Nichol(s) Slots: End of an Era

The era of Peyton Manning in Indianapolis is over — and the franchise will likely draft Andrew Luck out of Stanford with the first pick in next month’s NFL draft to replace the 14-year veteran who led the Colts to a Super Bowl XLI win.

Manning’s departure leads off an overdue Nichol(s) Slots that has a lot to talk about, from Manning’s destination, why it was or wasn’t a good decision on the Colts’ part to cut ties and the latest going elsewhere at the Five Cents.

INDY — Not even 24 hours into his free agency, a billboard went up in Miami campaigning for the four-time NFL MVP’s services.

Even the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks tossed themselves into the mix.

I guess then it’s official. Manning really is a free agent. The Colts have parted ways. But with billboards and teams immediately showing interest, needless to say, it won’t be hard for Manning to find a new team to play for.

But it won’t be with the Colts, which still comes at somewhat of a shock.

Here’s Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He’s probably on the quarterback version of Mt. Rushmore.

Four MVP’s.

Two Super Bowl appearances.

One Super Bowl win in SB XLI.

Only Dan Marino and Brett Favre have more passing yards.

We like to think franchises know more than the average fan or sports writer, but clearly the Colts didn’t give the man who took them from the mud to the the pasture any sort of benefit of the doubt.

They cut him for business reasons. $28 million reasons. Neck reasons. Andrew Luck potential reasons.

No one more year. Not even an Aaron Rodgers-Brett Favre saga.

Straight-up cut.

Is that how you treat a first ballot Hall of Famer? I guess so. I’m sure it was an easy decision. Just telling Manning wasn’t.

When I used to receive Sports Illustrated magazines in the mail, each time Manning graced the cover the headlines seemingly went along with his overall game — which got better and better as time went on.

“So Good, So Soon”

“Yes He Can”

“Top Gun”

“In Charge”

“Colt Heroes”

Colt Hero was my favorite. It’s about the best way you can sum up Manning’s career and Indianapolis’ franchise.

In every debate between Tom Brady and Manning, I always went with Manning. In video games, I always went with the Colts. When a season started, I had Indianapolis as a favorite. All because of Peyton Manning.

Manning was and still is Indy. But Indy appears to be about business now, instead of paying its dues to a player that put them back on the map. If anything, the Colts franchise owes Manning all that it can give, even if he will be 36 and is career has may be a 3-year window.

Where Indy is coming from isn’t wrong, though. Indy believes that the amount of money owed and injury sustained to Peyton Manning’s neck is enough to draft  Luck, a player who hasn’t had one snap in the NFL.

Luck has potential and by the time Manning would retire, Luck might have the Colts back on track. Who’s to say that can’t happen, and who’s to say the Colts will win another Super Bowl with Manning and a team that’s seeing a bit of turnover?

If the Colts commit a huge error on this one, they’ll either regret the move or they’ll be the ones trying to move the franchise to Los Angeles once nobody fills that stadium.

Logic says the Colts are going the right direction. Going with youth doesn’t hurt when Manning was owed a $28 million roster bonus if he wasn’t released by Wednesday and if he wasn’t turning 36 this month with numerous neck injuries.

But this is Peyton freaking Manning. No matter how old he is, he’s still a gamer. Favre was in his 40’s and moments away from one more Super Bowl three years ago.

If logic was always right, then Ryan Leaf should have been the greatest quarterback of all-time. If logic was right, Cade McNown might still be the Bears quarterback.

Yeah, really. Think about that.

Andrew Luck has potential. And the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL all do this. They estimate where they’re going based on potential. And it’s hard to get around that in most sports because you have to go young at some point and build your team through the draft.

It’s easier to judge basketball talent. Depending on what position you have in football, it’s the same thing. You almost have to be God to know what baseball or hockey talent there is out there.

But the quarterback position is so iffy. You either have to be an expansion franchise or something like the Cleveland Browns. You get your Leafs, your Mannings, sometimes there’s a Brady in the rough. An Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings. Michael Vick comes in and redefines the position. But how many quarterbacks like Brady Quinn have come along?

Manning hasn’t shown any sort of regression in his mid 30’s. It was just that his body needed some fixing. I see where the problem is on the business side and with the Colts future, but is Luck going to step in right away and get the team back to the playoffs in two years? It’s highly doubtful. I don’t understand why they can’t have both?

