Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is a beloved figure around central Indiana, and rightfully so. After all, Irsay helped to engineer the Colts teams that won seemingly forever with quarterback Peyton Manning at the helm, and Irsay is always front and center when it comes to local philanthropic efforts. But I think it's becoming clear that Irsay loves to play games of semantics in the media and always wants to emerge as the "good guy" in every situation involving the team. We saw it when he promised to make Manning the highest paid NFL player ever, we saw it when he offered to sign Manning to a nothing deal to keep the legend in town last spring and we're seeing it again as the team attempts to bring 2012 number one overall draft pick Andrew Luck under contract before the season starts. As is his wont, Irsay took to Twitter on July 8 to assure us all that the team is "close" to signing Luck to a lucrative rookie contract. Doesn't this all seem a little familiar, Colts fans?
Even as Manning battled through neck injuries and surgeries last summer, Irsay told all who would listen that he intended to make good on his earlier promise to pay Number 18 at a historic level. The deal eventually did get done, and Manning did technically set the high-water mark for a season according to most calculations, but that was courtesy of a front-loaded deal that went by the wayside when he was released this March. That swan song came only after Irsay made a halfhearted offer to pave the way for Manning's return to Indy, albeit on a severely restructured contract. This smacked of a man trying to establish an alibi so fans couldn't say that he ran a legend out of town or gave up on Manning when he was down. The move was incredibly transparent and made Irsay look pretty petty.
The Colts moved into a new era the next month when they drafted Luck from Stanford, but we have waited nearly three long months for the future of the franchise to secure a contract with his new team. In late June, as the lack of movement on the deal started getting uncomfortable, rumors broke that there was a snag in negotiations concerning Luck's potential commercial opportunities. Although Irsay denied that the Colts were interested in controlling their young charge off the field, another couple of weeks have passed, and we're still just "close."
The talking heads, and Irsay himself, tell us that there is nothing to worry about with regard to Luck, and that's probably true. There doesn't appear to be any real animosity between the sides, and Luck seems like a good fit for the team and the city. But every day that he remains unsigned is a day that Luck is not truly, officially a bona fide Colt, and a day for the seed of doubt to grow among fans.
Word games and image mongering are a strange way for an owner to build a relationship with his next prince charming. I'm sure this story book will have a happy ending, but the foreword is a bit chilly.
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.