Irsay: Polian wanted to trade Peyton in 2004

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As the one-year anniversary of the release of Peyton Manning approaches, our buddy Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star is teasing us all via Twitter with snippets from what appears to be a wide-ranging and eye-opening interview with Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Here’s the first tweet that made me do the Kramer head jerk:  Irsay says that, in 2004, G.M. Bill Polian wanted to trade Peyton.

We’ll have to wait for the article to get more information regarding the reasons for Polian’s pitch.  It could be that he realized Peyton, whose rookie contract had expired, wanted more money than the Colts could justify paying.  Or it could be that there was a team that Polian believed would make a Herschel Walker-style offer.

Either way, it didn’t happen; eight years ago tomorrow, the Colts signed Peyton to a $99.2 million contract with $34.5 million to sign.  Manning had an MVP season in 2004, one of the best any quarterback ever has had.  Two years later, the Colts won a Super Bowl.

So, sometimes, the best decisions are the ones that aren’t made.  It remains to be seen how Polian changed his mind on the decision he apparently made nine years ago.

63 responses to “Irsay: Polian wanted to trade Peyton in 2004

  1. Ummm… I definetly will be waiting to see what his reasoning was. That whole sentiment sounds unbelievable.

  2. At least you know it wouldn’t have been a trade to San Diego for the first pick that year. I don’t think “Papa Bear” would let any of his boys play for the Chargers.

  3. Holy cow … In 2004?!? If Titans owner Bud Adams had known this, would he have attempted to trade one reigning co-MVP Steve McNair for the other? And if so, what kind of cash or additional draft picks might have been involved. Again … HOLY COW.

  4. It remains to be seen how Polian changed his mind on the decision he apparently made nine years ago.”

    Or had his mind changed for him…

  5. “So, sometimes, the best decisions are the ones that aren’t made.”


    You mean the best decisions are not following thru on bad ideas.

  6. More proof that Polian is an sub-par GM that luckily had the first pick (because his team sucked) to get Manning in ’98.

  7. Two years later, the Colts won a Super Bowl.


    I’d like to point out that the year the won the superbowl that Manning once again had a subpar playoffs and the defense carried them to that championship. The defense never got credit for that run and Manning got MVP in the superbowl for what the announcers joking said “it must be for all those great commercials he’s given us”.

  8. The headline here should be “Jim Irsay has found the keys to the liquor cabinet again”

  9. Or could they have considered all options and the owner’s memory and account is what makes him look best. That’s better then 20-20 hind (end) sight.

  10. This isnt that surprising if you’ve heard some of the crazy things Polian says on espn. He gets entirely too much credit for his time in Indy. One title with Peyton in what, 13 years?

  11. How do you know it was the best decision.? They might have won two or three Super Bowls had the trade happened. We will never know.

  12. Interesting to look back on these kinds of things as what could have been. Imagine how many Superbowls those stacked Colts teams could have won without that choker on their team.

  13. Another reason this guy is no longer a GM. I’ve noticed recently with his ESPN takes on team needs and available players and I’m glad this guy doesn’t run my team.

  14. There were a couple decent QBs available in the draft that year… just sayin’

  15. INSANITY!? No amount of draft picks could compensate for the loss of Peyton Manning.

  16. If anyone reads the new book “Super Agent” it’s apparent that Irsay Sr was a drunk and by his son’s crazy attitude/ramblings it’s not hard to imagine that he has some issues as well. What a doofus.

  17. I am not going to go into the deep end over this until everything is put in context. I have seen it too many times when “initial reports” come out, then people overreact to those initial reports and are too embarrassed/immature to backtrack from their initial viewpoints. Case in point, the initial reports of the Tom Brady contract extension.

    That all being said, Peyton has been one of the most over-hyped QBs since he entered the league. Given all of his stats, he still only has one SB to go with it, and more often then not he has been a dud rather than a stud in the playoffs.

    He is a stud in fantasy football, but he is not in the real world of the NFL.

  18. the 06 post season was not Paytons best football, but it is strange to deride someone who can get a team to the playoffs every year he starts it seems.