I don’t doubt Manning hasn’t lost his ability. May be a little mobility. But not ability. And if the Colts are going with Luck and Luck flops like Ryan Leaf or JaMarcus Russell, the Colts are going to make the biggest mistake since moving the team out of Baltimore.

The Peyton Manning curse will live. It will live well in Indianapolis.

Manning isn’t done. Trust me on this.

And when Manning takes a team like Arizona or Seattle to the Super Bowl and the Colts are winning 5 or 6 games the next few seasons, the Colts are going to have wished they at least kept Manning, drafted Luck and told him to sit like Aaron Rodgers or they’ll just shoot themselves in the head for releasing a player that still had the goods.

I applaud Indy for taking the risk. Indianapolis was going to lose him at some point in time. It was like when Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls for good. We knew it was inevitable.

If the the big risk turns out to be a big reward, more power to them. Youth, less money, unsure futures.

Sounds like Andrew Luck to me.

The difference is there’s no Andrew Luck billboards going up anywhere.

So where does Manning go?  

The people in Seattle, Arizona, Washington, Miami and New York are drooling right now.

I said a few weeks ago I wouldn’t be surprised if the he goes to the Jets. Mark Sanchez just isn’t the answer — much like Rex Grossman was in Chicago — and Rex Ryan would like to get an elite quarterback in New York to get his team on track. They have good weapons and need a locker room presence like no other.

But what a circus that would be for Manning. And from his years in Indianapolis, circuses aren’t Peyton Manning.

That’s why I look to teams like Seattle and Arizona, places that can offer Manning what he needs and for Manning to get Reggie Wayne in a package deal.

Seattle doesn’t have the best offensive line, but a run game with Marshawn Lynch is something Manning hasn’t had in quite sometime. You put Wayne along side Sidney Rice and Seattle can definitely give San Fran a run for its money. Even San Fran is a destination.

Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald. They also play in the NFC West and if dome’s are Peyton’s thing, let the Phoenix rise.

I can’t see Miami. That billboard is awesome. Miami would be sexy and Manning would have weapons in Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall but at this point in his career, does Manning really want to contend with the AFC East, a division that has the Jets, Bills and oh yeah, Tom Brady? He’d have to play the Patriots twice in a year.

At least he’d have an excuse to bail to Miami.

And no, I don’t want to see Brady-Manning twice a year. Small doses people, small doses.

No matter where Peyton goes — this isn’t a retirement blog. This is just a goodbye to Indianapolis blog. There will be more of Peyton Manning. We’ll see him somewhere next year. But for Indy, who’s had this esteemed greatness for so long, continue to hope. Andrew Luck isn’t a bad thing. He’s your future. It was going to happen sooner or later, like us Chicagoans who knew Michael Jordan would leave at some point.

But Andrew Luck is not Peyton Manning. And that’s something Indy won’t get over until Luck does an Aaron Rodgers and wins a Super Bowl.

Back to the mud, Colts.

Big East Tourney 

Sometimes I almost look forward to the Big East tournament than the actual NCAA tournament just because it seems like every Big East game from the quarterfinals to the championship always end in some sort of hoops hysteria. The last two minutes in the Big East tourney never disappoints.

The field may not be as colorful as recent years, but as I sit here and watch the end of the West Virginia-UConn game, I can tell you the 30th anniversary at Madison Square Garden will be an anniversary we won’t forget.

March Madness 

For the first team in years — may be ever — I’m not excited about March Madness. For 1) I haven’t been paying attention to college ball. That’s due to the Bulls. But 2) the college game hasn’t excited me. May be that Duke-UNC game at Carolina was something that was exciting, but parody has lacked this year. I’m not seeing many upsets. It’s been pretty much cut and dry. May be I’m wrong since I haven’t been watching. But for one thing, bracket-wise, I’m sticking with Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State, Michigan State and Kansas and that’s the bottom line. I do know who’s good. But upset wise, I guess it might be a bad year for me to predict. 12 over 5?

Around the Association 

33-8. Those are your Chicago Bulls. Best record in the league. Best team in the league if you ask me. The Bulls didn’t play defense against the Bucks up in Milwaukee, but Derrick Rose’s game-winning step back jumper at the buzzer was good enough for me to cool down from a game that the Bulls looked like they wanted no part of.

