For a team releasing its franchise player for the last 14 years, Jim Irsay did it with class and finesse. As Irsay explained, Manning joined the Colts as a 22 year old kid from Tennessee when he was a 37 year old newly appointed team owner of the Colts. Together they grew up in their respected jobs and blossomed with each other.
Both shed tears in front of the media, sharing stories and declining to discuss some. Either way they glanced upon each other with respect and honor. These are character items we knew Manning had, but for Irsay his legend probably grew among Indianapolis fans during this press conference.
Manning even stuck up for his now, former owner.
”This has not been easy for Jim,” Manning said, ”and this has certainly not been easy for me.”
The decision to release Manning was one Irsay had no choice in. Even Manning agreed with that sentiment. In conversations with each other, Irsay and Manning agreed they would let “circumstances” decide what would happen. The circumstances were too much for either to even discuss but both knew the outcome had to be what was announced.
There were 28 million reasons the Colts had no choice, but both sides contended the money had nothing to do with the release, circumstances did. The deadline for paying Manning his $28 million bonus was the 8th. With the release of Manning, the Colts officially begin a rebuilding project that will start by taking Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft.
Manning explained during the conference to the media there were more than just players and administration he would miss. In typical Manning style and class, he mentioned others that he would be saying good bye too. He said the Equipment staff was the best in football, and he planned after the media was done asking question he would say goodbye to the people in the front office like the secretaries and others outside the limelight of Sunday NFL football.
The 35-year-old Manning will become a free agent, and there is expected to be interest from a half-dozen or so NFL clubs, provided he’s healthy. Manning is coming off a series of operations to his neck and missed all of last season.
Yes Manning will pull on his helmet next season with an emblem other than a horseshoe on the side. That team will get class, honesty, and if healthy, a great quarterback. However as Manning stated, always a Colt.