Tony Dungy: Jim Irsay would've kept Peyton Manning 'in hindsight'

Does Jim Isay regret cutting Peyton Manning?
Does Jim Isay regret cutting Peyton Manning? (USATSI)

Because the Horsey Bowl is happening this week and because Peyton Manning is returning to Indianapolis for the first time since the Colts cut him loose in 2011, everyone wants to talk about Jim Irsay's big decision.

Including Jim Irsay, who pointed out Tuesday he had no real choice with the move. But former Colts coach Tony Dungy -- who claims he was "on the phone ... five or six times over a month" before Peyton was cut -- says that "in hindsight" Irsay probably regrets the decision.

“I can tell you it wasn’t a no-brainer," Dungy said to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. "I was on the phone with Jim Irsay probably five or six times over a month as it was leading up to that. He knew all those factors that you just enumerated there. But 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.

“So even for all the reasons you just stated why it should be done, 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."

Dungy's claim is in direct contrast with Irsay's interview on Tuesday. But the ex-Colts coach, who helped Indy win the only title they have with Peyton there, also said that Irsay did "the right thing" knowing what he knew at the time.

Remember, there wasn't a guarantee Manning would ever play football again. He'd had four surgeries and the writing was on the wall.

But he came back OK and is putting up historical numbers with the undefeated Broncos. Irsay can say he's happy all he wants -- and he certainly is, given Andrew Luck will be a top NFL quarterback for years to come -- but there's no question that seeing the success Manning's having in Denver has to make him wonder "what if?"

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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