Jacob Tamme Reunites with Peyton Manning in Denver

Former Colts’ tight end Jacob Tamme has signed a 3 year, $9 million deal with the Denver Broncos, according to ESPN.  The move makes him the first of Peyton Manning’s former teammates to join him in Denver.

Tamme burst onto the scene in 2010, when Dallas Clark went down and Tamme filled in with Clark-like numbers.  When Clark got hurt again in 2011, Tamme once again filled in.  His numbers were not  great, but again his quarterback was Curtis Painter for most of the year.

The Broncos also signed former Houston Texans’ tight end Joel Dreesen.  Dreesen is a very good red zone target for Manning.  The Broncos badly needed a starting tight end in the offseason, and they got two.

However, this move does make it likely that Dallas Clark will not sign with Denver.  He is past his prime and injury prone, and with little to no interest around the league, we could have seen the last of Dallas.  I still think some team will need a replacement for an injured TE and that Dallas will get another shot, but that is far from certain.

As for the Colts tight end position… that is now their biggest need.  I have always said that the most important position for a young quarterback is a tight end.  Right now, Brody Eldridge is the Colts tight end.  Eldridge can block and is not a terrible receiver, but the Colts badly need a pass catching tight end.  If Coby Fleener is available at pick number 34, the Colts would be absolutely thrilled to get him.  I think he will go in the first round, however, so the Colts will need to find someone else.

The Colts need a tight end.  They really need a tight end.  It will be interesting to see who they get.

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Jeff Saturday Signs with the Packers

Longtime Colts’ center and fan favorite Jeff Saturday has signed a two year deal with the Green Bay Packers.  Saturday will not join Peyton Manning in Denver, but will instead snap the ball to Aaron Rodgers, and there is a decent chance that Saturday and Manning will meet in the super bowl.

It is difficult to overstate how instrumental Jeff Saturday was to the Colts’ success.  He represented what the Colts were: undersized, undrafted, and undervalued.  Coming out of college, centers such as Cam Quayle, Jason Chorak, and Jomo Cousins were drafted, but not Saturday.  The North Carolina grad signed as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in 1998, but did not make the team.  Out of the league for a year, the Colts gave him a chance in 1999.

Saturday made the team as a backup guard, but by the 2000 season, he was the team’s starting center, where he has been since. 

He developed an incredible connection with Peyton Manning.  The two worked numerous hours together, and Saturday and Manning knew the offense and each other incredibly well.  Nate Dunlevy said of the connection:

Saturday was hardly a prototypical star or player, but he excelled in the unique demands made on him because of the Colts’ offensive system. The Colts rarely huddled, and even when they did, almost all plays are subject to change. Just as Peyton Manning was deciphering the defense to put the offense in prime position to capitalize with the right play call, Saturday was also analyzing the rushers to call out the complementary blocking scheme to execute the play. Like Manning, Saturday’s greatest weapon was his mind. Together the two outwitted the opposition for a decade. Saturday often joked that they
were like an old married couple continually arguing and fighting, but able to read one another’s minds as well.

Dunlevy goes on to point out Saturday’s role in the greatest game in Colts history, the 38-34 win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.  It was also likely Saturday’s greatest game.  Not only did he score a touchdown on a fumble recovery, but he made “the block” that allowed Joseph Addai to walk into the end zone for the winning score.

Even in the awful 2011 campaign, the 5 time pro bowler and 4 time All-Pro never gave up.  While other players give up in a 2-14 season, Saturday allowed only 9 quarterback pressures and only 2 sacks. 

He was very influential in resolving the labor conflict that threatened the 2011 season.  Many involved with the negotiations said a deal would not have been reached without Saturday.

But Jeff Saturday’s greatest contribution to the NFL, the Colts, and the people of Indianapolis was who he is.  Saturday is a genuine nice guy, with great character and class.  In how many cities do the fans know the name of the starting center?  In Indianapolis, Jeff Saturday is a household name, just as Peyton Manning is.  Hundreds of fans wear Saturday’s number 63 jersey to games.  His face is among the most recognizable of all the players.  Colts fans loved Jeff Saturday, and for good reason.

He was an incredible player, but an even greater person.  He is worthy of the hall of fame.  The Colts should retire his number, just as they will with Peyton Manning. 

Jeff Saturday is one of the greatest Colts of all time.  He is one of the most popular Colts of all time.

He will always be a Colt.