Instead of going in depth in the Bulls win last night, can we just get the Eastern Conference finals done and over with right now? Because if this series doesn’t come sooner, I might just have to try to predict upsets for the NCAA tourney.

When the Bulls and Heat square off in that series, is Miami the unstoppable force and the Bulls the immovable object?

I got that from a Kobe Bryant commercial several years back.

These two are clearly the best teams in the NBA and while Miami will still be a heavy favorite, with all the injuries, lineup changes and adversity the Bulls have dealt with this season, you get the feeling that the Bulls are better than last year and have a legit shot at a title, no matter how good Miami is.

33-8 and Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng and C.J. Watson all somewhat hampered by injury. Imagine what they’d be doing if Rose had no back issues, Hamilton had all his issues resolved, Deng’s wrist wasn’t injured and C.J. Waston was 100 percent?

By the way, whoever thought of Stacey King talking bobblehead night clearly is a Windy City Assassin. Gimme that hot sauce!

I’m convinced no NBA franchise will win a championship with Carmelo Anthony on their team, the same way I’m convinced with LeBron James.

Even with Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin and J.R. Smith, the Knicks are still struggling at the bottom of the East playoff race. The Knicks can’t even get over 500. They don’t play defense. Howard Schlossberg still roots for them.

Ugly.

The guy I feel bad for is Jeremy Lin. This kid was tearing it up before Anthony returned and I believe the Knicks were better two weeks ago when Anthony was injured. My ass they can play together. Lin had that team cookin’. If Denver didn’t think it could win without Carmelo Anthony, why did they let him go? Nuisance? Denver knew they were getting back quality players and a crap-ton of players for a diva. A DIVA.

By the way, Kobe Bryant for MVP. LeBron James looks to have gotten better and his stats merit another trophy. But with little that the Lakers have, as old as they are and how injured Bryant’s been, at 33, you can’t ask for more from him. Bryant’s heart and soul is out there and he still has the Lakers as a threat in the West. The 30-point games since the all-star break and the scoring he’s provided proves us you don’t need to have powerful, flashy dunks to be effective.

Kobe for MVP. And take that mask to the Hall of Fame, too.

I applaud the Magic for keeping Dwight Howard for now. Howard should honor his team the same way Peyton Manning did in Indy.

I’m sick of these players who think they’re entitled to the type of treatment they deserve. I root for the Clippers, but that doesn’t make me a Chris Paul fan. Paul, Anthony, Howard and the many who have switched teams need to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around whether they’re winning or not. They’re not greats. They’re all-stars, not Hall of Famers. They make way too much money to be complaining. The greats made it happen where they were drafted and with little money, little say. Michael, Magic, Larry, Hakeem — they all won without moving or demanding trades.

Howard, Paul, Deron Williams all have ego problems. They bail on teammates for their own good. Front offices are somewhat to blame for not filling out good rosters but may be if you take the Manning approach, you might get somewhere. Stop your bitching, play your basketball and make your teammates better.

Cubs and Sox previews are coming, but I’ll tell you right now that my picks to clicks this season are Alfonso Soriano  and Adam Dunn.

Dunn needs to have a huge season or they’ll kill him at the Cell. Give Dunn a chance.

Soriano is the only power the Cubs have and if he either wants to stay, feel like he’s earned his money or go elsewhere, the Cubs won’t be able to do anything unless he hits.

And I’m in favor of batting Soriano in the lead off spot. It worked when the Cubs won the division. But that was when we had really good teams as well.

But I think the Sox and Cubs might be much better than you think this season.

By the way, if this is true, the format of the playoffs in the Division series is going to a 2-3 format. It’s for travel reasons.

I’ve been standing for a seven-game series to better reflect a team’s success over 162, but giving a team with the worse record the first two games defeats the purpose of even trying to win your division.

Two wild card teams will go head-to-head in a playoff and then host a team for two games that won its division?

2012 might be the last good year of baseball as we know it. Interleague becomes an everyday thing in 2013 when the divisions realign and it won’t be long until true baseball dies when the NL gets the DH.

From sad to sadness, how many of you are calling it a season for the Blackhawks? 

In January, you could have penciled the Hawks into the Stanley Cup. Now you want to jam that pencil into your eye after all the recent struggles.

This team is Jonathan Toews. If he’s not in there, boy do they lack. His teammates didn’t come to his aid a whole lot in the last few weeks and now the guy, concussed, has no timetable on returning.