  19. All Manning has to do is be in the mix as a Top QB in 2013 and he’s a shoe-in for MVP… All MVP voters will want to get Manning his record 5th MVP so he can be considered the G.O.A.T.

  20. Great quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. Draft prospects are never a sure thing.
    This is why when you get a great quarterback you throw money at him ala Brees, Manning, Rodgers.
    Brady and his decision to reduce his salary can’t be in that conversation because his salary is just weekend spending money compared to what his wife makes.

  21. Can anyone really believe a man with the last name Irsay? He’s the next “hey look at me” owner!

  22. maybe because peyton was and continues to be over rated. his playoff W-L record is poor. what is it now — 9-11 or something ? way too many 1st rd exits for those colts teams (and last season’s denv team for that matter…you could argue peyton didn’t commit the def secondary gaffe, but he did throw a pick in OT). during those yrs, it seems his teams either got upset early in playoffs or didn’t show up vs new eng in afc champ gm.

  23. bradys stats are nothibg special in yhe post season. he got lucky on playing for amazing trams with one of the vest coaches ever. matt cassell won 11 games with them. he yhrew 145 yards in one superbowl win. peyton got stuck with polian and a horrible team he carried on his back his entire career. decent d wins championships and he never had one till last year.

  24. I’m thinking my New Orleans Saints would have given up the farm to get him to replace Aaron Brooks at the time. Hell I would’ve contributed whatever body part I had two of that they needed.

  25. It is very possible that the Colts would have more than one superbowl if they had landed Rothlisberger or Eli Manning (4 SB’s between them) or Philip Rivers and a few other draft picks in a trade for Peyton. The idea that they were at least considering a trade is not in itself dumb.

  26. Stop with the Flacco comparisons even if they have same SBs and playoff wins. Marino has none and he is better than Flacco. The broncos were up 7 with 30 seconds left and no timeouts. Manning threw 3 tds that game and 300 yards. He did have 2 picks but so did Brady the following week and that gets swept under the rug despite Brady only throwing 1 td. If PM is so bad and a crappy post season QB then how come he lays gets voted to the pro bowl, has 4 MVP awards and was ranked number 8 by the players and writers when the nfl did top 100 players of all time? No other current player as ranked higher (google search of you want and look for ray Lewis speaking in the piece). It just gets so old listening to people rip on manning. No smart fan would take Flacco over manning. Look by their careers when the dust settles and you will see. Flacco is good but he is in the second tier of QBs in the league right now

  27. Lots of negative comments about Peyton (and others consistently in other reports) by the followers here on PFT. Not sure why. Lighten up folks. I bet that most fans of most teams would have wanted Peyton as their QB. In fact, I bet that most still do.

  28. Yeah, it sounds crazy to trade Manning in his prime, but no player is untradeable. It’s unlikely any team would’ve put up an acceptable offer, but what if you got 3 years of some teams 1-3 rd picks and in ’05 they’re on the market for a QB and end up with Rodgers? Who knows…We don’t know what Polian was thinking or if this was even entertained or not, but it’s interesting to think about.

  29. This is as wild as the Elway for Rypien trade that Dan Reeves approached Joe Gibbs about back in 1992. To this day, I wonder if that trade didn’t happen simply because the Redskins knew Elway had been extremely difficult for Reeves to get a long with.

  30. I’d like to point out that the year the won the superbowl that Manning once again had a subpar playoffs and the defense carried them to that championship. The defense never got credit for that run and Manning got MVP in the superbowl for what the announcers joking said “it must be for all those great commercials he’s given us”

    well said

  31. lolcolts…They should trade Luck for a real QB

    Luck is the real deal, u must be a skins fan and just mad cause IRG3 will never equal to Luck!!! get over it dude!!!

  32. You know, this is the perfect illustration of how Irsay, despite his crazy tweets and persona, is actually one of the better owners in the NFL. Here’s a guy who looks at each decision that needs to be made and examines each one thoroughly without jumping to any snap decisions, similar to how Bob Kraft, the Rooneys, and the late Dr. Jerry Buss have done. There’s a reason why the Colts have been one of the more stable and successful franchises in the past decade and a half and why guys like Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis are willing to take hometown discounts to stay with the team. He may come off as crazy but I’d much rather have him owning my favorite team than guys like Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder.

