INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 09: Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts watches his team warm up before the NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Well, Manning-Watch '12 certainly just got a little more interesting.
If you happen to be rooting for Peyton Manning to finish his career as a Colt, Jim Irsay is doing his best to put a small smile on your face and/or make the situation even more intense. The Colts appear to want #18 back in the saddle:
"We can make it work if he wants to be here,’’ Irsay said today. "We’d be excited to have him back and finish his career with us.
Manning and Irsay have engaged in an intense chess match for weeks and now we're likely witnessing Irsay calling Manning's bluff. It's funny and quite hypocritical that Irsay was upset with Manning for not keeping his thoughts "in house", yet Irsay has now decided to one-up (again) Manning and relay this information to the press.
According to Irsay, if Manning truly wants to remain a Colt, the door just swiftly blew open for perfect harmony to exist:
"I want him to be able to make the choice. We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the . . . healing process with the regeneration of the nerve.’’
"There’s no question it can be worked out if he wants to be here,’’ said Irsay, who has concerns over Manning’s long-term health. "It can work if he wants to come back and can get back to being the old Peyton.’’
This isn't the first time Irsay has been vocal about the decision being in the hands of Manning, but now the entire world knows. Irsay called Manning a "politician" for his interview with Bob Kravitz, but this is politicking at its finest.
According to a source familiar with the entire situation (don't hold your breath), the Manning camp would be interested in an incentive-laden contract as a free agent. Whether this offer applies to the Colts (or any team, for that matter), who knows? Tom Condon acknowledged the possibility of delaying the March 8th bonus during the week of the Super Bowl, but there seemed to be little interest in doing so. If Manning were to give the go ahead for a preventative deal, it would essentially protect any team that has fears of their investment in Manning never paying off, in the event he that isn't able to fully recover.
Sounds fair enough, right? But is Manning willing to play under such a deal for the Colts?
First, let me just preface my thoughts by stating that contract matters don't always tend to be as cut and dry as people would like to believe. We can say that Irsay is giving Manning a chance to return (and he is), but until we know the specifics of any said deal, we cannot fairly judge the outcome.
That considered, Manning appears to have firm control of his destiny and legacy as a Colt. If Irsay is ready to negotiate, a fair deal can be finalized to circumvent the option bonus Manning is due by March 8th. Of course, it's no secret that teams are coyly campaigning to win the services of the 36-year-old. And even in uncertain health, some team will be willing to pay Manning a boatload of money, unlike Irsay. There's also the fact that if he decides to join another team (like the Texans), his chances of securing another ring will be all but guaranteed. That much is obvious. However, if he decides this is his best option, what about the thought of abandonment that could ooze from Indianapolis? His legacy reaches far beyond the brink of winning another Super Bowl ring. Peyton Manning came into the NFL as a Colt and he should leave the NFL as a Colt. But through these trying times, Irsay's fumbling of the situation, and the elimination of virtually every connection from his past, how far can Manning's loyalty stretch? Is it possible that Manning feels abandoned in his own regard?
Only time will tell. Yes. More time.
The resources are in place to get the job done and we're all aware that Manning is a class act. Actually, if you look up class in the dictionary, Manning's glorious forehead is pictured directly to the right. After all, Manning was the one who allowed the Colts to protect themselves with his current contract (one year structure, four year option). And yes, like most of us in the world, he also enjoys his money. A lot of money, actually. I'm certainly not trying to suggest that he's greedy (his fortune is more than well-deserved), but if I may borrow a line from the classic film, Wall Street, "How many yachts can you water-ski behind? How much is enough, huh?"
When it comes to his legacy as a Colt, guaranteed money---his estimated net worth is approximately $115 million---should be the least important factor in his decision. If he can return to form, Manning will have plenty of money waiting for him. As for the rest, will the restructuring of his contract really be enough to keep him in Indy?
"The Decision" is upon us, friends.