Irsay calls decision a 'close call,' but 'courageous'

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Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said while he understands the loud booing of his team at Sunday’s home game against the N.Y. Jets and the subsequent outcry over the team’s decision not to pursue an undefeated season, he doesn’t think the fan backlash will last long.

The Colts lost to the Jets 29-15, ending the team’s 23-game regular-season winning streak. The Jets rallied to win after the Colts pulled many of the starters, including quarterback Peyton Manning. The Colts fell to 14-1 with one game remaining before the playoffs, losing an opportunity to become the first undefeated team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

“How could something damage your brand, when you’re [being] courageous enough to do the right thing,” Irsay said Wednesday afternoon in a phone interview. “When you talk about brand damage, certainly, it would be unimaginable to say you’re going to have this level of performance and say your brand is damaged.”

Many fans at the game expressed outrage at the decision, with some saying they felt betrayed. Others said they regretted spending hard-earned money on a team that gave up on a chance to make history.

Irsay scoffed at the notion that Colts fans haven’t gotten their money’s worth this season. The team has 115 victories this decade, the most accomplished by a franchise in any decade in NFL history.

“Value is based on winning,” Irsay said. “No one has ever given better value to its fans than the Indianapolis Colts.”

Irsay said fans shouldn’t question the integrity of Colts coaches and officials to do what was right to put the team in the best position to win a second Super Bowl in four years.

“It boils down to a very simple premise,” Irsay said. “What gives us the best chance to win a world championship. That’s where the focus is and, quite frankly, where the courage is.”

“It takes courage to do the right thing,” Irsay added, especially, he said, when it is going to be met with public discord.

Irsay implored Colts fans to band together with the team in pursuit of a Super Bowl triumph this year.

“I hate to see a fracturing within the ‘horseshoe kingdom’,” Irsay said. “That’s what we have to guard against. When I heard the boos Sunday, it was something I understood, but I thought, ‘let’s stick together.’”

Irsay indicated that he’s been hurt by the suggestion that the game plan for this season was made with no regard to the fans’ wishes.

“To suggest there’s arrogance … I take these things very seriously as a steward of this team,” Irsay said. “There’s no arrogance. There’s great humility and appreciation for what the fans mean. There’s never been any intention to act recklessly on or off the field. When you boil it down to a nut shell … that’s why I don’t think any fan can take a position of resentment. For anyone to attack the virtues and integrity of what we’re trying to do is misguided.”

Irsay called the decision to pull the starters, “a close call.” But he said there are more important goals for the “legacy” of the team. Irsay said the ultimate goal is to win three consecutive Super Bowls.

“That would stand as the highest achievement that’s never been done,” he said.

Irsay said he wouldn’t hesitate to overrule his coach or President Bill Polian, “if I felt it was essential,” but, he added, “there’s no doubt this was the right way to go.”

Irsay refused to speculate about how he would approach the same situation if it arose in the future.

For now, he said he’s focused on this year’s Super Bowl. Though, he certainly hasn’t forgotten the boos of last Sunday.

When the cat calls began raining down in Lucas Oil Stadium, Irsay said, “I was mostly focused on [backup quarterback] Curtis [Painter]. I know how hard these young men work … and Curtis’ dream for getting on the field. I know emotions and how they affect fans in the heat of the moment. But I just kept thinking in that moment, ‘let’s stick together.’”


  • Welker
    Do you think anyone in Boston is second guessing Belichek for playing his starters and getting Welker hurt? It was a meaningless game for the Patriots and they ended up losing one of their best players and made things that much tougher for themselves in the playoffs. That is what could have happened to one of our players. I believe it did happen on the first series of the game so the argument could be made that we should have rested our players the entire game because you can get hurt just as easily early in the game as late. I don't have the numbers to back this up but I would think the risk of injury goes up as the game progresses. I still would have liked to see the Colts go for the wins for the simple fact that the last game and a half were almost unbearable to watch. At least with the starters playing it would give me a reason to watch. But I would rather watch the scrubs play the meaningless games in the regular season than a meaningful one in the playoffs. I do think Polian and Irsay underestimated the importance of the perfect season to the fans. Times are tough for a lot of people in this city and I imagine watching the Colts win on Sundays gave people hope and enjoyment, if only for a few hours on Sunday. Polian and Irsay probably aren't hurting for money so they are probably a little out of touch with the fan base. So should they apologize, yes. Will they, no. Sometimes as a leader you have to stand by your decisions, even the bad ones. I will continue to support this team and I hope others do as well.
    LET the whole fan base down and we are the laughing stock of the NFL....why don't you just move your team again..LOSER...L for LOVE
    • Come on Irsay, the fans deserve better
      To try and defend the decision to pull the starters in the jets game last Sunday is arrogant at best and stupid at worst. (Irsay's money must have gone to his head and replaced his brains.)

