- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Be normal. Be straightforward. Be measured.
That’s my advice, unsolicited of course, to Jim Irsay regarding Peyton Manning.
If Manning’s tenure as a Colt is about to end, and most everyone believes it is, then don’t get weird about it. You’ve fired a vice chairman, a general manager, a coach and most of his staff.
You’ve brought in a bright, young GM and a coach to match. You’re in position to draft the next big thing at quarterback.
Your four-time MVP is rehabilitating after serious neck surgery and has a $28 million bonus due on March 8 that means he's untradeable. You've got to pay him and face some serious salary-cap consequences, along with the complications of having two big-time quarterbacks, or you've got to cut him.
Why pretend like there is a possibility of keeping him? Irsay should sit down with Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, make sure they’re all still cool with what they certainly discussed in recent interviews, and then step forward and do the right thing: tell Manning they are moving on and ask him how he’d like it to play out to be most comfortable. Then honor him appropriately as they show him the door.
It’s awkward for sure. Don’t behave as you did today -- failing to mention Manning by name for a long while at Pagano’s introductory news conference -- to make it even more so.
Irsay told reporters after the news conference that he didn’t care for Manning’s recent comments about the Colts' complex not being a great place to heal right now, that such things should be kept in-house.
Well, Manning gets half a say in determining what is and isn’t kept in-house, and since it’s becoming clear it won’t be his house for long, he’s not obligated to try to make you look good if you’re botching the exit strategy.
Irsay called Manning a “politician” and said he was “campaigning” publicly. (Frankly, it's that sort of talk that I thought Irsay was trying to get away from when he made the move to divorce Bill Polian.)
Maybe Manning is campaigning to win some public sympathy, but so what? He’s earned the right to attempt to claim high ground here. He’s done nothing wrong except suffer a painful, scary injury.
It would be nice if, when this is all over, Irsay could say he did nothing wrong either, nothing except look out for the long-term future of his franchise.
But behavior like this suggests it’ll be more complicated than that, though it hardly needs to be.
If you want to act like he’s already gone, then let him go.