Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay, back when they kept it "in-house." (Getty Images)
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, who has been all over the dialogue between Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay since Manning fired the first salvo earlier this week, now believes that the Manning Era in Indy is over — and judging by Manning's Thursday comments to Kravitz in an exclusive interview, it's pretty easy to guess that if No. 18 ever plays another down of professional football, it will be in another team's uniform.
Manning was asked to respond to the comments made by Irsay, the team's owner, after the Thursday press conference announcing the hire of new head coach Chuck Pagano. Irsay was unhappy about Manning's take on the Colts' current organizational upheaval and told Kravitz so, leading to Irsay's preference that the quarterback keep things in-house. Manning's response:
"At this point, Mr. Irsay and I owe it to each other and to the fans of the organization to handle this appropriately and professionally, and I think we will. I've already reached out to Mr. Irsay. I wasn't trying to paint the Colts in a bad light, but it's tough when so many people you've known for so long are suddenly leaving. I feel very close to a lot of these guys and we've done great things together. It's hard to watch an old friend clean out his office. That's all I was trying to say."
Irsay called Manning a "politician," implied that he was campaigning (which is exactly what Manning said he wasn't trying to do in his previous interview), and sounded for all the world like a man who was quite ready to move on with a much-needed team rebuild without the drama inherent in Manning's potential — but by no means certain — recovery from neck injuries and surgeries that have caused still-healing nerve impingements.
"I just want to keep rehabbing and working hard, and when the time is right for Mr. Irsay and I to sit down, I look forward to a healthy conversation about my future. I've worked too hard and have such great respect and have so many great relationships inside the building and out, and it's incredibly important that those remain."
As Manning told Kravitz, he did not want to see the business side of a possible $28 million roster bonus decision become a personal issue. But after Irsay's comments, that notion was clearly extinct. Irsay's idea that "the horseshoe comes first" seemed to set the tone that the Colts are now more about the entire organization than one member of it.
That runs counter to a franchise that has been defined by one player over the last decade in ways that few ever are, but it's clearly a new day in Indianapolis. That Irsay is far more comfortable with that notion than Manning seems to be is a pretty hot tip that there are simply too many sheriffs in that town.
And since Irsay owns the town, we know which guy would be moving on out.
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