      Anyone with any passion for the game and for the Colts wants to see the Colts at least give it their best shot to finish it out with a perfect record.

      This decision and the defense thereof is about as lame as you can get and it would have been better to hear Irsay say that perhaps they made the wrong decision. I am all for standing fast with the decisions that you've made as long as they are good ones, but this one doesn't fall into that category.

      Still a Colts fan and supporter but Irsay and the Colt's management deserve the criticism they have received and then some for this horrible decision. If they continue to defend this decision then they deserve continued criticism in my opinion.

      The decision last Sunday is simply unjustifiable in the minds of most Colts / NFL fans.

      Go Colts.
    • You Lie!
      This article from the official Colts website may help Jim and Bill understand the resentment and Boos from the fans. We get enough BS and lies from our politicians every day and football is an escape - but alas I submit:


      By Matt Dollinger - Colts.com
      Friday, December 25 2009

      A Capsule Look at the Coltsâ?? Sunday Showdown Against the Jets

      Indianapolis Colts (14-0) vs. New York Jets (7-7)
      Thursday, December 27, 2009 (4:15 p.m. EST)
      Lucas Oil Stadium (63,000 capacity) â?? Indianapolis, Ind.
      Television/Radio: CBS Sports and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1

      THE GAME
      The Indianapolis Colts conclude the home portion of their 2009 regular season and look to stay undefeated this Sunday when they host the New York Jets.

      With their 35-31 victory at Jacksonville last week, the Colts became the third team in NFL history to start 14-0. Coupled with New Orleansâ?? loss last Sunday, the Colts now stand as the leagueâ??s lone undefeated team.

      â??Obviously, itâ??s an honor for our team to have an opportunity to stand alone at this point,â?? Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. â??But the fact of the matter is that it is a real task to maintain this position, as well. I think our guys are certainly up to that challenge.â??

      As he said last week, Caldwell reiterated this week the Colts would play their healthy players on game day, but just how much would â??depend on the health of some guys.â??

      â??We wonâ??t change our approach. Every week we try to approach it the same way. This one is no different. Winning is extremely important. This is a competitive game with competitive people. We donâ??t take the field with anything other than that in mind,â?? he said.

    • Simple
      It is as simple as this, you can say it was a football decision but someone needs to look at the big PR picture. The colts are 14-0 and the city and fan base are jazzed up! It is the final home game of the season, two days after xmas. Do you think anybody might have been given tickets as a present? It was like giving a kid in Hawaii a brand new sled for xmas! They should have ended everything in Jacksonville or Buffalo, but when you have arrogance as blinders it is tought to see the big picture. The fans pay the bills......
    • Arrogance
      Put yourself in Polian's shoes and tell me you wouldn't be a bit defensive of the decision you made. So apparently nobody on this message board has ever made a mistake at their job. At least at our jobs we don't have thousands upon thousands of people pointing out our mistakes, which have been few and far between for Polian. So yeah, he probably is a little bit defensive. Time will heal all wounds and as soon as we win a few games in the playoffs you will all be back on the Colts bandwagon. The measure of a true fan is sticking with their team through the good times and the bad. So good ridance to all of you. Call me Colts apologist but at least I support my team. And the argument that at least losing teams play their starters and play hard the entire season is complete BS. You mean to tell me that the players from Oakland and Detroit are going to play really hard tomorrow. They've already got their flights booked to Hawaii.
    • What? Me, Arrogant?
      The whole interview drips with arrogance. "Horseshoe Kingdom?" Is he kidding?

