Since his 1st day picking up a football, Peyton Manning has done nothing but have the Midas touch on whatever he touches. For the purposes of this, let's focus on his pro career in Indy, with a Colts team whose team history is best defined in 2 parts (BP - Before Peyton, WM - With Manning). The season before Peyton arrived, the Colts were a 3 win team and the BP era led by Faulk/Harbaugh and others was mediocre at best. Obviously having the 1st pick in 1998 after another subpar season, the Colts drafted Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf, which looks like the opposite of the Michael Jordan/Sam Bowie draft mishap. The WM era begun, and although the team had 3 wins his rookie season, they played teams close games and were on the way up. The next season the Colts had a 1st round bye with 13 wins, that + 10 in wins was an NFL record. For his remaining 11 seasons with the team, the Colts would have double digit wins EVERY SEASON BUT ONE (and an eventual Super Bowl). That is the epitome of a turnaround, the standard for consistency. This was done with an outstanding arm and with the ability to pick apart a defense like nobody we have quite ever seen. It was also done with many different pieces around him, but the crucial question right now for Indy (since Peyton is now out of Indy) should be: what has happened post-Peyton in his career?
Here is a list of some the WRs that Peyton threw to throughout his career: Quadry Ismail, Jerome Pathon, Marcus Pollard, Terrance Wilkins, Ken Dilger, EG Green, Isaac Jones, Torrace Small, Troy Walters, Brandon Stokley, Brad Pyatt, Aaron Moorehead, Ben Hartsock, Dominic Rhodes, Ben Utecht, Bryan Fletcher, James Mungro, Ricky Proehl, Kenton Keith, Anthony Gonzalez, Craphonso Thorpe, Devin Aromashodu, Luke Lawton, Roy Hall, Jacob Tamme, Tom Santi, Gijon Robinson, Najeh Davenport, Mike Hart, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Hank Baskett, Blair White, Brody Eldridge, Javarris James. - This list speaks for itself, none of these guys have done a damn thing outside of mediocrity throughout their careers, Peyton led some of these guys to playoff games/Super Bowls.
Here are the big pieces during Mannings tenure:
Jim Mora - hasn't coached in the NFL since Indy, but did coach in the USFL for the Baltimore Stars, and has starred in commercials with his "playoff" rant.
Marvin Harrison- a WR with 1100 catches under Peyton has not played football since Indy. He asked for his release in 2008, sat out 2009, and shot up Chucky's garage in North Philly.
Edgerrin James - being regarded as one of the league's best RBs after rushing for 1500 yards 2 years in a row in Indy, he was shipped to Arizona fresh off of a Super Bowl Season with the Colts. He never showed the type of abilities in Arizona, his production dropped and by 2009 he was out of the lg.
Reggie Wayne - had his worst season in 2011, not eclipsing the 1000 yard mark for the 1st time since 2003
Dallas Clark - hasn't been healthy in years, but in 2011 he had career low numbers
Indy Colts Organization - things come full circle, the 1st season without Peyton since 1998, and the Colts have the 1st pick for the 1st time since.......1998. The team went 2-14 in 2011. The team clearly cut corners on spending on defense throughout the years and even at RB because they knew nothing mattered outside of Peyton, and as baffling as it sounds they clearly cut corners on a backup plan for the heart and soul of their team. This is part of the problem with the Colts actually flourishing in Peyton's absence, if/when they draft Luck, the rest of the team is completely dessimated and one of your only core pieces is a rookie QB, this is a recipe for disaster.
How many other all time great QBs's legacies look like this? Drafted by a subpar team, start from day1, you take them to record setting highs quickly, take them to a Super Bowl victory, make consistent chicken salad out of chicken shit, set numerous records, your supporting cast changes/coaches change, but the one consistent mainstay is you, one season without you puts your team where they were when you left. Montana? No. Elway? No. Marino? No. Favre? No. Brady? No. I understand Peyton's true impact on the Colts will show more over time, but I think any team that signs him will be extremely lucky. We are talking about a guy who puts it all on his shoulders and takes the reigns of the offense completely, he allows you to spend less to have such an even team, including on defense. Indy did make the only move they could really make, but don't be surprised if you look up in 3 years and see "Midas" Manning flourishing for his 3rd year in a new city, while the Colts are back where they were before they drafting Manning, in the cellar.