Jim Irsay Never took a Shot at Peyton Manning

Sean Gardner

People have been overreacting to Jim Irsay's comments regarding Peyton Manning, perceiving it as a shot against his good friend and former quarterback. That's not the case.

It wasn't the first time Jim Irsay had said something like this.  But with Manning Week upon us, anything the Colts' owner says will be magnified.  Thus, when Irsay said the following in a recent interview with the USA Today's Jarrett Bell, things got a little crazy:

"We've changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these," Irsay says, flicking up his right hand to show his Super Bowl XLI championship ring.

"(Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these," Irsay adds. "Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated.

"You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this."

"Then Irsay flicks up his right hand again."

It wasn't a shot at Peyton Manning.  No way.  I'll explain it, but first, let's allow Irsay to explain it.  He tweeted this today after all the discussion that sparked from the previous comments:

But some people didn't see it that way.  It began with Mike Klis of the Denver Post overreacting.  Then Broncos coach John Fox said this on a radio show Tuesday afternoon:

"I saw the comments and to be honest with you I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot.  To me, in my opinion, they were disappointing and inappropriate. I mean, Peyton would never say anything. He's too classy to do that. But they sounded a little ungrateful and unappreciative to me for a guy that has set a standard, won a Super Bowl, won division titles, won four MVP awards. I'd be thankful with that one Super Bowl ring because there's a lot of people that don't have one."

Of course that sparked all the discussion among the media, fans, and pretty much everybody.  Some of the key pieces of that run with the Colts also weighed in.  Former head coach Tony Dungy said:

"Jim is making this personal," Dungy said in a text message to ESPN. "I'm surprised."

Dungy went on to add the following:

Dungy thinks Irsay was deliberately trying to provoke the highly competitive Manning.

"I think that's what he's trying to do," Dungy told ESPN in a text message. "Have him make it such a big game he doesn't perform well. I can't figure any other reason to go this way."

And then Bill Polian, former Colts general manager:

"Truthfully I don't know. I think he's got some misstatements of fact in there. For one thing, I don't believe that Baltimore had two at the time that we were fired, all of us, Peyton, me and the rest of the staff, (coach) Jim Caldwell at the end of the '11 season," Polian said.

"...I really don't know what to make of it to tell you the truth," Polian continued. "I do know that he was very upset after the loss in the second Super Bowl and I think it's pretty telling that getting to the Super Bowl in his mind doesn't count. And for anyone who is in the game and who has to make that journey from training camp to the Super Bowl, you know that it's awfully difficult to get there.

"And as John Fox said today, if you have one, you count yourself lucky. I've had teams that have been to six Super Bowls and won one. I'm not ashamed of that record by any means, and I'm certainly not ashamed of what we did in Indianapolis."

Look, here's my take on it: this is all based off of an overreaction, not an actual shot at Peyton Manning.  Blame that on Mike Klis or John Fox, because what Irsay said was most definitely not a shot at Peyton.

Let me just begin by saying that I don't think most people realize just how close of a relationship the two had.  Manning and Irsay shared a unique relationship for a player and an owner, and they are still good friends.  Chuck Pagano said to the Denver media today that, "I don't think there is anybody that Mr. Irsay respects and cares for more than Peyton." That's coming from the head coach working for Irsay, folks, and for those who were around the team in the Manning era, they saw that relationship too.  He wouldn't take a shot at Peyton.

And that remains true, because his comments didn't take a shot at Peyton.  First of all, any apparent criticism he leveled at Peyton was absolutely true.  Nobody can argue with the facts, and those are that Manning has one Super Bowl ring.  In Klis's article, he wrote the following:

"But the Indianapolis Colts' owner went too far in implying his former quarterback Peyton Manning was more about flashy statistics than winning championships."

Umm, how is that going too far if that is absolutely true and everybody knows it?  It's not.  So where does the supposed criticism lie?  Where's the shot?  Well the only thing I can think of is that he compared it to Tom Brady's three rings and said that the Colts are going to build better this time so they can win more.

Ok, nobody will argue with the first one and nobody should be upset at the second.  Irsay said that Brady has never had consistent numbers (a shot at Brady?) but that he has three rings.  So he's basically saying that it was the team that won the Super Bowls, not Brady.  If he's saying that, how can he at the same time be implying that it was Peyton's fault the Colts never won it?  Jim Irsay flat out acknowledges winning a Super Bowl is a team effort.  That leaves no room at a shot for Peyton, but rather more of a shot towards Bill Polian, the one who built those teams in Indy.  In the past, Polian has used stats to defend his time in Indy.  Irsay's emphasis on championships is more of a rebuttal to that.

Secondly, there's nothing wrong with saying that the Colts are going to build differently in the Andrew Luck era than they did in the Peyton Manning era.  I think nearly every fan would agree with their approach: they want to win more than one Super Bowl.  Chuck Pagano said that when he was hired, that their goal is the Lombardi Trophy, and not just one.  And Irsay is a smart football guy (as smart of a football guy as any owner in the league) and knows that the old method didn't work as well as he would have liked.  So instead, he's taking a page from the Patriots and building like they did.  They had a good quarterback but a better team.  Irsay has said before that those Patriots teams are the model for this Colts team.

Look, the reason people are upset is because they see the comments as a shot at Peyton's legacy because he only won one ring.  And understand that there is no bigger Peyton fan than me and no bigger defender of his career than me.  I may even end up writing a book about it one day.  And even I am saying that this is in no way a shot at Peyton.  But nowhere did Irsay say anything diminishing Peyton's career in Indy, and in fact he subtly placed more of the blame on the team.  But that's not what you'll hear on the radio today.  You'll hear about how Irsay criticized (his good friend) Peyton Manning.

But the problem with that is that it is more based on people's overreactions than it is on Irsay's comments.  If you actually look at those, you'll actually see that nothing he said was new, wrong, or inappropriate.  Let's all take this time to remember that if you're going to criticize Jim Irsay for what he said, be sure to understand it first.

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