  33. 2004… ahhh.. the year Ricky Williams quit on the Dolphins just before training camp. I wonder if the Dolphins would have been involved in the Manning sweepstakes. 2004 was Wannestetdt’s final year as HC in Miami… and also Jay Fiedler’s final season. They went on to finish 4 and 12.

  34. lots of haters on here, irsay isnt a idiot, he didnt trade peyton in 04, he drafted Luck over damaged IRG3 and he has over 44 million in FA money this offseason to build on to a great team the colts already have, we only had one down year in what 20 years, not many other teams can say that except for maybe the pats n steelers

  35. I think Irsay “misremembers” the conversation. And Eagles fans should not be talking about winning Super Bowls(a subject which they know nothing about)

  36. #1 – I agree that Irsay is a jerk…just like hid dad! Why would he say this now? It brings controversy to Peyton, GM, and Irsay himself. What a fool!

    #2 – And…Don’t you people get it! When someone compares Peyton to Flacco, they are NOT saying the Flacco is great – they are simply joking that Peyton hasn’t accomplished what he should have with all his talent and great supporting cast. I’m a Ravens fan, but I wouldn’t put them on the same level…but you also have to wonder how Manning has only won one SB…while Flacco has excelled in the Playoffs. He’s not Peyton – but I’m glad he’s in Baltimore.

  37. Some of these responses are comical. So many people are just plain idiotic. Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He revolutionized the position and the no-huddle offense like no quarterback ever has in the history of the game. Being a Colts fan during the Manning era you knew pre-season you were guaranteed a playoff birth and a 12 win season. It would have been nice to have won more than one Superbowl but oh well it didn’t happen. Early in Mannings career when the triplets (Manning, Harrison, James) were in their primes the Colts had one of the worst defenses ever assembled. He’s going to win another Superbowl and will probably break the all time passing yards and touchdowns records. I guess all you haters are going to have to live with that.

  38. I don’t think it sounds as dumb as everyone thinks. Look at the QBs that were available in 2004/2005:

    Eli Manning
    Ben Roethlisberger
    Phillip Rivers
    Matt Schaub
    Alex Smith
    Aaron Rodgers

    And the Colts ended up losing to Rivers x2 and Roethlisberger x1 in the playoffs. Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Manning have 6 SB appearances between them. They all had very good defenses those years.

  39. murf17 says:
    Mar 1, 2013 2:07 PM
    Stop with the Flacco comparisons even if they have same SBs and playoff wins. Marino has none and he is better than Flacco. The broncos were up 7 with 30 seconds left and no timeouts. Manning threw 3 tds that game and 300 yards. He did have 2 picks but so did Brady the following week and that gets swept under the rug despite Brady only throwing 1 td.
    This is to laugh,TB’s performance was swept under the rug? When 90% of the media and fans are all over Rahim Moore for “losing” a game while his QB turned it over 3 times, and the last one was a rookie QB like decision at the end of the game? Too funny.

    Difference between Manning fans and Pats fans, the vast majority of Pats fans I deal with along with me can readily admit TB had a bad game. Manningfans do what you do and make exucses and talk about pass yardage, as if they keep score by yards.

    I think the point of this, which I didn’t think Polian would ever recognize the way he always defended PM despite any type of performance he had while blaming other aspects of the team publicly is that Polian may have actually realized that having a solid team with an above average QB was a better way to build a team. You know, like the Ravens are built.

  40. Everyone who bashes Manning playoff success does know he has a better playoff QB rating and much more passing yards per game than Tom Brady… Right???

    Brady won SBs when his D was holding teams to 16 ppg. Mannings D has been giving up 23 ppg over his playoff career.

    The entire TEAM needs to play well to win playoff games.

  41. You don’t need to try to convince me that Polian is an idiot, but here’s the things about Indi: Their current GM, Ryan Grigson was lauded following the 2012 NFL season in the same way that Polian was hailed a genius after 2004. The problem is that in both cases, both GMs made massive mistakes the previous offseason. Polian’s idocy to try to trade 18 is evidence enough almost a decade later. Grigson is also guilty of massive offseason oversights. For starters, the Colts RELEASED 18. Didn’t trade him for presumably at least three #1 picks according to Schefter. I understand Polian was the GM at that point, but as Grigson was next in line for the guys job who was already on the way out, I’m pretty sure he had some imput.

