As if Peyton Manning going back to Indianapolis to face his former Colts team wasn't a big enough deal, Colts owner Jim Irsay had to fan the flames with some untimely - and, quite frankly - distasteful remarks about his old quarterback.
You know, the quarterback who made Irsay's team relevant again during a spectacular run from 1998-2011.
Irsay said in a recent interview in USA Today that one of the reasons he decided to draft Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick last year and part ways with Manning, who was still recupterating from a fourth neck surgery during the 2011 season, was that he wanted to win more championships than the one Manning won in Super Bowl XLI.
"We've changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these," Irsay said, pointing to 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 have to love the 'Star Wars' numbers from Peyton and Marvin [Harrison] and Reggie [Wayne]. mostly, you love [championships]."
Was Irsay taking a shot at Manning's 9-11 playoff record with the Colts? Sure sounds like it. And even if Irsay wasn't firing a direct salvo at Manning's biggest shortcoming during his Hall of Fame run with the Colts, why even say something that leaves you wondering whether he did? Especially in the run-up to a huge AFC game in Indy, where the Colts hope to rebound from Monday night's 19-9 loss to the Chargers by beating Manning's undefeated (6-0) Broncos?
Irsay took to Twitter this morning to blame the negative reaction to his comments on people who have "negative agendas." Irsay wrote: "Those expressing negativity about the concept of building well rounded teams around great QBs 2 achieve Championships have negative agendas."
Hmm. Does that include Broncos head coach John Fox, who called Irsay's comments "a cheap shot" at Manning?
Irsay quoted Manning in another tweet, saying that "The noise doesn't bother me. [T]o quote the most loved Ind Colt of all time (in other words, Manning), 'I wanted to stay, Jim wanted me to stay, circumstances forced r hand.' "
I think reasonable minds would agree that it just wasn't feasible or practical for Manning to remain with the Colts. His contract would have ruined the team's salary cap, and it would have been clumsy and uncomfortable to have Manning AND Luck on the same team, even if it was only for a year or two. Irsay took plenty of heat over the transaction, much the way Packers GM Ted Thompson was criticized for trading Brett Favre and ushering in the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay.
It was generally agreed at the time of the decision to part ways that it was indeed best for all parties, and it was commendable that Irsay stood there and took the criticism, even though he did what he had to do. But he knew it had to be this way. Ater all, the Colts got a chance to start Luck immediately, and made the playoffs in his rookie season. And Manning got a fresh start in Denver, a perfect scenario to resume his career. He led them to the AFC West title last year, although the season ended with the bitter disappointment of a home playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.
So for Irsay to rehash the events of the past and add that part about winning only one Super Bowl was a case of poor timing. After all, Manning made football important again in Indianapolis, and you can argue it was Manning - and not Irsay - who was ultimately the driving force in the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium and the eventual decision to have the first Super Bowl in Indianapolis two years ago.
Irsay just shouldn't have gone there. Especially with Peyton coming back to town on Sunday.