INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Peyton Manning was back in town when the Indianapolis Colts recognized the 10-year anniversary of their Super Bowl XLI championship.
It was November 2016, and the celebration served as impetus for Manning and owner Jim Irsay to consider a reunion at a management level.
That revelation was part of Irsay’s Tuesday discussion with Indy reporters covering the NFL owners in Phoenix, Ariz.
Yes, the catalyst of the Colts 2006 world championship – and so much more – was approached during that eventful weekend by Irsay to weigh rejoining the franchise in a front-office capacity.
The initial discussions led to further conversations, which eventually got “serious,’’ according to Irsay. He wanted his former All-World QB to rejoin the franchise as “a president, general manager sort of thing.’’
It marked the first time Irsay publicly admitted his interest in Manning, the face and force behind his franchise for 13 seasons, assuming a significant front-office role with the Colts.
“It did get close. I wouldn’t say super-serious-close,’’ Irsay said, “but enough to kick the tires and say, ‘What are you thinking?’ Because my counsel is there for him whether he comes to the Colts or chooses to do something else.
“There was definitely some interest on both sides.’’
According to Irsay, Manning’s return to town for the anniversary ceremony, which was held Nov. 20, 2016 at Lucas Oil Stadium, included a meeting with him at the team’s West 56th Street headquarters.
Despite Irsay’s continued attempts to lure Manning back to the Colts, they failed.
Manning told his former boss and long-time friend he wasn’t ready to assume that level of responsibility.
“‘I’m just not ready yet,’’’ Irsay said, sharing Manning’s response. “‘It’s just not right, right now. And if I’m all in, I’ll all in.’’’
Manning, 39 at the time, had retired from the Denver Broncos following the 2015 season and after leading the Broncos to a win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50. He was the NFL’s only six-time MVP and had laid the groundwork for a future first-ballot entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But he also was committed to his family. Manning and his wife Ashley have twins who turn 8 later this month.
“The worst thing you can do is talk someone into doing something they really don’t wanna do,’’ Irsay said. “Because then you really get a disastrous situation: ‘Man, I’m just not enjoying myself here. I just don’t have that fire in my heart about the job.’
“These guys are competitors. They know what it means to be all-in, and Peyton knows. If he’s brought into that chair, he’s going to make full commitment.’’
Rebuffed by his former QB, Irsay rebooted his search and hired Chris Ballard to replace Ryan Grigson, who was fired Jan. 21, 2017.
Irsay continues to use Manning as a sounding board, as has Ballard.
“The great thing is Chris knew Peyton is a good friend of mind, and loves this franchise,’’ Irsay said. “Chris did not, at all, even feel any looking behind my back. ‘Is Peyton around?’ It was the opposite. He’s called Peyton. Peyton’s been in our building working out, and it’s great to see.
“He said, ‘I really appreciate this opportunity, but right now I’m just not ready.’ You respect that. And I think it’s a credit to Chris Ballard, as well, he’s like embracing Peyton (saying) ‘We want you in our building. We need your help. I need your help.’’’
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