Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay (USA Today Sports Images)
It's easy to forget, less than two years ago, just how tough a decision Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay faced.
He had Peyton Manning, coming off a season-long neck injury the year before, due a massive amount of money. Irsay also had the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, a position that allowed them to potentially draft Andrew Luck, viewed as a once-in-a-generation quarterback prospect.
This wasn't something Irsay could just flip a coin on. So he talked with Manning while the quarterback was still on the Colts' roster.
In a story by USA Today's Jarrett Bell, Irsay recalled those candid moments with his franchise pillar and how he and Manning tried their best to put themselves in the others' shoes.
It became obvious what the only resolution was — no disrespect to Robert Griffin III, the only other player the team seriously considered with the pick.
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"He said, 'You've got to take Andrew,'" Irsay told Bell. "'You have to. You're crazy if you don't.'"
Well, crazy and Irsay might extend beyond that decision. But it's clear now, with the Colts and Manning's Denver Broncos set to face each other Sunday for the first time, with Peyton returning to Indianapolis in what is sure to be a storm of emotions and picture flashes, that both parties made out as best as possible.
"I think it's perfect," Irsay says. "What's happened is what Peyton and I hoped would happen. The desire was for him to get well and get to a team that has a chance to win another Super Bowl before his career ended. And our desire was to be able to transition to Andrew. To be so good so soon is stunning."
Lucas Oil Stadium won't just be a reunion. It will mark the meeting of two very good football teams — a possible AFC title game preview, even. Sure, the Colts dropped a game in San Diego Monday night they probably should not have. But Luck would be pretty far down their list of flaws — he mostly has been spectacular, when they've cut him loose (an argument for another day).
If Manning and the Broncos win, it will not be revenge. If Luck and the Colts win, it will not be validation. That's what's special about this game: There is no real wrong result, because it appears that both teams made out as well as they could have hoped.- - -
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