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Sports Business

Irsay can no longer be in Manning's corner

March 7, 2012
KEYWORDS Sports Business

It’s just business.

Sports fans everywhere have heard it a thousand times and it’s become the 21st century battle cry for sports executives everywhere. That dreaded saying is all too familiar to Indianapolis Colts fans.

But, as they say, business is business, and pleasure is pleasure. And the two don’t always mix.

So as unpleasant as Wednesday’s announcement about Peyton Manning’s future will be, the prospects facing team owner Jim Irsay are even more distasteful.

Irsay has to root against Manning—at least on the field of play. Irsay has to hope his new quarterback does better than the one he let walk out the door.

This is a watershed moment for the Colts that could change the course of the franchise.

If Manning pilots another team to a Super Bowl title, especially if the new Colts quarterback never gets that done, the erosion of support from the Colts’ local fan base can’t be overestimated The tsunami of bad feelings will make backlash from the Pacers’ brawl in 2004 seem like a ripple in a mud puddle.

Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III might come here and have a marvelous career, but it won’t matter if they don’t win at least as many Super Bowls as Manning does in another city.

The odds are surely with the Colts, right? After all, they could have a decade or more with the new quarterback and Manning has five years at best.

But, hold on. First, you can bet Manning will put himself in an ideal position to win—and win now. Second, if you know Manning at all, you know that if he’s healthy, he’ll play five more seasons. Remember, other than his neck, this guy’s body has been rock solid.

Yes, but if Luck can pilot the Colts to a couple of Super Bowl titles over the next 15 years or so, all will be forgotten, right?

Perhaps. But remember, Manning—arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time—only got one title in 14 seasons with the Colts. And you could pretty easily argue that Manning will be in a better position to win another Super Bowl than the Colts’ new quarterback, considering the state of the team.

But, hey, it’s just business. Surely, many years with Luck or Griffin is better than even a handful with Manning.

Maybe so. But Irsay has to hope he gets this decision right.

The Colts’ fan base just beneath the surface is simmering mad. It’s still upset the Colts torpedoed a possible undefeated season two years ago. It’s tired of Irsay’s relentless tweeting and the way this sad chapter in the franchise’s history has dragged on. It’s tired of talk that Irsay waited until after this year’s season ticket renewal date to announce Manning’s future.

I’m betting all that steam will boil over in a mad rage if this thing goes sideways.

Irsay has taken a calculated gamble. But as any gambler will tell you, you don’t gamble against something, then turn around and hope it comes true.

Distasteful? Depends on your point of view.

But this is about business, right?

You bet.


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