Colts owner Jim Irsay took a moment from his team's celebration of reaching the AFC title game Sunday to publicly revisit his critical decision to cut Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in 2012 so he could use the top pick to draft Andrew Luck.
"I knew it was the right thing to do for the Colts,'' Irsay said outside his jubilant locker room after the Colts' 24-13 playoff win over the Broncos.
Luck threw two touchdown passes and outplayed Manning in powering the Colts past Denver and into the AFC championship game next Sunday at New England (13-4).
Manning, asked after the game if he planned on playing next season, said, "Uh, yeah, I guess I just can't give that simple answer, I'm processing it. So, I can't say that. I could not say that.''
It was seemingly the first time the former Colts star had been ambiguous about his future since spinal fusion surgery on his neck cost him all of the 2011 season.
"I saw Archie [Manning] last night" Irsay said. "We had a nice conversation. Happened to be at Elway's Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton. It was a decision that it was the right move to make. Peyton and I had talked about it. He said it best in the press conference, I didn't decide. He didn't decide. The football gods laid the cards out. We both knew it as best for him and us.''
Irsay's comments came six days after he lauded Manning's release and Luck's selection as a win-win proposition for both players and both the Broncos and Colts.
"To me, it's been tremendous that my vision at the time was it would work out this way, that Peyton would be able to go somewhere, continue his greatness, continue his career," Irsay said. "We would be able to go forward with Andrew. Again, having the type of success we've had so soon I think was a surprise to me."
Irsay has said he and then-team president Bill Polian started discussing how and when to transition from Manning to his eventual successor as early as 2010. Irsay said they determined at that time that most prominent quarterbacks started declining at about age 38. Manning will turn 39 in March. Two years later, Indy kicked off the rebuilding process by taking Luck with the top pick.
The transition from Manning has gone extremely smooth for the Colts. Luck has led Indianapolis to three straight 11-win seasons, three straight playoff appearances and back-to-back undefeated seasons in the AFC South. Luck led the NFL in touchdown passes with 40 and was third in passing yards with 4,761 this season.
"[Luck's] magic, when you watched him in college, when the play breaks down, in that half a second, he does things that are so innate and so unusual; that's when the magic happens," Irsay said. "He just decides in a split second, and he has the athletic and the physical skills to do that with his arm strength, with his feet. So really the sky is the limit. You hate to bring up comparisons with John [Elway] being there running their program and stuff, but John was that way of course at Denver."
ESPN's Jeff Legwold and Mike Wells and The Associated Press contributed to this report.