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Impatience setting in around NFL as Manning-Irsay deadline draws near

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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If new Colts coach Chuck Pagano knows if Peyton Manning is sticking around, he isn't telling. (US Presswire)  
If new Colts coach Chuck Pagano knows if Peyton Manning is sticking around, he isn't telling. (US Presswire)  

At the Indianapolis scouting combine, it was the question of the week, asked repeatedly by almost everyone. It has become the NFL's version of how's the weather?

General manager: "Hear anything about Peyton Manning?"

Coach: "What's the deal with Peyton?"

Scout: "What do you hear?"

That question was once asked with a certain degree of curiosity when many months ago, the news of Manning seriously injuring his neck entered the NFL's circulatory system. Followed by the news the Colts and Manning would have a decision to make. Then things went from curious to intense scrutiny to where we are now: an impatient league waiting for the divorce to occur. Or not occur.

Now the general feeling across football seems to be this: What's the damn holdup?

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The Manning-Jim Irsay saga is beginning to enter Brett Favre territory. Team executives are cracking jokes at the expense of the Colts. One was something about Irsay and a guitar and a country song.

There continue to be bits and pieces of news leaking about what will happen despite what seems to be an increasing amount of disdain for the Colts' extremely slow decision-making process. Irsay tweeted that he and Manning have not only been discussing their situation but have also met. No one knows where this is headed, except the consensus remains an impending divorce is on the way. There are some around football who believe the delay is due to Manning and Irsay figuring a way to reconcile and bring Manning back to Indianapolis.

The delay, this theory goes, is due to both sides working out contract details to the number of snaps Manning will take in a post-Andrew Luck draft Colts world. Still the possibility of Manning returning remain incredibly slim.

If the result is inevitable, then what's taking so long? The overwhelming feeling around football is that sentiment and face-saving are acting like quicksand on the Manning decision.

Irsay genuinely adores Manning and doesn't want history to view him as the guy who ran Manning out of town. Manning genuinely likes Irsay but doesn't want history to see him as bolting for another team or making a decision based on that $28 million bonus due March 8.

Both sides, all this time later, still don't know how to get out of this mess with grace and their dignity intact. Or without appearing to blame the other.

Some of the most frustrated people in football are teams that would be interested in Manning if and when he becomes a free agent. They basically can't make their offseason plans until the Colts settle their situation. Some of those teams say the Colts are as mysterious and withholding in information with them privately as the team is publicly with everyone else.

Some teams just can't help themselves when it comes to Manning. They have to talk about him. It's like a primal urge and they do so while delicately skirting the league's tampering rules. Jets coach Rex Ryan refused to rule out Manning joining the team when speaking with the media at the combine.

"I'm not supposed to talk about anybody else's players, and he's still a player with Indianapolis," said Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel, before proceeding to talk about someone else's player. "But with a talent like that, I would be crazy not to consider it if he were available. I'll leave it at that."

"We're looking for a great decision maker," Miami coach Joe Philbin said. "We're looking for a leader. We're looking for an accurate passer. We're looking for a guy that has excellent game management skills, excellent decision maker, a guy that has pocket presence and awareness, the leadership skills. Obviously, the stronger the arm, the more velocity, the better, but we're looking for a guy that can manage a team, lead a team, make good decisions in critical times and make big plays when games are on the line."

Cough, (Manning) Cough.

So, the league waits. And gets annoyed. And mocks the Colts. But it still waits and asks a question.

What the hell is taking so long?

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