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Jim Irsay: Bill Polian wanted to trade Peyton Manning in 2004

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Crazy to think that it hasn't even been a year since the Colts released Peyton Manning in an emotional and classy press conference featuring Manning and owner Jim Irsay. But it's even crazier to think that they almost sent him packing -- or tried to send him packing -- in 2004.

That's the story according to Irsay, anyway, who told Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star that then-Colts GM Bill Polian was "at wit's end" trying to secure a new deal for Manning and suggested trading the superstar quarterback.

“We need to trade Peyton; we can get a bunch of defensive players and become like Tampa Bay or Baltimore," Polian said, according to Irsay.

And Irsay's response was precisely what you would expect from someone who wanted to deal Manning nine years ago.

“Understand something, Bill. We are not trading Peyton Manning, period," Irsay recalled to Kravitz on Thursday.

The Colts obviously never traded Manning, and 2004 worked out fine for them. Manning signed a seven-year, $99.2-million deal in March of that year and then went on to throw 49 touchdowns and win the MVP award.

The Colts would eventually win a Super Bowl with Manning and come close to winning a second. He only had one off year (2011, when he was injured), and it would be impossible to argue that trading him would've been the right move.

Of course, we've still got to hear from Polian, who's an ESPN analyst. My guess is he gets a little bit of air time on their various platforms over the next 24 hours in order to respond.

It might also be interesting to hear the Redskins (and Redskins fans) respond to Irsay's quote about Robert Griffin III, whom he says he would've drafted while releasing Manning had the Colts secured the No. 2 pick instead of the top-overall selection in 2012.

"I wouldn't have exposed him to injury in the same way they have in Washington,” Irsay said. "My philosophy on quarterbacks is, first and foremost, you've got to keep them healthy and on the field."

That's not going to sit well with Redskins fans, I promise you. But the more interesting aspect of what Irsay told Kravitz with respect to that draft and the Colts ending up with the No. 3 pick.

"Now, if the Colts had finished third or lower, Manning would still be a Colt," Kravitz writes. "And the team would have drafted his heir apparent later in the Draft. One guy they loved: Wisconsin's Russell Wilson."

That the Colts loved Wilson wasn't something Kravitz inferred -- it appears, based on what Bob told me on Twitter, that Irsay told him this (and the drafting of a successor plan) during the interview. Which is, well, kind of convenient.

Not that I don't believe Irsay when he talks about these things; it's just that it's easy to say you would've taken Wilson when you're squatting on Andrew Luck, you know? (And if they loved him so much, why wouldn't they snag him in the third round and then use him as trade bait?)

Whatever, the Colts are doing fine. They never traded Manning, they won a Super Bowl, they eventually moved on from Peyton while picking up Luck and only having one bad season to show for it.

History is written by the victors, and it's difficult to say that Irsay didn't win out in all of this.

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