There's a lot to mine from Bob Kravitz's excellent interview with Colts owner Jim Irsay, and by "mine" I don't mean "let's milk this for all the page views we can get." Why not toss in a slide show while we're at it? No, each topic Irsay covered with Kravitz deserves its own post, it's own area for discussion. Irsay's revelation to Kravitz that former team president Bill Polian wanted to trade Peyton Manning in 2004 was the byte everyone wanted to freak out about last week. Turns out, it really wasn't as "WTF?" stupid as it seemed.
Today, we focus on this portion of the interview:
In the end, it was a win-win. Manning got to play for a team that earned the No. 1 spot in the AFC and has a shot at next year’s Super Bowl. The Colts went 11-5 and look like a team on the rise once again.
A quick aside on a question that’s been posed and heretofore unanswered: If the Colts had beaten the Jaguars that day and ended up with the second pick in the draft, would they have drafted Robert Griffin III and let Manning go?
Irsay said yes. He would have drafted RGIII, he said, but put him in a less run-happy offense.
“I wouldn’t have exposed him to injury in the same way they have in Washington,” Irsay said. “My philosophy on quarterbacks is, first and foremost, you’ve got to keep them healthy and on the field.”
Now, it's important to note that the push to publish this interview at this time was to reflect on Irsay's decision to release Manning one year ago this month. Why the Star and their editors felt the need to celebrate or mark this event, I don't know. As a fan, I've moved on from Manning. Sure, there were some out there who felt he was bigger than the franchise. They were clearly wrong, and their continued idol worship of Manning in Indianapolis has gone from obnoxious to slightly terrifying.
He's a football player, folks, not a Greek god.
Yes, releasing Manning was a watershed mark for the franchise. It wasn't the Second Coming, or Vatican II, or the announcement that a black man was elected President of the United States. That's the kind of stuff you do reflections on. Great sports figures come and go, and no one is above a franchise or a league. Joe Montana was traded. Michael Jordan played for the friggin' Wizards. Sports is a business, first and foremost.
[Brad steps off soap box and returns to subject readers actually care about]
Anyway, the portion that I'd like to draw attention to in Irsay's comments is the "exposed [RG3] to injury" thing, which I take as a not-so-subtle shot at the pistol, read-option offense coordinated by Mike and Kyle Shanahan in Washington.
Regardless of what many pistol-read-option advocates will say, that offense did indeed contribute to Griffin's three key injuries in 2012 (one concussion, two knee injuries to the same knee). At 6'2, 217 lbs, there were already several doubters who wondered post-2012 Scouting Combine if the Baylor phenom (who had a knee injury and at least one noted concussion in college) could hold up physically at the NFL level.
Logically, if you have a frail quarterback who is somewhat injury prone, who'd think the coaches would want to limit contact. That's not what Washington did. Hell, they had Griffin running receiver routes on certain plays, for god sakes!
And, again, if you want a more expert opinion on how the "run-happy" read-option does indeed expose the quarterback to more contact, read Greg Cosell's Twitter timeline from this weekend, or watch a couple of Washington games using All-22. Griffin was also sacked 31 times in 2012, in addition to all the hits he took running.
It will be interesting to see if Irsay's comments will have an effect on the kind of offense new coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to run in 2013. Former Colts OC Bruce Arians has stated several times that he is against using read-option at the NFL level. Hamilton stated in his introductory presser that the Colts will use it in 2013, and since then people like Ryan Grigson have been trying to quantify (or, in my opinion, downplay) that statement.
From what I understand, the read-option stuff is a very touchy subject for the Colts. The goal in 2013 is to limit contact on Luck. He was sacked over 40 times in 2012, including the playoffs. Luck is someone who sells tickets, and if the Colts are to be a draw in Indianapolis over the next decade, he must stay healthy.
If you want some idea of how concerned Irsay is with Luck's long-term health, take a look at this statement, paying close attention to his comments regarding the offensive line (emphasis mine):
[Peyton] understood we had to draft Luck; we weren’t going to trade him for picks. And he understood the cap room situation where, if he’d stayed, there would have been no Reggie Wayne, no Winston Justice, no Samson Satele, I’m not sure about Robert Mathis. We couldn’t have kept anybody. I mean, our offensive line would have been even worse than it was.
Yeah, that's the owner saying the o-line was crap, folks. I don't disagree, but it's telling when he says it so matter-of-factly.
If the Colts run read-option in 2013, I'll be shocked. If Luck gets hurt running it, Pep Hamilton's career in Indianapolis will be very short-lived.