And without Toews, the Hawks will not go far into the playoffs. May be not even past Game 5 or 6.

But even with some miraculous comeback for Captain Serious, how can you say the Hawks have one more push in them?

Their goalie issue is atrocious. They still lack defense and scoring. Don’t get me started on their power play. Yet, they can go into the Joe and beat the Red Wings but lose to St. Louis on the road in a very ugly, ugly game.

To think I had them in the Cup against Pittsburgh. May be there’s still time to believe, but it might be time to be getting ready for next year and hopefully Stan Bowman will have the right goalie in place and defensemen ready to defend.

Speaking of defense, there should be no defense for the Bears current corps of receivers. That’s why it would be wise for the team to make some splashes via free agency and return Devin Hester to returns.

I know Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent and could cost the Bears a first rounder . But the Bears haven’t had a deep threat in a long time and Wallace is probably one of the most dynamic deep threats in the league. Wallace might be the best vertical route runner in the league and keeps safeties back. That could help Jay Cutler’s offense out immensely. Plus, he’s mine and Craig Janowiak’s favorite receiver.

Vincent Jackson would be another target Cutler could salivate over day in and day out. Imagine his size and ability running routes at Soldier Field… scary.

Laurent Robinson had a nice season in Dallas and he’ll command a lot of attention since Miles Austin and Dez Bryant top the depth chart and he could be an odd man out. I’m not sure how he really feels about Tony Romo but outside of Texas, we all think Romo is an ass. Robinson could return to his home state and play for Jay Cutler, who’s ass got him Kristin Cavalleri. Chances of Robinson staying in Dallas though are good, but how about Chicago, Laurent?

If Reggie Wayne doesn’t follow Manning, Indy is just a short ride up to Chicago. He could fit in well. The Bears need a 1,000 yard receiver and since Wayne’s streak ended last year due to Manning’s injury, he could get back to 1,000 yards easily, a feat he had reached from 2003-2010.

Random thoughts

1. The iPad 3 will be released and it has a better camera and 4G capability.

Big deal. Unless you’re one of those nerds who has a data plan on your iPad, WiFi and an iPad 2 will suffice. You get the feeling Apple has gotten complacent with significant upgrades and figured out that the zombies out there who really love the Apple product will actually dish out $500 to get a slight upgrade to their products. How sad the fact is that the strategy is working.

2. Politically speaking, I support Israel and their ability to defend themselves and their land. (thoughts are my own)

3. For 53-years-old, Madonna is still hot. And better than Lady GaGa will ever be.

4. This was a weak Nichol(s) Slots. Content just sucked. I’m just putting one together to put one together. Plus, I’ve been stressed. No excuses, though. Play like a champion.

5. What the hell is Spotify? I can’t figure this thing out. Am I supposed to share my music?

6. And what the hell is Pinterest?! Please people, we have to get lives!

7. God is great. God is always great.

8. Subway subs aren’t the greatest, but that Meatball sub with pepperoni just caught my eye.

9. If this solar storm can reach as far south at Illinois, I’d love to see the Auroras. If there’s anything better than a sunset, that would be it right there. I don’t think Quebec would like their power grid smashed again, though.

10. Has anybody seen MLB 2K12’s Chicago Cubs World Series promo? Looks like they worked hard to create what would be the celebration if the Cubs actually won the World Series. It still isn’t realistic and I think all Cub fans can attest that the scene would be much wilder than anyone has ever thought of. Plus, they didn’t show anybody flipping over any CTA buses. But it’s a great promo, though. Especially when Kate Upton is promoting anything.

11. Is it just me, or is Wendy’s burgers getting smaller? Anybody tried Five Guys?

12. Barely any snow in Chicago through March and we have temps close to 70 lately. Strangest winter ever.

12A. What the hell will summer bring? 115 degree temps?

13. Why are people obsessed with Snooki’s pregnancy? I should kick my own ass for even putting this on the list.

14. Chivarly isn’t dead. Trust me, ladies.

15. And last but not least, my sister gave birth to a little girl named Callie Clare on March 2. She weighs at 7 lbs 13 oz and she is my first niece. What a joy it was to hold her over the weekend and if she’s anything like my nephew, it’s going to be a blast watching her grow up.

You people take care. Back to not writing such long, boring blogs. And watching the Bulls win.

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