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Sports Business

Irsay, Polian and Manning must change Colts' course

January 10, 2011
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Any good business person knows that no matter how successful you’ve been in the past, the best result for the future sometimes requires a change in course. And that change can seem quite radical—even scary.

Despite all the winning seasons, divisional crowns and two Super Bowl trips, it’s now time for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, team president Bill Polian and quarterback Peyton Manning to deviate from the course they’ve been on for more than a decade.

It might be wise for Irsay to stop the talk of making Manning the highest paid player in the National Football League and instead sit down with his president and franchise quarterback for a frank discussion about priorities.

If Manning’s priority is to get all that he has coming to him financially, then this off-season, when he becomes a free agent, No. 18 should get the fattest contract there is. There’s no argument here that he’s the greatest quarterback in the game right now.

But if his top priority is winning championships, he might want to re-think that. The Colts would be better served if Manning would take a pass on some of the millions he has coming to him so Polian can invest that in a few key acquisitions.

Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, might require some convincing. But I’m guessing at this point, Condon serves largely at the will of Manning when it comes to the Colts quarterback’s contract.

The next step for Irsay is to convince Polian that it’s time to change his strategy of building solely through the draft. Manning, who turns 35 on March 24, won’t be around forever.
There’s no longer enough time to merely build the Colts’ roster through the draft. Yes, they’ll get better just by getting healthy, but they still need a receiver and running back with breakaway speed now—not someone that will take two or three years to learn how to play football at the pro level. An offensive lineman who can blow somebody off the line of scrimmage would be nice, and the defense and special teams could also use a short-term boost here and there.

If Polian refuses to change his course, and the Colts fail to win another Super Bowl while they have the services of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, I think NFL historians will revise their appraisal on Polian’s abilities as a team executive.

There will be plenty of blame to go around. Irsay, for all the good he’s done to step out of his father’s shadow and turn this franchise into a winner, will be remembered more for his brash, misguided promises of turning Manning into Richie Rich than the single Super Bowl title he brought to Indianapolis.

Changing course can be difficult to do. Especially when the old course has scored so much success.

But any football guru knows, you don’t run a standard offense when a two-minute drill is warranted.

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