American Football: Manning future fear
Published 02/02/2012 | 05:00
Visitors from around the world are gathering in Indianapolis ahead of Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday but the host city's team -- the Colts -- will be missing from the biggest party in America's sporting calendar.
But that hasn't stopped hometown favourite and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning from stealing the headlines from brother Eli, whose New York Giants take on the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
At the start of the season, the locals were dreaming of a completely different scenario: that their Indianapolis Colts would, having already set an NFL record for the most consecutive play-off appearances (10), would be preparing to become the first NFL team to win a Super Bowl on home turf.
That dream quickly evaporated as they won only two of 16 games.
It has led to a great deal of soul-searching, and the future of the Colts as well as that of Peyton Manning, who missed the whole season following neck surgery, is up in the air.
Since 1998, Manning has been the fulcrum of the Colts, leading the team through a golden period which has seen two Super Bowl appearances, including a victory five years ago.
But after his streak of starting 227 consecutive games came to an end, the Colts floundered.
And speculation about Manning's future has cranked up as they enter a phase of rebuilding.
Head coach Jim Caldwell and most of his coaching staff were fired, and if Manning, who turns 36 in March, does return for the Colts next season he will have a very different set-up.