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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

If it's truly a business decision, Manning must go

February 17, 2012
KEYWORDS Sports Business

At the Colts complex these days it’s not business as usual.

Of course, with Colts owner Jim Irsay, it rarely is.

On the day after Irsay was inducted into the Junior Achievement of Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame, it’s clearer than ever that the decision on what to do with Peyton Manning has nothing to do with business.

Sports fans have become accustomed to hearing the common refrain “it’s business” when it comes to player transactions.

Well, sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. In the case of the beloved No. 18, it most certainly isn’t.

If we’re really going to get down to business, let’s look at the facts.

You’ve got a soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback who’s had four neck surgeries in less than two years, and may be facing another. He can’t throw the deep ball and can’t throw to the left. He is nowhere near 100-percent healthy and there are increasing signs that he never will be. The same player is owed $28 million by March 8 to keep him on the roster.

Oh, and the Colts are soon to have the best quarterback prospect  in the last decade or two on their roster

If it’s only business, you cut him and it’s done. You defuse the situation and move on.

But it’s not just business.

So if it’s not business, what is it?

It’s personal. When it comes to Manning and Irsay and Manning and this city and its fans, it always has been.

This isn’t like Green Bay and Brett Favre. Packers brass said it was “just business” when they cut ties with their legendary quarterback before the 2008 season. For a time, the Packers got crucified for their decision.

Irsay wants badly to avoid that situation here. And so does Manning.

Manning wants to finish his career here. That may have as much to do with his legacy as his love for the Circle City, but certainly Manning feels some connection to this community. After all, he has a children’s hospital here named after him. He’s connected to charities here. He hosts—or at least lends his name to—youth and high school football games here.

No matter how close their friendship really is—or isn’t—Irsay certainly feels at least somewhat beholden to the man who helped build his franchise into a powerhouse.

Irsay is still stinging from being spurned by Johnny Unitas and the Unitas family over the Colts’ move to Indianapolis. He wants desperately to avoid that type of separation anxiety again.

At some level there’s more than a tinge of mutual respect between the two that goes beyond what they’ve done for one another on a business level.

At this moment, I suspect Manning and Irsay are a lot like those people in the movies who have a devil standing on one shoulder and an angel on the other—both screaming in their ear and competing for attention.

In Manning and Irsay’s case one of the voices they here is all about business, while the other is whispering about personnel connections and tugging at heart strings.

That tug of war is what’s taking so long.

So what happens next?

That all depends on which side of Irsay and Manning’s collective conscience is stronger.

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