|Jim Irsay has taken control of the perception battle away from Peyton Manning. (US Presswire)|
The perception many have of Jim Irsay is that he's a goofball born with a silver football in his mouth.
You know what I'm talking about. Always on Twitter with his song lyrics, like this: "Got drunk last night...drunk the night before...ain't gettin drunk no mo...Champaign Charlies my name!!! 4 the benefit of Mr. Kite, there will be a show 2night..."
Just don't see John Mara doing that.
There is a superficial silliness, an almost insane in the membrane feel. Like he spends one hour a day standing on his head wearing Scooby-Doo pajamas and reading Chaucer. Yeah, lightweight. That's what some people think.
The actual goofball, the actual fool, is the person who underestimates Irsay. The man who has total control of the Peyton Manning should-he-stay-or-go fiasco isn't Manning, it's Irsay. He isn't a dork. He isn't a fool. He isn't crazy. He's in total control and beating Manning at his own PR game.
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This isn't a fight about facts any longer. This is a fight for hearts and minds of Colts fans, but even bigger than that is a more substantial fight. It's a battle over legacies.
Should Manning leave Indianapolis, he wants the record to show he was forced out by Irsay. Not my fault. Blame Irsay. I woulda' stayed for less. I woulda kept fightin' but that mean old Irsay with his guitar playin' and tweetin' made me go to the Redskins.
What Irsay is doing is ensuring that history shows Manning was too damaged to stay in Indianapolis. He's no fool at all. He's smartly and covertly letting everyone know Manning is far more damaged than the Manning camp will acknowledge.
And this is where Irsay is demonstrating a true high IQ that doesn't always show up on Twitter at three in the morning. He's outsmarting Manning at his own game, with well-placed leaks and statements that he's leaving the choice up to Manning, just as Manning initially made it appear with his well-placed leaks and statements he was leaving his future up to Irsay.
Manning took the first swipe with his Indianapolis newspaper interview, and that was followed by the Manning camp leaking that he had been cleared to play by doctors. It was a useless piece of information but sounded substantial. Then came another Manning leak that he was willing to take an incentive-laden deal.
Irsay complained that Manning should keep things in house, but it was too late. The game was afoot. What Irsay did next was erase any notion he was a man of little substance. Irsay has launched a precise, brilliant counterstrike that so far has obliterated Manning.
First he gave an interview to the Indianapolis Star in which he appeared to give Manning control of his Colts future.
"We can make it work if he wants to be here," Irsay said. "We'd be excited to have him back and finish his career with us. I want him to be able to make the choice. We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the ... healing process with the regeneration of the nerve."
If he wants to be here.
We would love to have him back.
It's beautiful manipulation of the public. Irsay looks like he's offering an olive branch when in actuality he's smacking Manning in the face with it.
Then came, I believe, Irsay's master PR stroke. Sports Illustrated reported all kinds of Manning health nuggets, including a secretive fourth neck procedure -- and that he might need another. Where, exactly, did this info come from? The neck fairy? It can't be proved, but there's little doubt the information didn't come from the Manning camp and even less doubt it came from the Colts.
Interestingly, Irsay, who takes to Twitter to talk about anything, was remarkably silent once the SI story became public.
Irsay could not play this more perfectly. Few players in the NFL are more manipulative than Manning, yet he's getting his manipulative ass kicked by Irsay.
This is a fight. It's a nasty battle between two controlling men who know the end is here but wants everyone to believe the other guy is responsible for the breakup.
At the beginning everyone believed Manning would wipe the floor with the tweeting hippie Irsay. Hasn't happened.