      I love the Colts' players, almost all of whom are great representatives of this city. The owners and management of the Colts on the other hand are arrogant and selfish beyond belief? "Horseshoe kingdom?" Is Irsay kidding?

      The fact is we have an owner and GM who couldn't care less about the Colts fans or the players. All they care about is themselves. Their "good will" in the community is based solely on winning, not on anything else good they've done in this city. The minute the Colts start losing this city is going to turn on Irsay and Polian in a heartbeat.

      If Irsay and Polian had a shred of class they would apologize for the idiot manuever last week that cost the Colts their perfect season.
    • Jets decision
      From my perspective pulling the Colts starters in the Jets game was a matter of when not if.

      I would have liked to see another Colts TD before the switch to give the subs a better chance to win, but the call was inevitable.

      Anyone who thinks that the starters would play more than a few series outside, in Buffalo, on January 3rd, is dreaming.

      Imagine the heated feelings if that was the case and the Colts were 15 - 0 going into Buffalo.

      GO COLTS! On to the Super Bowl.
    • Long, longer, longest
      Why not remove any periods & have one long, run-on sentence?

      (Have you ever heard of breaking up paragraphs so your material can be read?
    • Help? Help?
      I would forgive neither. The blue and white trash are unworthy to set foot in our beloved city. I would no sooner harm anyone than I would flap my arms and fly to the moon. SOciopath no - when people are honorable they are worthy of the greatest praise. Even someone who loses every game, if they've tried their hardest, is worthy of praise for their courage. What the losers did is the exact opposite, and if you don't share my outrage and the shame I feel for the fact that they bear the name of our home town in their despicable name, then you should step back and see whether maybe you are not man enough to stand up for what is rihgt. The founders of our country gave everything they had - even their lives - in standing up against tyranny for what was right. Our problem today (and why evil gets away with what it does) is that not enough people are willing to stand up and call a spade a spade when it is a spade. Every one involved in the organization is an abject loser, and needs and deserves to be called out for it. if you don't agree, then that means that your morals, your values are not what they should be. If you want losers to represent you, then you go right ahead and toe the party line. But if you, like me, are so infuriated that you would rather die than be subjected to shame and ridicule, then you have seen the light. If that organization left town today, they would be doing us a favor. Forgive? Never! Sociopath? never! People who try their best are intrinsically good and deserving of the highest praise. People who play to lose, and spit in the faces of the people who support them, are intrinsically evil. Beware the evil that shows you a pleasant face. That face will eat your soul.
    • Well put, Bill
      Thanks Bill for calling out Dan. So Dan, are you seriously telling us that when you are on your deathbed many years from now and someone asks you to forgive those who wronged you, you will forgive your daughter's rapist (heaven forbid that ever happened) and not the Colts organization? I thought I was upset at not seeing a perfect season, but thank you for putting things in perspective. Get some help, seriously.
      • Irsay
        Irsay, I will rent you a few moving trucks if you would like to slither out of Indianapolis at night as you did in Baltimore. Indianapolis is a proud city and you are n embarrassment to this great city.
      • Dumb and Dumber Argument by Matt
        Caldwell was handed the keys to a Cadillac and Tom Cable the keys to a Nova, yet Cable "played to win the game" last weekend whereas Caldwell flopped. The Colts have proven that the gentle-into-the-playoffs approach does not work yet they insisted on following their silly executive decision to flop. The Colts Cadillac has ultimately underperformed the past decade despite registering just one SB trophy when they had the talent to win three. They would have been better off playing to win last Sunday instead of having to deal with all this negative energy that will doom them in the playoffs.
      • Dumb and Dumber Argument by Matt
        Caldwell was handed the keys to a Cadillac and Tom Cable the keys to a Nova, yet Cable "played to win the game" last weekend whereas Caldwell flopped. The Colts have proven that the gentle-into-the-playoffs approach does not work yet they insisted on following their silly executive decision to flop. The Colts Cadillac has ultimately underperformed the past decade despite registering just one SB trophy when they had the talent to win three. They would have been better off playing to win last Sunday instead of having to deal with all this negative energy that will doom them in the playoffs.
      • Support