Thank you, Jeff.  Thanks for everything.  Good luck in Green Bay.

A Note to Readers…

As we all know, Peyton Manning is no longer a Colt and is now a member of the Denver Broncos.  For years, Manning and the Colts have been inseparable.  Now, fans have to decide whom they will root for, at least according to Stampede Blue. 

I disagree.

 Let me say first and foremost that I am a Colts fan first, but I am also a Manning fan.  You think just because Michael Jordan was playing for the Wizards that Bulls fans did not root for him? 

Colts fans spent 14 years falling in love with a guy who represented everything they believed in, who was a superstar on and off the field.  There is too much love and respect there to just throw it aside.  

I am a Colts fan first.  When the Colts play the Broncos (which will happen in 2013), I will be cheering for the Colts.  No question about it.  No doubt in my mind.  

But that is not to say I will not root for Peyton Manning at all.  Every game he is not playing against the Colts, I want him to win.  I want him to play well.  And, as long as he does not beat the Colts to get there, I want him to win a super bowl.  Multiple, actually.  For years I have been defending Manning’s legacy, and I sincerely want him to go down as the greatest to ever play.  I already think he is, but that opinion is currently in the minority.  Even though championships should not define a player, they do.  Peyton needs at least one more. 

So when next season comes, I will be watching both the Colts and Broncos.  I will have both games up at a time.  I will be paying most attention to the Colts, but I want to see what my favorite player in history is doing as well. 

Colts fans should be excited about their team.  They will get a quarterback who is as highly regarded of any prospect in a long time.  They have a head coach who is defensive minded, and I am a big fan of Chuck Pagano.  They have a general manager who knows what he is doing, but will stay behind the scenes.  And they still have Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, and Antoine Bethea.  

And so I want to clarify something about this site… it is an Indianapolis Colts site.  I have always been a Colts fan, and will always remain a Colts fan, no matter what. 

 But yes, there will be a new section of this site coming called “Former Colts”.  I want to keep up with Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, and others.  And so while I will primarily be covering the Colts, I will also spend some time covering those who gave so much to the horseshoe in the past.  

And lastly, as I wrote on January 7th, way before we knew what would happen with Peyton Manning:

Being a Colts fan doesn’t mean agreeing with everything the team does.  Heck, if it did, there would be no Colts fans. 

But it does mean, that whatever the team’s leaders decide, that Colts fans support the team still.  That they continue to root for the blue and white.  

You can’t tell whether a person is a Colts fan or a Manning fan until after the decision is made.  

And my guess is that we find out that a lot of the people are the biggest Peyton Manning fans are also some of the biggest Colts fans. 

Denver Broncos Land Peyton Manning

Well, this crazy run at Peyton Manning is over.

Today it was announced that the NFL’s only 4 time MVP will sign with Denver Broncos.  He informed the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers that he will be playing in Denver and the contact is being finalized.  It will be around 5 years, $95 million. 

He is now officially an old Colt – a Bronco.

Denver is a good team.  But they are no certain thing for a super bowl win.  They are not at all better than Manning’s 2004-2005 Colts teams.  (That said, I still will probably pick the Broncos for the super bowl)

This opens the door for Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday to also become Broncos.  Denver needs a tight end badly, so I am sure Dallas will go to Denver.  Saturday reportedly will visit and I would think he would reunite with his good friend Peyton Manning. 

Overall, this is not a surprising move.  He did not want to go to the AFC South (Titans) or NFC (49ers).  The Broncos have John Elway.  Manning certainly is aware of the way Elway’s career ended – back to back super bowl wins, with the team not fully dependant on him.

Also, and maybe most importantly, Denver’s coaching staff is willing to let Peyton run whatever offense he chooses.  Last year, they adjusted to Tim Tebow (who will be traded).  They can certainly adjust to a guy who knows more than many coaches in the league. 

In the end, Denver fans got an incredible quarterback, while Indy fans can root for their hero without betraying the Colts.

For the first time ever, I have a second favorite team.  The Denver Broncos. 

Good luck, Peyton.

Peyton Manning’s Final Drive

Peyton Manning jogged onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, trailing the New York Jets 14-13 in the AFC Wild Card round of the 2010 playoffs.  He had 2:36 left to lead his injury riddled Colts team to yet another win in an already incredible season.  

