Nearly seven years have passed since Peyton Manning last suited up for the Indianapolis Colts. We last saw him hoisting the Lombardi Trophy after the Denver Broncos emerged victorious in Super Bowl 50.
But Manning probably will be best remembered in blue and white after being selected No. 1 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. What people might not remember is that Manning’s first head coach was the fabled Jim Mora — better known as the “playoff guy.”
Mora made himself famous for his epic playoff rant during the 2001 season, while Manning made himself prominent for everything that followed Mora’s tirade. The Colts slipped to a 6-10 season in 2001, resulting in Mora’s rocky departure.
Manning stayed another nine seasons in Indy, claiming a Super Bowl XLI victory for the franchise while breaking numerous passing records along the way. And though Manning’s split with the Colts wasn’t smooth in 2012, he’ll soon be honored for his mastery in Indy.
The Colts will unveil a statue of Manning outside of Lucas Oil Stadium this season. Manning amassed much of his accolades with Tony Dungy at the helm, but he still passed for 25-plus touchdowns in each of the four seasons he played under Mora.
But Lucas Oil Stadium is often dubbed “The House that Manning Built,” not the house that Mora built. Mora cordially declined the invitation despite keeping close contact with Manning throughout the years.
“I had reasons,” Mora told WNDE-FM in Indianapolis on Wednesday. “I would love to come back there, but because of the way I left the Colts, my relationship with [former general manager Bill] Polian, I don’t know. I just wouldn’t feel that I would feel comfortable being there.
“And I told him this, I apologized for the fact that I wouldn’t come. I told him why I didn’t feel like I should come — all those different things. I would love to come, but I think I would just feel a little bit awkward there.”
Breakups are never easy, and this one was particularly hard on Mora. While Manning’s mold immortalizes him in Indianapolis lore, Mora will sit quietly at home wondering what could have been.