On a day that we should be celebrating our new head coach and the fire and passion he will be bringing to this town, all of that gets pushed to the side for a storm that is brewing more furiously than ever.
Peyton Manning isn't happy and now Jim Irsay isn't happy.
After new head coach Chuck Pagano delivered an uplifting, confident, and lighthearted introductory presser, Irsay spoke with the local media and took the floor to air out some grievances of his own. While trying to remain diplomatic and respectful of his family-like relationship with Manning, Irsay didn't hesitate to take some shots (subtle or not) at his likely former franchise quarterback.
Irsay began with an "all due respect" styled approach. You know what that means...
"Look, I have so much affection and appreciation for Peyton," Irsay said. "We’re family, you know, we always will be and we are."
But...? There's always a but and sure enough, Irsay delivered. He referred to Manning as a "politician" and stated that he is "campaigning". He also started to get a little more blunt with his words:
"I don’t think it’s in a good interest to paint the horseshoe in a negative light, I really don’t," Irsay said. "He’s such a big part of that and everything else, but the horseshoe always comes first.
"I think one thing that he’s always known, because he’s been around it so long, is you keep it in the family. If you’ve got a problem, you talk to each other. It’s not about campaigning or anything like that."
Irsay then went as far as to discredit the picture Manning painted in his interview with Bob Kravitz, a picture that not surprisingly revealed the Colts facilities in a very depressing light, due to the firings that are obviously personally heart-wrenching for Manning.
"There’s not any sort of bad situation around here for healing or anything like that," Irsay said. "That’s not a correct perspective. Like I said, you keep it in house, your family, you talk to each other if you have problems, and he knows that.
"We’ll work it through and we’ll work it through hand in hand, and we’ll talk and we’ll continue to talk as we get into February and get closer to the league year. That’s kind of where it stands right now."
"That's not a correct perspective", eh? So, "are you calling me a liar?"
Papa Johns jokes aside, this situation is getting uglier by the day and only further pushes along the notion that Manning will not be a Colt in 2012. Does Irsay have a right to be upset with Manning's comments? Not really. Manning might be putting some extra sugar on his words to ultimately make it clear that leaving isn't his wish, but it's not like that's a totally ridiculous suggestion. As Paul Kuharsky claims, "Manning deserves better right now." This is obviously a hard time for him and to simply state that his perspective isn't "correct", well, that's just rather insensitive and not very smart of Irsay.
I've always remained adamant that if the Colts botch the Manning situation -- whatever that situation may be -- it will forever negatively affect the view that people hold for this organization. Well, I'm afraid that we are seeing the beginning stages of said predicted botching.
And as if the P.R. in Indy wasn't already bad enough (Bill Polian, anyone?), it's now getting progressively worse thanks to this situation and Irsay's comments. I thought we were finished with that era?
I love Irsay and in my eyes, he's an owner -- one of the greatest -- that a fan should be proud to call their own. However, he's also contributing to the downward spiral of a very delicate situation. I understand that he's trying to rebuild and rejuvenate a fan base that's been heavily depressed throughout 2011, but is it really so hard to let Manning look the good guy, or the "politician", and just let him gracefully move on with his career? You're starting fresh and that's what you should be focused on. Getting into a war of words with one of the most well-respected and popularized athletes in the entire world is probably not a good idea, especially at such a premature stage.
It certainly isn't going to help the pain that Manning and nearly every Colts fan will feel when big #18 walks out the door for another franchise.
Business is business, but it must be handled with care, grace, and respect. It's essentially a lose-lose for the Colts front office. You really can't battle the P.R. machine that is Peyton Manning, especially when he's done nothing wrong.
Adding to that point, Manning kindly clarified his comments to the Indy Star, in response to Irsay's:
"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.
Manning continued to try and zip up the situation:
"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."
"Politicking" is what Manning and every other public figure who cares about their reputation does. You can see it right here. He always knows how to present himself in a classy and respectful way, no matter the situation. That's what makes him Peyton Manning... Furthermore:
"I want to separate the personal and the business," Manning said Monday night. "I've seen it get personal in other situations, and I don't want that to happen here."
Hopefully, it's not already too late. Like I've mentioned plenty of times, Manning has earned the right to retire a Colt and something like this shouldn't get in the way of that right. And to Irsay's credit, not everything he said was aimed at discrediting or picking at Manning. He made sure to point out the importance of Manning to this town:
What's he's done for this city, what he's done the state, for the franchise. What he means to me and our fans. That's not going to be the situation. I think he and I just have to talk.
There's a lot of frustration and heavy hearts involved in this situation. We all know that this decision isn't going to be easy for Irsay, Manning, or the fans of this great team. But when you depart ways with a legend -- if that's what's happening, as Bob Kravitz essentially guarantees -- it must be done right.
Please don't let this get any uglier, Mr. Irsay.
You're better than this.