The Colts had finished 10-6, and thanks to a late season run in which the Colts won their final 4 games, they won the AFC South title.  Manning had gotten a team devastated by injuries (the Colts finished the year with 18 players on injured reserve) to the playoffs.  Despite many critics saying the 4 time MVP had a bad season; those who actually paid close attention saw that for much of the year, he played like the MVP. 

But there was nobody who thought that, when Manning ran onto the field that night, it would be his final drive in a Colts uniform. 

The Colts started at their own 20 yard line.  Manning hit Jacob Tamme on a short pass to the right which went for 15 yards to the 35 yard line.  Another pass to Tamme, this one for 11 yards, and the Colts were at the 46 yard line.  A 6 yard run by Joseph Addai put the Colts past midfield.  

Then Blair White, the undrafted rookie out of Michigan State, caught a 12 yard pass from Manning to put the Colts at the Jets’ 36 yard line.  Joseph Addai was stuffed for only a 1 yard gain.  Manning then went back to White, which was completed for only 3 yards.  The Jets took their first timeout of the half with 1:02 left, with the Colts facing a 3rd down and 6 from the Jets’ 32 yard line.

 The Colts needed the first down for two reasons: one was because a 50 yard field goal was anything but certain from their aging kicker, the legendary Adam Vinatieri.  They also wanted to run some clock off.  “We were certainly trying to pick up that first down at the end, we thought that would make them use some of their timeouts and we could run the clock down,” said Manning after the game. 

Following the timeout, Peyton Manning lined up in the shotgun.  Reggie Wayne was the wide receiver to the far left, Pierre Garcon to the far right.  Blair White was in the slot to the right, and Jacob Tamme was staggered behind the Colts’ left tackle, Charlie Johnson.  Joseph Addai was lined up to Manning’s left.  It was the final time Peyton Manning would ever take a snap in a Colts uniform.

As soon as he took the snap from longtime center Jeff Saturday, Manning began rolling to his right, as he had done more frequently in the 2010 season than before.  When he was almost to the 40 yard marker, Manning threw the football, still on the run.  He did not take time to set his feet, he threw on the run.  The play was designed that way.  

Blair White had run a 14 yard out, and was at the 18 yard line, a couple of yards away from the sidelines.  He failed to create much separation from cornerback Drew Coleman, but was in front of Coleman.

Manning’s pass fell inches short.  The ball was actually in White’s hands, though I would not consider it a drop.  Peter King wrote that “just like everything in this Indianapolis season, the throw was a little off. A little low. White tried to scoop it in, but it hit the ground. Incomplete.” 

The throw needed to be low.  Coleman would have had a shot at an interception, which would have ended the game, had it been higher.  Manning put the ball in the only place he could have with no risk of an interception.  A pocket quarterback on the run, throwing to a covered receiver who was undrafted and came out of nowhere.  And people criticized Manning for the pass.  

It would be up to Adam Vinatieri, the greatest clutch kicker the league has ever known, to make the 50 yard field goal.  

There were questions about Vinatieri’s leg strength.  Not after he nailed the kick with 53 seconds left, putting the Colts ahead 16-14.  That was the loudest I have ever heard Lucas Oil Stadium.  Nate Dunlevy said of Vinatieri’s range: “If the game is on the line, his range is unlimited.” 

Vinatieri’s kick would be the first kick ever in the final minute of a playoff game that was not the game winner.  It has not happened since, either.  Only one other time in NFL history had a team lost a playoff game when having a go-ahead score in the final minute.  The other is famously known as the “Music City Miracle”.

A terrible kickoff and a great kick return later, and the Jets were in business.  Jim Caldwell took a terrible timeout, and as time expired Nick Folk kicked a chip shot field goal to win 17-16.  Phil B. Wilson commented on Manning’s reaction toCaldwell’s timeout:

I can’t get the image of Peyton Manning in dismay out of my head.

ESPN’s highlights played at my house until 3 in the morning as I tried to decompress, playing Facebook games and watching sports, over and over and over. Each time, the Colts lose.

Each time, there’s Manning throwing his hands up as if to say, “What are you doing?” when Colts coach Jim Caldwell calls a timeout with 29 seconds to go, despite the fact the New York Jets appeared to be settling for a long FG try after running for 2 yards to the Colts 34.

And that was how the Colts’ career of Peyton Manning ended.  With his arms held up, wondering what in the world his head coach was doing.  

The career of the greatest player to ever wear the horseshoe came to an end with a pass that was just a little low, and with his arms raised in exasperation.  