        I would agree that Irsay, Polian, and Caldwell under-estimated the reaction of the fans. But what makes this year so much different than all of the past years when we started fast and than faded down the stretch. We saw what happened in the second half of the game on Sunday so we should be thankful that we are keeping our players healthy for the playoffs. God forbid Peyton gets hurt but if he did we'd have no chance. As a Purdue alum I would love nothing more than to see Curtis Painter succeed but even I know he's not even a third of the QB as Peyton. New England had greater depth the year they went 16-0 so they could afford to risk injury for perfection. We have a young team and can't afford to loose anymore starters. My whole point is this, does it suck that we lost, yes, but we should still support the team, not management, the team. If we loose the Super Bowl than be my guest and kill Polian, Irsay, and Caldwell. But I think there track record is pretty good so lets cut them a little slack. I'd take our owner, GM, and coach any day of the week. Would you rather have Al Davis and Matt Millen? God bless you if you do. I'll take 14-1 over 0-16 anyday of the week. We've become a spoiled fan base that is bored by winning divisions and 12 to 14 games a year. I don't think anyone else in the NFL is feeling sorry for us so let's quite feeling sorry for ourselves. Support the team. If you don't want your tickets I'd be glad to take them at a reduced cost since they obviously won't be worth much.
        • Matt is an apologist
          Polian, Caldwell and Irsay blew it. We all make big mistakes. But what really chaps a lot of peoples arses even more is that these three "men" are not men enough to own up to their mistake but instead insist on trying to be perceived as the smartest men in the room and defend their peas poor decision by throwing magic dust in our eyes and hoping this all goes away.
          • Grow Up!
            Grow up people! So we lost 1 football game. There are more important things in life to be upset about. Yes, it would have been great to go undefeated, but there is no certainty that we would have even won the rest of the games. We should be thankful that we have a team like the Colts to cheer instead of sad organizations like the Lions, Browns, or Raiders. For the past decade the Colts have put a great product on the field and the actions of one day shouldn't over shadow an entire decade of wonderful memories. We are lucky to have the Colts when they easily could have and moved to a larger market like LA. I have to believe they stayed because of the support the community gives the Colts. I understand that is probably why so many of you are upset, and justifably so, but don't forget all the great things this team does for the community. I've heard stories of players like Joseph Addai visting Riley Hospital unannounced to visit the kids. I highly doubt any of you will still denounce the Colts once they win the Super Bowl. Go Horse!
            • The big picture
              I have read and hear a great deal of complaining over the last week. Many may not agree with the decisions of management. Management is a very difficult balance between right and wrong. In the eyes of those that it effects. In the short term this may be the right decision we will find out soon enough, but what about the long term. I really believe that seeing the disbelief on the players faces that they truely wanted to finish the game and try for an undefeated season and why not this is a chance at history. The one player that is a true historian of the game is Peyton Manning. This is an individual that has done a great deal for the community, the fans and most importantly the Indianapolis Colts. Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian are very smart men. Nobody has question them all year. My question is that when Peyton Manning's contract comes up will he leave the Colts because history has been taken away from him. Will his loyalty to the organization and the city go by the way side. This is a guy who had an opportunity to cement his legacy with a community and that chance was taken away. We are all disappointed with what happened on December 27th. The one person that is not saying how disappointed he is is Peyton Manning and no one would expect him too. We may find out at the end of 2010 when he has to decide will he stay with an organization that he has invested so much time in, won a Super Bowl with and a community that he has contibuted not only his time, but his treasure. I hear about the big picture, but has anybody really thought about the big picture and how this decision could effect the economic landscape of the city of Indianapolis in another year. I am not sure that Indianapolis can compete with Dallas, Washington or other big market teams financially especially in an open free agent market. It would have been his legacy that would have kept him here like his father in New Orleans. I hope I am wrong and that this will not be the case, but don't be surprised if it is. Proud people are proud people no matter what profession they are in.
              • players choice!?
                you cant tell me the players didnt want to be on that field trying to become a part of history. who do we have to thank for all these years? irsay? the coaches? not in my opinion...this should have been all about the players themselves and what they wanted to do. thanks again to peyton for showing his class and "going with it" when you know darn well he and the team didnt want to...no way!
              • Betrayed
                I don't want a cowardly organization like the Colts representing the community of Indianapolis. The have betrayed us, lied to us, cheated us, and without any thought of the consequences. Please change their name. Now, the other NFL fansa are rubbing it in our faces.
              • Unbelievable
                "I could not hate them more if they raped my daughter." -- Dan McGlaun

