In a lengthy interview containing plenty of content, context, and clues about the future of the Colts current franchise quarterback, Peyton Manning makes it abundantly clear to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star that now isn’t the best time to be an employee of the team.
“I’m not in a very good place for healing, let’s say that,’’ Manning said, regarding the team’s facility. “It’s not a real good environment down there right now, to say the least. Everybody’s walking around on eggshells. I don’t recognize our building right now. There’s such complete and total change.’’
That explanation implies that Manning is still healing. Which means he isn’t healthy. And it also means he’s necessarily frustrated by the fact that he has to try to get healthy in the midst of revolutionary change.
“I mean, it’s 20 degrees, it’s snowing, the building is absolutely empty except when you see coaches cleaning out their offices,’’ Manning told Kravitz. “I guess it’s the reality of the football world, just not something I’ve had to deal with very often. But I’m in there every day, so I have to sit there and see it. Everybody’s being evaluated and I’m no different. It’s not the best environment.”
Peyton adroitly has positioned the decision on his future as a decision that not he but owner Jim Irsay will make.
“One thing [new G.M. Ryan Grigson] kind-of, sort-of told me, without really wanting to tell me, was that Irsay will be the guy I’m going to sit down and talk with,’’ Manning said. “That’s going to happen at some point, but we haven’t had that conversation yet because we really don’t need to have that conversation yet.’’
Did you catch that one? It’s subtle, but significant. Not “Jim” or “Jimmy” or “Mr. Irsay.” Just “Irsay.” Peyton refers to “Irsay” as “Jim” on at least two other occasions in the interview, but to call the owner only “Irsay” in that specific moment is telling.
Folks, Peyton isn’t happy.
“One of the things about football is, it’s a relationship business,’’ Manning said. “Sometimes guys get fired, it goes across the ticker, ‘Jim Caldwell got fired’ and that’s that. But when it’s every day in a relationship business . . . with Bill [Polian], with Marvin [Harrison], Edge [James], guys who retire, get cut, traded or fired, it’s just really hard. I don’t think I have an emotion for it.”
Did you catch that one? Peyton puts Bill Polian in the same category as Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James.
Folks, Peyton isn’t happy.
“I just want to pay tribute to all those guys,” Manning said. “It’s unfortunate because so many of them have been such a big part of so many big wins here, and this is so . . . sudden. Their keys didn’t work the next day. There’s no other way to do it? I don’t know. That’s hard to see, all these people leaving.”
Folks, Peyton really isn’t happy.
But he’s setting it up so that if (when) he ends up playing for another team, it’ll happen because the Colts left him with no options.
“I don’t want to get into some kind of fan campaign with the owner, but I think it’s well documented that I want to play in the same place my whole career,’’ Manning said, which could be just enough to launch a fan campaign with the owner. “It’s been a privilege to play here. I love the fans, the city, the transformation of the fans, how our place has become the toughest stadium to play in, the fact our fans wear more jerseys to games than anybody else. It’s been fun to be a part of that.
“But I understand how it works. I understand tough decisions have to be made. There’s personal and there’s business and that’s where we’ve got to separate the two. I’ve seen other guys leave places and it was personal. I’ve invested too much into this city for that to happen. We live here, we’ve given lots of time and money to the community and our church, and that’s never going to change. Nothing changes that.”
Manning says nothing about whether he’ll agree to delay the $28 million option bonus that comes due on March 8 in order to give the team more time to determine whether he’s healthy before paying him that money. But given his current mindset, it’d be surprising to see him do anything he doesn’t have to do in order to make things any easier for an organization that has made things harder than necessary on Manning’s former coworkers.
“There’s no other way to do it?”
Yep, Peyton won’t be doing “Irsay” any favors.
At the heart of the matter is, I firmly believe, the team’s apparent intention to use the first overall pick in the draft on Peyton’s successor instead of dangling that pick for the kind of modern-day Herschel Walker package that could propel the Colts to more Super Bowl wins. I’d previously believed that Peyton already had made that known to “Irsay.” I now believe that Peyton has come to that conclusion without articulating it to the team. Yet.
Manning may never have to. If, due to the current environment in the building, he’s not healed by March 8 and not willing to throw “Irsay” a bone by backing up the due date, the decision that Manning may secretly want will be made by someone else.
The only thing we know for sure is that, contrary to the “report” last week from Rob Lowe, Peyton isn’t retiring. Yet.
“I never thought ‘Sodapop Curtis’ would announce my retirement,” Manning said.
The full interview merits a complete read. And none of this should be regarded as criticism of Peyton Manning. I’m simply trying to analyze and interpret the facts, the statements, and the possible motivations. He’s a smart guy, and he’s hardly a passive participant in his life.
Peyton surely knows what he wants to do, and his comments to Kravitz surely are aimed at making it happen that way, with minimal damage to the Peyton Manning brand, in Indy or elsewhere.