As a longtime fan of professional football, I've often felt a certain sympathy for supporters of the Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals. To an outsider, those teams frequently appear to be devolving into bona fide three-ring circuses, courtesy of their respective meddling owners: Jerry Jones, the late Al Davis and Mike Brown. Meanwhile, our own Indianapolis Colts have enjoyed a prolonged period of remarkable stability that suspiciously coincided exactly with quarterback Peyton Manning's tenure in the Circle City. Now that Manning is gone, though, it is becoming more clear by the day that Colts owner Jim Irsay is intent on calling the shots with his organization, just like the terrible trio mentioned above, and Irsay apparently intends to broadcast his every move in advance. As if to prove the point, Irsay embarked on a Twitter campaign this weekend to announce that the Colts will soon be making a blockbuster trade. Or maybe not.
This latest saga began when Irsay told his followers that a big trade was in the works and that general manager Ryan Grigson had the owner's full support to make bold moves. As speculation swirled across the NFL and in the media about what might be afoot in Indy, Irsay backed off a bit and said that most big traded proposals fizzle. Citing proprietary information and a need to play close to the vest, Irsay then went silent on the matter, at least until Saturday afternoon. At that point, he tweaked us all again and said that a trade might still be possible. Of course, who might be involved in such a deal has remained a matter of guess work, and some folks around the league have suggested that the Colts are becoming pariahs as trading partners. Simply put, other owners don't want their fans to learn about potential deals courtesy of Irsay's megaphone.
As promising as Andrew Luck seems to be, it's looking more and more like the Colts will have a tough row to hoe in this post-Manning era, and it's precisely because Irsay is inserting himself so prominently into the operation of the team. Hands-on owners just can't stop themselves from tinkering, and stability is hardly ever the byproduct of such machinations. If Irsay can't find a way to still his hands and quiet his flapping virtual tongue, the Horseshoes may be on their way to infamy as an owner-guided franchise. In Irsay's favor, he has a long way to go in order to raise the kind of ire heaped upon his father, Robert, when the team left Baltimore in 1984, but Jim is giving it his best shot.
Pretty soon, fans in other cities may be looking at Colts backers with a bit of pity in their hearts.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.