The relationship between Colts owner Jim Irsay and his former employee Peyton Manning has been strange the past two years. First, Irsay declined to re-sign Manning after a 2011 season of neck surgeries and rehab, but before Manning said goodbye, they held an emotional news conference in which they proclaimed their never-ending respect for each other.
Then, Irsay, for some reason, decided to say this last July:
"I think that the disappointment of not winning more than one [Super Bowl] with some of the things we did -- out of 11 [playoff] chances, seven times out after the first playoff game -- that's really disappointing and we had some great teams," he said. "My goal going into this new era was to have the opportunity to win more than one. We love the excitement of offense, we love the 49 touchdown passes [that Manning threw in 2004] and those sorts of things, but in the end, what we love most is Lombardi trophies."
In October, after the Colts beat the Broncos, Irsay said this:
"We've changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these," Irsay said, holding up his right hand to show his Super Bowl ring. "[Tom] Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these. Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated ... You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin [Harrison] and Reggie [Wayne]. Mostly, you love this," Irsay said, referring once again to his Super Bowl ring."
Manning hasn't said much in response, but -- and here's the breaking news -- Irsay still loves Manning and wants him to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
"I just couldn't be more excited," Irsay told the Indianapolis Star on Wednesday. "This is what we were hoping it was going to be -- a win-win situation for everybody. I'm so happy for him. We've already talked this week about getting him some extra [Super Bowl] tickets and I told him, 'You've got it, buddy. Go get 'em. Go win it.' I wish him all the best.
But, but, but what about what you said in July and October?
"I couldn't be happier because he will forever be a Colt and a part of so many years of greatness here. I'm just really rooting for him to get that second ring. That would be awesome," Irsay said.
"And we're obviously on track; actually we're past where we thought we would be with Andrew [Luck]. If Peyton had stayed, it would have been a joke with what we could have been able to field in 2012. It would have been crazy to think we could have put a team together with Peyton."
But former Colts coach Tony Dungy doesn't think it was a simple as that.
“I can tell you it wasn't a no-brainer," Dungy said in October. "I was on the phone with Jim Irsay probably five or six times over a month as it was leading up to that. ... Jim also had a great deal of loyalty. Jim was a young boy when his dad traded Johnny Unitas. So he knew the ramifications of this type of decision. And he also knew how much Peyton had done for the city of Indianapolis and for that franchise ... I don't think it was ever a no-brainer in his mind and I can almost guarantee you that if he knew he was going to be healthy like this and playing this kind of football, in hindsight I don't think he would have done it."
Regardless, Manning is in the Super Bowl, the Colts are not and Irsay is at least happy about the first part.
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