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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Irsay needs to cut Manning loose, but not before thanking him profusely

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Without Peyton Manning, the Colts don't get a new stadium, Indy doesn't land the Super Bowl. (Getty Images)  
Without Peyton Manning, the Colts don't get a new stadium, Indy doesn't land the Super Bowl. (Getty Images)  

As the horde of fans and media descend on Indianapolis in the next week, they will pass Lucas Oil Stadium as they enter the city.

You can't miss it. It's huge. It's pretty. It's a big part of the downtown landscape.

And it's there because of one Peyton Manning.

Without him, the stadium doesn't get built, the Super Bowl isn't in this city once called "Indian-no place" and the Colts could very well be in another city.

So why is it that Manning is being treated so poorly by the Colts right now?

Owner Jimmy Irsay should be on his knees kissing Manning's feet for what he did for the franchise in his 14 seasons there.

Pucker up, Jim. And then go ahead and send out a funny tweet about it @JimIrsay, which is something you do a lot.

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"Just kissed a pair of feet that made me a lot of money. How's that for some song lyrics?"

This relationship has turned sour faster than the marriage of Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian.

That's business. I get it. And, yes, Manning has pulled a haul of money out of the Colts that will make him a rich man for life.

But does it really have to come to this?

Manning has a bad neck. Irsay is becoming the biggest pain in that neck.

Irsay called Manning a "politician" and somebody who should keep his problems in house. That stemmed from Manning stating this week he didn't feel comfortable in the team's building anymore with all the changes.

Manning is due a $28 million bonus on March 8. There is no way the Colts are paying that with the uncertainty surrounding his neck injury. Who knows if he can play again? I get that. I wouldn't pay it either -- unless there was total clearance by a doctor or doctors that he could play again.

But isn't there a way to work it all out without just cutting the cord and reverting to a "he-said, he-said" game of insult volleyball? I can tell you this with 100 percent certainty: Manning is lashing out because he feels disrespected.

There have been many times over the years -- see his contract talks -- when Manning thought the Colts talked way too much about his situation, and he never did. He took offense to Irsay saying two summers ago that the team was much bigger than just one player.

But Manning never said a word publicly.

There were times when the front office even disrespected him in those talks, but he never said anything publicly about that. During one discussion, someone actually told his agent, Tom Condon, that there were many young quarterbacks they would be fine with if Manning didn't play for the Colts.

Really? How did that work out last season?

Throughout it all, Manning kept a low profile. He never fired back, even though inside he was seething, something I saw firsthand.

This time, he is on the offensive. There are some who think he went public with his comments this week about the team because he's trying to win fan favor, he's trying to paint the Colts as the bad guys.

Manning is smart. So maybe there is something to that, but after all he has done for the franchise -- and for Irsay's pockets -- doesn't he deserve better? If he's going, which I think he is, make the decision now. If he's staying, which I doubt, tell him so. We all know the Colts are planning to move ahead by drafting the next Manning in Andrew Luck.

They have a new general manager. They have a new coach. Now they will have a new quarterback.

This marriage isn't fixable.

But does it really have to play out like some Hollywood divorce? Then again, Irsay always has had an infatuation with the jet-set crowd out west. Maybe that's why it's getting so salty.

"I don't think it's in the [best] interest to paint the horseshoe in a negative light," Irsay said this week. "The horseshoe always comes first."

Irsay tweeted early Friday morning that he loves Manning and Manning loves him. Loved might be a better word. Even ugly divorces start with two people that once loved each other.

I ask Irsay this: Would there be a horseshoe in Indianapolis if it weren't for Peyton Manning? Would there be a Super Bowl being played there next week? Would there be that wonderful stadium, the House that Peyton Built?

I say no. None of it would have been possible without the success Manning's right arm brought to the Colts and the city.

Let him go now. Tell him it's over. Set him free.

But just remember one thing, Jimmy Irsay: Kiss that arm and maybe that posterior before he leaves the building for all he has done for the horseshoe.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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