    Also, in the draft Grigson passed on RG3. I know there was much debate about it this season, but after an objective examination of all the evidence I think we can say RG3 is the better QB in the RG3-Luck debate and will be for some time. He’s not McNabb, he’s not Jeff Garcia, and he’s not Tavaris Jackson. He’s better than any of those schlubs could have ever hoped to have been. At the end of the day, Grigson passed on RG3.

    The evidence says Grigson is a mediocre GM at best and yet, NFL GM’s across the NFL said Grigson deserved the Exec of the Year award. Why?

    Simple. The NFL is about winning. Period. Grigson was very good at doing that this year despite considerable erroneous offseason behavior. The lesson is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what Polian did or said during the 2004 offseason because he won two years later and nobody can ever take that away from him. I feel this is something only the dynasty teams can understand.

  42. Don’t forget, back in 2004, Peyton was still considered a choke artist and the second coming of Dan Marino. A lot has changed in the past 9 years.

  43. I can’t wait to hear whats next..”Polian preferred Leaf over Manning”..LOL, I’m sure thats next and I’m not surprised.

    But in all seriousness. He must be talking about at the start of the 2003 season, because any tool that doesn’t know football and just watches tv could see Peyton was setting a new quarterback standard at the end of that season. This was the 2003-4 version of Peyton Manning folks, not today’s version which is still great but please don’t forget how good this guy was.

    Finally, Bill Polian arguably was past his time in 2004. Outside of Wayne, James, Clark, Sanders, Freeney and Mathis I can’t think of anyone else this guy drafted that you could call an “all pro”. Granted, those are great players but seems like after that class of talent, he completely sucked trying to find even adequate replacements in the draft. Garcon in recent memory is the only guy from 2005 that he drafted that panned out. Don’t forget, it was Irsay’s decision to draft Manning over Leaf.

  44. @jtt183

    You make a great point. Like I said, he must of contemplated this decision at the beginning of the 2003 season. I can’t fathom trading Peyton after he lit up the Broncos and Chiefs in record setting fashion. Perhaps if he didn’t go on to win MVP that year and didn’t have those performances Bill would have the leverage to trade him, but it was not the case. I remember watching those games and thinking “This guy is the greatest quarterback I’ve ever seen” . How he was switching the plays up at the line of scrimmage with the no huddle in a way that we all never saw before, it was genius.

    But those quarterbacks you named off, that was a great class.

  45. @jamesjamzies

    Your post is so full of inaccuracies that I’m having a tough time figuring out where to begin, so here’s a list of facts:

    -Polian was fired the day after Indy’s week 17 loss to JAX locked up the #1 pick, so he had nothing to do with Peyton’s release

    -Peyton was due a $28 million roster bonus on March 8, 2012, which was before the start of the league year

    -This means the Colts would have had to shell out $28 million, then take all of that money plus an acceleration of his prorated signing bonus as a near $40 million cap penalty in 2012 for the rights to trade him

    -RG3’s ACL tear at Baylor required a rubber band and screws to hold the knee together

    -Washington would have drafted Luck with the #1 pick last year, per Adam Schefter and other league sources

  46. jamesjamzies says

    are u 12? theres no way u can be a fan of football and type the stuff u did, u do know the colts couldnt trade peyton last year,right? and rg3 is better than Luck,hahaha get real man!!! and grigs made some good trades and brung in quality players with the low money he was dealt with last year, u must live in a legal weed state or something

  47. The NFL always has extra medical staff who are experts in the Heimlich maneuver present during Peyton’s playoff appearances, due to the choking hazard.

  48. I dont believe anything Irsay says. I dont like how he treated Peyton Manning at the end. He is a loser. I would like to see this article for myself what a joke Irsay is. Anything for publicity for himself what a huge EGO he has. WOW.

  49. History is written by the victors. Irsay “won” (as owners usually do) in kicking out Polian, so he writes the history, at least the official Colts version. Anything good goes in his column, anything bad is someone else’s fault.

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