he doesn't get shaken. He stays within our game plan and knows that if we just keep pressing forward it is going to break loose for us.
"I think of all the things that have happened with him, that's probably the greatest one is that he keeps us calm."
With Manning missing just one snap in his career because of an injury, Colts reserve quarterbacks typically have not played extensively. That was true again this past season.
Jim Sorgi, the team's backup quarterback the past six years, played one game in 2009, finishing the season on injured reserve, and when the Colts removed Manning in two games late in the season with playoff positioning clinched, it was rookie Curtis Painter who played in his place.
Painter, a sixth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft from Purdue, completed 8 of 28 passes for 83 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the final two regular-season games – losses to the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
"Curtis is a good player," Saturday said. "He'll be with us for a while. I think he has shown people he has what it takes to be in a tough situation and make things happen. . . . As quarterbacks go, he's super quiet, doesn't really say much. You can bust him up. He can take a good ribbing.
"He's a good kid, and he'll be a good player for us."
The other quarterback on the Colts' roster entering the 2010 offseason is Drew Willy, a four-year starter from the University at Buffalo who originally signed with the Baltimore Ravens shortly after the 2009 NFL Draft. He spent part of last season on the Colts' practice squad.
Note: The 2010 Colts.com position-by-position series that will run during March is meant to serve as an overview of the Colts' roster as it stands entering the 2010 offseason and to provide fans a detailed look at how the position groups fared during the 2009 Super Bowl XLIV season. Any analysis included herein does not reflect the opinion of Colts management.