And no one even thought for a second that it was the end.

Manning Watch: “Mystery Team” Emerges; Likely Down to Final Three

There was quite a bit happening today in the race to sign Peyton Manning.

First off, we found out that the Dolphins are officially out (in fact, they were never really in).  We also know that Arizona is likely out and will keep Kevin Kolb [UPDATE: head coach Ken Whisenhunt confirmed that the Cardinals are out].

Then, knowing they are in second, the Broncos brought a large group out to North Carolina to watch the 4 time MVP throw and meet with him today.  Adam Schefter tweeted:

Broncos traveling party includes Exec VP John Elway, HC John Fox, OC Mike McCoy, QB coach Adam Gase, GM Brian Xanders and a medical team.

The team in first, the Tennessee Titans, have not yet seen Manning throw, but reports say that Manning will throw for them soon.

The Broncos also reportedly offered Manning a 5 year contract for $60 million with $30 million guaranteed.  They may need to go higher, however.

The big news of today is that the mystery team that I, along with many others, have been waiting for emerged.  The San Francisco 49ers.  The 49ers lost in overtime in the NFC Championship game, and while free agent quarterback Alex Smith had a career year last season, Manning would certainly be an upgrade.  Of the contenders, the 49ers are the one team that Manning would have a better shot at winning the super bowl with than the Broncos.  The one red flag I see is that the 49ers just signed WR Randy Moss, who is not a great teammate to his quarterbacks.

I think these three teams are the ones that are going down to the finish.  Where will Peyton Manning play in 2012?  Denver, Tennessee, or San Francisco? 

We will find out soon.

UPDATE: Tweet from Broncos’ executive vice president John Elway:

We enjoyed visiting with Peyton today in N.C. He threw the ball great and looked very comfortable out there.

Watching him throw today was the next step in this important process for our team and Peyton. It was a productive visit and went well.

Peyton Manning Power Rankings

Where might Peyton Manning go?  Here are my first official power rankings:

1) Denver Broncos.  I see Denver as the favorite right now.  Manning met with them Friday night and was in Denver part of Saturday.  The Broncos team is set up perfectly for a super bowl run with Manning, much as John Elway’s Broncos were at the end of his stellar career.  Elway is a big factor in this, as he basically runs the Broncos.  That is something no other team can offer: a hall of fame quarterback running the show.

2) Arizona Cardinals.  Peyton flew to Arizona from Denver and met with them Sunday.  I have said all along that I think Arizona is the best fit for him, but I also did not think teams such as Denver or Houston would be in the race.  Before Arizona can sign Manning, however, they need to clear cap room, which is something Denver does not need to worry about.

3)  Miami Dolphins.  Miami has seemed like the logical and easy choice for Peyton Manning.  He owns a house in Miami, the Dolphins have a good young team, and Manning is good friends with Dan Marino, the greatest player to ever wear a Dolphins uniform.  Surprisingly, the Dolphins have fallen behind in the race for Manning.  Maybe the media chase turned Manning off.  Some are suggesting Brandon Marshall is making Peyton have second thoughts about the Dolphins.  Maybe it is because they have not talked to him yet.  The talk is coming, per Chris Mortensen.  Manning will meet with the Dolphins this week, possibly even today.  They are not out of this by any means.

Welcome to the…

Tennessee Titans.  The Titans entered the race last night when owner Bud Adams declared his interest in the guy who has beaten his team so many times.  Manning will meet with the Titans before Wednesday, according to Mortensen.

Houston Texans.  Finally, the Texans have joined the race, inquiring about Peyton Manning.  This comes according to the Denver Post’s Mike Klis, who has done a simply fantastic job of covering the Manning saga (Klis also reports that the Broncos are engaged in contract talks with Peyton).  If Houston is serious about signing Peyton, the Texans will jump to number one on this list.  Manning is interested in them, and they are a super bowl contender even without the legend. 

San Francisco 49ers.  Although I am unsure of the 49ers level of interest or level of communication with Manning, Klis lists them as one of the 6 teams still in contention for Manning’s play.  Stay tuned on this one as well, as the 49ers are also a super bowl contender without Manning.

Those out of the race:

Washington Redskins.  They made a monster move to get into position to draft Robert Griffin III, but they were unlikely to be big players in this anyways.

New York Jets.  They gave Mark Sanchez an extension and a raise.  They will not go after Peyton now, and he does not want to go to the dysfunctional Jets.

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