Now that Peyton is pursuing a second championship in a year that produced record statistics, Irsay says he’s rooting for Manning to get there.
“I just couldn’t be more excited,” Irsay tells Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. “This is what we were hoping it was going to be — a win-win situation for everybody. I’m so happy for him. We’ve already talked this week about getting him some extra [Super Bowl] tickets and I told him, ‘You’ve got it, buddy. Go get ’em. Go win it.’ I wish him all the best.”
Yes, Irsay took the high road. Even it has to be killing him that this specific win-win has Peyton and not the Colts in position to win-win the Super Bowl.
“I couldn’t be happier because he will forever be a Colt and a part of so many years of greatness here,” Irsay said. “I’m just really rooting for him to get that second ring. That would be awesome.”
Yes, it would be awesome. It also would be awesome if no one were to criticize Irsay for picking the wrong course of action by cutting Manning and drafting Andrew Luck in 2012. In the event that occurs, Irsay already is laying the foundation for his response.
“If Peyton had stayed, it would have been a joke with what we could have been able to field in 2012,” Irsay said. “It would have been crazy to think we could have put a team together with Peyton.”
Maybe. Or maybe the Colts could have negotiated a contract with Peyton that gave him a reduced cap number, which would have allowed the Colts to build a better team around him. Especially with Peyton Manning playing like Peyton F. Manning.
The Colts then could have used the first overall pick in the draft on someone else. Like Trent Richardson, the third overall pick that year. (Um. Well. Maybe not him.)
Or maybe the Colts would have traded down, auctioning off the rights to Andrew Luck for multiple first-round picks and other consideration that would help them continue to contend in what has become a watered-down AFC South.
The better explanation is that no one knew Peyton would be healthy in 2012 and beyond, and that the Colts opted not to take a major short-term risk on Manning at a time when they had a chance to draft a new, long-term franchise quarterback. Of course, that explanation would be more likely to invite second-guessing of Irsay, given that he ultimately guessed wrong on the ability of Manning to play not only at the same level he occupied prior to surgery, but at a higher one.