This Sunday, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will return to Indianapolis for his first matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Along with his team’s perfect record, his homecoming, the great play by his successor Andrew Luck and the love by the fans for him, there’s a lot at stake and distractions.
And there’s also the Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay factor.
Never at a loss for words or a tweet, on Monday Irsay was out in full force about Manning’s return. He spoke to USA Today about his former player and noted during his tenure, the team saw one title, a second Super Bowl trip, 11 playoff games and then the seven one-game postseasons.
But then Irsay said too much: “That leaves you frustrated. You make the playoffs 11 times, and you’re out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the ‘Star Wars’ numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love” winning Super Bowls.”
He then added of the Luck era that, “We’ve changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these” (while pointing to the Super Bowl XLI championship ring that he was wearing).
Did Irsay really just say that?
Many believe he ran Manning out of town but with his latest comments, is he just an ingrate or trying to make headlines, again, for the impending homecoming? Or maybe, trying to mess with Manning’s head?
The NFL coaching brethren came to Manning’s defense with the quiet Atlanta Falcons coach John Fox saying on his national radio show via ESPN, “I saw the comments. And to be honest with you, I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot. To me, in my opinion, they were disappointing and inappropriate. Peyton would never say anything. He’s too classy to do that. They sounded a little ungrateful and unappreciative to me. For a guy who has set a standard, won a Super Bowl, won four MVP awards … be thankful of that one Super Bowl ring, because a lot of people don’t have one.”
Yep Manning is too classy and has not responded to the comments. On Tuesday, Irsay attempted to take back him remarks, saying they had been taken out of context. He phoned Manning but did not get a call back.
But there’s also another school of thought regarding the comments: Irsay was really taking a shot at former Colts GM Bill Polian.
He said prior to this week’s comments to NFL.com of his team after their Seattle Seahawks win,”We really just proved how now special teams and defense are winning games along with a great franchise quarterback. That’s a different type of team, but that’s the vision I had going into this era…The vision when I brought in (GM) Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano was to have a really well rounded team that when it gets into the playoffs and it’s 20 degrees and snowing, that we’re not just depending on the passing game.”
Needless to say, Polian was not happy about the comments.
For Irsay, he’s now in a no-win situation. Stay tuned as this story won’t die, especially if the two meet in the postseason. But one thing we do know is, with the Colts’ tribute to Manning on Sunday, it will include a supportive, rousing response by Colts fans to their beloved former quarterback.