Today marks the 16th anniversary of when Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak to become baseball's all-time "Iron Man." In the NFL, the longest current consecutive games played streak belongs to Peyton Manning, who has never missed a start in his 13-year career.
However, with the news over the weekend that lingering back soreness following offseason neck surgery will prevent the four-time MVP from practicing, it seems doubtful that no. 18 will be under center for the Indianapolis Colts when they open their season on Sunday against the Texans in Houston.
The last time the Colts had someone other than Manning under center at the start of a regular-season game was December 21, 1997. That day, Jim Harbaugh, who is now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was under center as the Colts fell to the Minnesota Vikings to cap a 3-13 season. That of course led to them drafting Manning with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft and the rest as they say, is history.
Manning started Week 1 of the 1998 season and he hasn't looked back since. Including the playoffs, Manning has started in 227 consecutive games. His regular-season streak of 208 consecutive games played by a quarterback is second only to Brett Favre's all-time mark of 297. As impressive as that is, we must not lose track of the bigger picture, which is what the Colts as a team have done with Manning running the offense.
In Manning's 13 years under center, the Colts have won a total of 150 games (including playoffs), eight divisional titles, two AFC titles and one Super Bowl. The Colts hold the NFL record for consecutive seasons with 12 or more wins with seven (2003-09), and have won 10 or more games and made the playoffs the past nine seasons.
For now, the Colts will have Kerry Collins directing their offense. Collins is certainly no rookie, with 177 career starts for five different teams under his belt, but he's no spring chicken either, as he'll turn 39 in December. More importantly, while Manning has 13 years' worth of experience and time spent learning and working with the Colts' offense, Collins will have less than three weeks' worth when he takes his first snap in Houston.
So needless to say, Week 1 is going to look and feel a lot different for both Colts' fans and players alike if no. 18 isn't going to be on the field. And while his absence will put an end to his consecutive games played streak, one has to wonder what impact this could have on the Colts' season as a whole, especially if Manning starts a new streak - consecutive games NOT played. If that's the case, then it may be the only streak the Colts will be able to lay claim to once the season ends.
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