Ahead of one of the most hyped regular season games in NFL history, a war of words is brewing between Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and Denver Broncos coach John Fox.
In an interview with USA Today, Irsay said he didn’t regret letting Peyton Manning go. He even said Manning told him Andrew Luck was a can’t miss prospect. At the time, Manning was recovering from a neck injury that necessitated four procedures. He missed the entire 2011-2012 season in which the Colts finished with an abysmal 2-14 record, leaving them with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
“You’ve got to take Andrew Luck,” Irsay said, quoting Manning. “You have to. You’re crazy if you don’t.”
Irsay lauded Manning’s time with the Colts, but said the franchise is taking a new direction under general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano. He said the front office’s new approach is designed to win championships—and lamented that Manning and company won a single Super Bowl despite putting up eye-popping statistics.
“(Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these,” Irsay said, holding up his Super Bowl ring. “Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated.”
Irsay expressed disappointment with the Colts’ early playoff exits in the Manning Era.
“You make the playoffs 11 times, and you’re out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this,” Irsay said.
Broncos coach John Fox was quick to leap to Manning’s defense, suggesting on SiriusXM NFL Radio that the Colts owner was “ungrateful.”
“I saw the comments, and to be honest with you, I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot,” Fox said. “They were disappointing, inappropriate. Peyton will never say anything, he’s too classy to do that, but they sounded a little ungrateful and unappreciative to me.”
Irsay took to Twitter late Tuesday night to defuse the controversy, saying he was talking about a different approach to building a football team and that Manning’s legacy is secure. The team will have a video tribute to the future Hall of Fame quarterback before the game.
Manning hasn’t said much about his return to Indianapolis and dodged questions after last week’s win over Jacksonville. He will address the media Wednesday.