There was some doubt among Colts fans as to what Jim Irsay's feelings are about Peyton Manning making the Super Bowl. Some wondered whether the man that cut Manning would have any regrets, but even more so some wondered if Irsay would be upset about Manning making it to the Super Bowl and not the Colts.
Well, now, thanks to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, we now know what Irsay is thinking and feeling about the game: he's rooting for his good-friend and former quarterback Peyton Manning. As he should. And as should have been expected.
"I just couldn't be more excited," Irsay told The Star Wednesday. "This is what we were hoping it was going to be - a win-win situation for everybody. I'm so happy for him. We've already talked this week about getting him some extra (Super Bowl) tickets and I told him, 'You've got it, buddy. Go get 'em. Go win it.' I wish him all the best.
"I couldn't be happier because he will forever be a Colt and a part of so many years of greatness here. I'm just really rooting for him to get that second ring. That would be awesome.
"And we're obviously on track; actually we're past where we thought we would be with Andrew (Luck). If Peyton had stayed, it would have been a joke with what we could have been able to field in 2012. It would have been crazy to think we could have put a team together with Peyton.
"It was just an impossibility. Now we have the perfect situation, where we're way ahead of schedule and Andrew is achieving things beyond our wildest expectations, and Peyton has a chance to get that second Super Bowl ring. It's been a win-win and that's what we were hoping for."
Props to Mr. Irsay. He's put his foot in his mouth a few times when talking about Peyton Manning since the release, especially for his statement about Manning's "Star Wars numbers" but the lack of championships. Irsay has, at times, come across as very ungrateful for the amazing accomplishments that Manning had in Indianapolis. But I think that the comments from Irsay to the Star today are more in line with his actual feelings and thought process. He's still good friends with Peyton Manning. He's still rooting for Peyton Manning - whenever they don't play the Colts. Forget about the fact that many will say that he 'had to say this.' No, he didn't, and even then, I legitimately think these are his actual feelings.
Sure, he would have rather the Colts won it. But since they're out, he's rooting incredibly hard for Peyton Manning. I am too. So should Colts fans everywhere. As I wrote earlier in the week,
"This has played out as well as Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning could have imagined. "Hopefully we'll watch Peyton win immediately and that we'll continue to slowly build and find our stride," Irsay said in the press conference on March 12, 2012. He also said that day that "I want to see him come back and play great. There's no question about it. It's just here, like in 2001 when he was completely healthy and everything else and we didn't have everything to surround him. I want that opportunity for him as well, to succeed at the end of his career.""
Irsay again echoed the sentiments of Manning's farewell presser in his comments to the Star today. I also find it very interesting that he mentions how Manning will always be a Colt. Irsay understands this full well, as do fans - Manning's legacy will always be tied most directly to Indianapolis. And if he's remembered as the greatest player of all time and a second ring helps that (I think he is regardless), then of course Irsay is going to be thrilled about that.
Irsay also talked about how it just wouldn't have worked to keep Peyton Manning. And it's true. He cites the team that would have been around Manning and the salary cap problems that would come with paying Manning. All of that is incredibly true - the fans that think the Colts would be in the Super Bowl had Manning stayed don't consider just where the team would be if that had been the case.
The bottom line is that I think we see Irsay's true sentiments toward Peyton Manning - they're still friends and that won't change, and Manning will always be a Colt. If the Colts won't win the Super Bowl, then Irsay is sure as heck rooting for Peyton. And the rest of Colts nation is doing exactly the same.
Also something to note is that Irsay addressed the claims of Leigh Steinberg, Ryan Leaf's former agent, who has been in the news this week for something he wrote in an upcoming book. He basically said that the Colts wanted to take Leaf but that Leaf didn't want to go to Indianapolis, so he manipulated the Colts into taking Peyton Manning. Yeah, smart plan buddy. Thanks.
All along, this has seemed to me like a former agent just trying to get publicity. That's all it really seems. I know that scouts were enamored with Leaf before the draft in 1998, but I also think that the Colts were leaning Manning for quite a while - even before Leaf's missed interview at the NFL Scouting Combine. Others don't believe Steinberg's claims, either:
Was at the Combine interviews of Manning, Leaf. It was obvious that Manning was the pick. No brainer.— John Cimasko (@jersey_johnny) January 22, 2014
Jim Irsay talked about the decision to take Manning and Steinberg's comments:
"The interesting thing is that Luck-(Robert) Griffin and Manning-Leaf were very, very similar," Irsay said. "We always had our focus on Peyton, just as we always had our focus on Andrew.
"I read something where he (Leaf) purposely missed that meeting with Mora and that's what affected what we were going to do; that's a bunch of BS. This was a football decision. (Missing the meeting with Mora) wasn't even a factor. It was based on multiple evaluations and Bill (Polian) and I knew weeks before the draft that we were taking Manning, just like Ryan (Grigson) and I knew months before we were taking Luck. You do your homework, use all the time, find out everything you can. But to suggest Ryan did things that made us change our mind is just ridiculous and not true. It was very clear it was going to be Manning just as it was with Luck."
I'm trusting Irsay on this one, for sure.
The Colts owner gets a lot of heat for things he says to the media (or puts on twitter), but in his comments to the Indianapolis Star on Wednesday, he nailed it. He's rooting hard for Peyton Manning - the guy they wanted all along in 1998.