                Of all the vitriol and silliness that has been said and written since Sunday, this is at the top of the list and the bottom of the garbage heap.
              • Polian Liar/Coward
                Polian quote Dec. 22 2009: "You do want to win every time you take the field. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about how to approach it and how we should approach it. Every time you go out on the field you want to win, whether it's a scrimmage, whether it's a preseason game, whether it's a regular season game. Whether it has meaning in the standings or not, you always want to win. Everybody plays to win. We've done that on numerous occasions in the past, most notably a couple of years ago against Arizona here in a very exciting finish. That part of it is a given, and people should not think that no matter who is playing that we don't care about winning the game. We do, greatly. In professional football and professional athletics of any kind, if you're going to play, you better go out there and give it 100 percent. Otherwise, you run a very, very serious risk of injury. So, whoever is going to play has to be ready to go 100 percent physically and emotionally. Now, that said, we have issues that have to be determined and that are yet to be determined as to who can play and who can't physically. Because of the situation where the game doesn't count in the standings, you then apply a different medical barometer than you would if the game had playoff implications. Basically, players who have been playing hurt who can use the rest get the rest. I don't think it will go much beyond that. That's our only concern. Everybody else has to get ready to play and go 100 percent, and we want to win the game."
              • Irsay
                Jimmie says there is no arrogance and yet he has the gall to refer to the "horseshoe kingdom"! That certainly indicates the level of his self serving. Don't look for this guy to man up. And way to throw Polian under the bus Jimmie.

                As I've stated before, Caldwell had an obligation to state the case of the players not wanting to sit to management so that wouldn't occur. Obviously he failed to do so.

                Therefore, if you're looking for someone to toss, look no further than Coach Caldwell. And how many of these players whom were benched will want to play for this dufus in the future?

                And by the way, DAN MCGLAUN, what is your problem? It wasn't the players fault, so don't blame them? Are you a sociopath or something?

              • Spell
                The writer spelled PEYton Manning's first name wrong, what an idiot!
              • perspective needed
                Yikes, you might want to get a new hobby as soon as you stop building pipe bombs in your basement.
              • Rigth on
                Dan McGlaun:
                Your comments are right on. Please, City Council, pass a resolution to force the Indianapolis Colts to change their name to simply Colts. They no longer deserve the same name that was shared by couragous men of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
                • Time to call the PR Dept
                  What else can he say....it is diversion at this point, lets all hold hands and move forward, forget we are idiots at the top. They will still have fans,what Irsay can't say is it was Polian all the way, Caldwell has no real say, and Irsay can override but he would not do that. They made a mistake, they should acknowledge it, and move on. Time to call the PR Lady Jimbo......
                  • Bull!
                    This is the most lame excuse for crap I've ever heard. I will NEVER for the rest of my life forget 12/27/09, nor the slap and spit in the face of the fans and the subsequent cowardly cover-up. A perfect soul who kills someone is still a murderer, and if you don't play to win you are still a LOSER, I don't care what fluff you try to bury it in. I will never again utter the name of that wretched team, let alone support them in any way - emotionally, spiritually, or financially. NEVER! They do not represent me or my community, and are worthy of contempt, disdain, and hatred for their vile, cowardly actions and disrespect of the many many footsoldiers who have followed them into battle and were so selfishly and thoughtlessly betrayed. If they remain a viable business in this community, it will only be because people are unwilling to stake a claim for what is right, and will sheepishly come back to them. Not me. I could not hate them more if they raped my daughter. Ponder that one for a minute, Bill.
                    • Clueless
                      Irsay is an apologist. His management team blew it and he is in denial. Irsay, Polian, and Caldwell's inability to man-up to the mistake is yet eveven more arrogance being heaped on Colts/NFL fans.

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                    1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

                    2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

                    3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

                    4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

                    5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.