Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay and quarterback Peyton Manning are trying to play nice again after this week’s misunderstandings.
But chances are they’re not preaching from the same bible anymore.
The drama began to unfold when Manning expressed his frustration and sadness at the departure of friends, teammates and even people in management, with whom he has spent his professional football life.
Irsay then stunned reporters at a press conference to announce the signing of new coach Chuck Pagano, calling Manning a “politician” and berating him for publicly expressing his feelings.
“I don’t think it’s in the best interest to paint the horseshoe in a negative light,” Irsay told reporters, referring to the team’s longtime logo. “The horseshoe always comes first, and I think one thing he’s always known, because he’s been around it so long, is that, you know, you keep it in the family. If you’ve got a problem you talk to each other, it’s not about campaigning or anything like that.”
Manning had revealed that the atmosphere at team headquarters was sombre following a 2-14 season, a long list of firings, and that everyone was “walking around on eggshells.” One of the few remaining connections between Manning and the team he led is offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, and his assistant, Jim Bob Cooter. But both their futures are on life support.
If, or more likely when, Pagano fires both, Manning will have lost the final link to an offensive scheme within which he has played his entire career.
So, it is little surprise that he feels himself walking on eggshells.
In the past three weeks, the Colts have fired vice chairman Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian, coach Jim Caldwell and most of Caldwell’s assistants. Manning has also had to deal with three neck operations in 19 months and the possibility his career might be done.
Irsay can preach all he wants about “protecting the horseshoe” but really the horseshoe is the franchise, and by extension the franchise is Irsay himself. Manning has been around long enough to realize he has to protect himself first, because in pro sports nobody else — not Irsay and not “the horseshoe” will do it for him.
Last week, actor Rob Lowe caused a media frenzy by writing on Twitter that Manning was about to retire. Even Pagano, then preparing for the Ravens’ AFC championship game, took notice. “You know, I’ve got a text or a call out to Rob Lowe and I haven’t heard back yet, so I’m going to have to get back to you on that one,” Pagano said when asked if he expected to be coaching Manning next season.
Many analysts believe Manning’s comments indicated that he was looking for a way out.
Whatever the explanation, Irsay didn’t like it one bit.
Now Manning has begun to mend fences telling the Indianapolis Star he didn’t intend to start a public feud.
“At this point, Mr. Irsay and I owe it to each other and to the fans of the organization to handle this appropriately and professionally, and I think we will. I’ve already reached out to Mr. Irsay,” Manning said. “I wasn’t trying to paint the Colts in a bad light, but it’s tough when so many people you’ve known for so long are suddenly leaving. I feel very close to a lot of these guys and we’ve done great things together. It’s hard to watch an old friend clean out his office. That’s all I was trying to say.”
Irsay, meanwhile, responded to Manning on his Twitter page: “Peyton and I love each other, that goes without saying ... I humbly serve ‘n protect the Horseshoe ... it is bigger than any individual, including me.”
Irsay stands just six weeks from a deadline to pay the four-time league MVP a $28 million bonus or risk losing him as a free agent.
But there is every indication that, aside from the financial aspect, this organization has already lost him.
Two players who have raised their stock at the Senior Bowl are cornerback Janoris Jenkins, of North Alabama, and Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams. Jenkins has easily been the top corner in Mobile and some observers believe Adams has solidified a hole on a first round slot. The only thing that might prevent both from going that high are personal issues. Adams was suspended half the season for selling his Big 10 championship ring to a tattoo parlour. Jenkins has three arrests, including two for pot charges. Still, they could, ahhh-hem, go high.
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said the team simply didn’t know how to handle success. “I guess we weren’t ready for it yet,” Fitzpatrick said. “We weren’t ready to be able to accept the fact that we were playing well and playing as the team that was on the top (of the AFC East),”
Guess if anyone would recognize they’d mishandled success it would be someone with the Bills, who have been experts on the topic since the collapse of the Norwoodian Empire.
Rob Gronkowski (high ankle sprain) was the only Patriots’ player held out of practice Friday. Giants’ centre David Baas (abdomen/neck), linebacker Chase Blackburn (calf), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) returned to practice ... The Dolphins have hired Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator and Kevin Coyle as their defensive coordinator ... The City of Cleveland and the Browns are at an impasse over stadium improvements. Club management wants $5.8 million from the city. The city says “Go Fish”, which on the shores of Lake Erie is something nobody wants to hear.