Now that the meat has been cut, let's take a Patriot-centric look at ol' No. 18, who became the most feared and respected individual opponent of the Brady/Belichick era ...
1. It was a graceful, gracious exit for Manning, and It's impossible to exaggerate how much Manning meant to Indiana. You've probably got a sense for this already, but it really hit me at the Super Bowl when Manning jerseys were far more prevalent than jerseys of any Patriot or Giant -- you know, guys who were actually playing in the game. It's akin to watching Larry Bird and his creaky back go play a final season or two with the Nets or Pacers in the early '90s.
2. No matter whether he plays up to his usual standard, it will never cease to be weird watching him play for a team other than Indy. He may not be the flop Joe Namath was with the Rams or Johnny Unitas with the Chargers, but it still doesn't seem right that Joe Montana was a Chief, and he had some good moments there. Dan Marino had it right, I think, retiring as a Dolphin rather than taking an offer from the Vikings.
3. If Manning does sign within the AFC South, the Colts' best counter move might be to bring Ty Law out of retirement.
5. As much fun as it would be to watch Peyton's New York Adventure, I he's too smart to join the Jets circus. The Rex Ryan bluster isn't his style, Santonio Holmes would drive him nuts, and he has many better options, including another one in the AFC East.
6. No, not as Brady's backup. It seems to me that Miami is the best fit, particularly if Reggie Wayne is riding in Manning's sidecar to his next destination. Manning, Wayne, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush . . . that's a pretty high-caliber offense.
7. The biggest disappointment of yesterday, at least from a New England standpoint, is the sudden belief that Wayne will go wherever Manning goes. The veteran receiver essentially confirmed interest in playing for the Patriots a few weeks ago when asked by the NFL Network's Willie McGinest, and with his smarts and precise route-running, he'd be a nice fit here. Or would have been a nice fit here, I guess.
8. Houston seems to be the consensus choice as Manning's most likely destination. But given the lingering concerns about his health, arm strength, and age, I'm not convinced that he's a better option than Matt Schaub.
9. I'm not even convinced Manning throws another NFL pass. Don't dismiss Rob Lowe's investigative reporting chops just yet. Could be confusing things here, but I'm pretty sure he literally won a Pulitzer for "About Last Night.''
10. Without applying context, it's pretty amazing to realize the 1998 Colts won just three games with Manning, Marshall Faulk, and Marvin Harrison on their roster. Of course, that was Manning's rookie year, and it took him some time to figure it out. Colts fans should keep that in mind when Andrew Luck has more interceptions than touchdowns next December.
11. Faulk ran for 1,319 yards and six TDs during his one year with Manning. He was traded to the Rams, with the Colts replacing him with first-round pick Edgerrin James. One thing James and Faulk had in common: A knack for getting stopped and/or clobbered by McGinest at key moments.
12. Peyton trivia, part 1: Whom did he usurp as the starting quarterback at the University of Tennessee as a freshman in 1994? Clue: He's also a professional athlete, and has been with his current team longer than Manning was with the Colts.
13. Peyton trivia, part 2: Who was the only other player to throw a pass for the Colts during Manning's rookie season? Clue: Three years later, he was catching passes from Tom Brady.
15. I'm not sure which is more absurd: That Manning is rated the 57th-best player in NFL history by the voting on profootball-reference.com's FanElorater, or that Tom Brady is 71st. Don't you have to put both in the top 30, whether you happen to like them or not?
16. If you're wondering how much Bill Belichick came to respect Manning, only one phrase is really necessary: 4th and 2. The real question to me is when that respect developed, given that the Patriots tormented him through the first half-dozen years of his career. I'll presume the respect was there before the second half of the 2006 AFC title game, but that was obviously the pivotal 30 minutes of football in Manning's career. You have to give him begrudging credit for vanquishing an old tormentor, and I'll miss the rivalry. It's probably the same way I'll feel when Mariano Rivera is no longer a Yankee.
17. If you're a Patriots fan, it was impossible while watching the Manning/Colts parting from afar to avoid wondering how Tom Brady's eventual farewell from the Patriots will go. And I don't know about you, but it convinced me beyond a doubt that Belichick needs to do everything he can this offseason to give Brady the surrounding talent to win that fourth ring.
18. As for today's Completely Random Former College Teammate of Peyton Card:
The answer to the first trivia question is Todd Helton, who suffered a knee injury during the 1994 season for the Vols, with Manning stepping in and never again stepping aside. Baseball seems to have worked out OK for him, however. "Being around guys like that made it an easy decision,'' said Helton, who also backed up Heath Shuler with the Vols, in an interview with The New York Times two years ago.
Second trivia answer: receiver Torrance Small, who threw one incomplete pass for the '98 Colts and caught four passes in three games for the 2001 Patriots.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.