Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning during a press conference to announce Manning release in March 2012.(Photo: Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)
Story HighlightsIndianapolis is happy with Andrew Luck; Manning is flourishing in Denver. perfect, says IrsayIrsay recalled Manning words in winter of 2012: crazy if you don draft LuckJim Irsay easily remembers his conversations with Peyton Manning during the winter of 2012 when it seemed inevitable the Indianapolis Colts would part ways with their homegrown icon.
Irsay and Manning put themselves in each other's shoes.
And Manning, at the time trying to rebound from four surgical procedures on his neck, could see the Colts' future in Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
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"He said, 'You've got to take Andrew,'" Irsay recalls during an interview with USA TODAY Sports. "'You have to. You're crazy if you don't.'"
The Colts indeed drafted Luck with the No. 1 overall pick last year after releasing Manning, who hitched on with the Denver Broncos and John Elway and is well positioned for a second Super Bowl title.
Now Manning's road to the Super Bowl stops in Indianapolis, where he will bring the undefeated Broncos into Lucas Oil Stadium for a Sunday night showdown against the AFC South leading Colts, who also have aspirations of playing in February.
"I think it's perfect," Irsay says. "What's happened is what Peyton and I hoped would happen. The desire was for him to get well and get to a team that has a chance to win another Super Bowl before his career ended. And our desire was to be able to transition to Andrew. To be so good so soon is stunning."
Irsay hardly wants to be known as the man who ran Manning out of Indy, and his team's progress under second year general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano lessens any criticism even while Manning flourishes with the Broncos, with a league leading 22 touchdown passes and 2,179 yards.
PHOTOS: 18 shots of Manning in IndyPeyton Manning: Year by year in Indianapolis(2004) 12 4, 4,557/49/10: Manning took home another MVP after his most prolific statistical season to date. He set league records for TD passes and QB rating (121.1) both since eclipsed despite sitting out approximately six quarters during blowout wins and a meaningless regular season finale which he exited shortly after starting. WRs Marvin Harrison (88), Reggie Wayne (87) and Brandon Stokley (not pictured) each gained over 1,000 receiving yards and had 10 TDs through the air . Scott Halleran, Getty ImagesThere's no way the Colts could have passed up on the chance to take Luck (or Robert Griffin III, if they preferred) and secure a franchise quarterback for perhaps the next 15 years. Think of how many teams have spent decades trying to land that crucial piece. The Colts are so fortunate to have landed one right after the other.
In retrospect, with a rookie salary cap in play, perhaps the Colts could have drafted Luck and allowed him to develop slowly under Manning?