Update: 3:50 p.m.:
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts owner Jim Irsay said Monday that he is focused on doing his part to host the Super Bowl and won’t comment publicly this week on quarterback Peyton Manning’s future with the team.
“I’m not going to talk about Peyton,” Irsay said, speaking to a group of reporters at the Super Bowl media center after participating in a news conference by the host committee. “When Peyton and I both talked, we got the focus on the Super Bowl this week. So we want to focus on Patriots-Giants and what it means to the city and all that sort of thing. I really don’t have anything more to add on Peyton right now.”
But even as he addressed Manning’s future with the Colts, Irsay did speak during and after the news conference about the prominent role his quarterback has played in the franchise’s success, helping to make it popular enough to get Lucas Oil Stadium funded and built. The building of the stadium was a key element in the city being awarded this Super Bowl.
“He played a tremendous role, what he’s meant to the franchise and the things he’s done, the greatness of our success we’ve had for over a decade,” Irsay said. “He played a huge role in that. That’s obvious. There’s no question that’s the sort of thing that I know is fulfilling for him as well. It’s exciting for him to have Eli in.”
The Colts’ decline this season was about more than Manning’s absence, said Irsay, who performed a house-cleaning in recent weeks that included the firings of front office executive Bill Polian, General Manager Chris Polian and Coach Jim Caldwell.
“We’ve seen what’s happened when the whole package wasn’t there because this is a team game and it takes a lot to win,” Irsay said. “I think those are the things you really appreciate, because you’ve got to get a lot of things right in order to have greatness.”
It seems as if every day produces some type of Peyton Manning news, and with it comes more debate over whether the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, or some other team will pursue him this offseason.
Colts owner Jim Irsay and Manning had some back-and-forth through the media last week, and it’s clear the relationship is deteriorating. The Colts – who hold the first pick in April’s draft and are expected to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck – must decide before March 8 whether to pick up the option on Manning’s contract, which would pay the quarterback a $28 million bonus, or release him.
Manning missed all of the 2011 season while recovering from a pair of neck surgeries, and still is waiting for nerves to regenerate. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported Sunday that Manning still is struggling to get healthy, and that because of that, it’s more likely that the Colts will release the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
The Redskins rank among teams that have repeatedly been linked to Manning, and a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that Washington would have interest in the quarterback should he become available and recover fully. But those are big ifs, so it’s much too early to predict what would happen, one league official said.
“No. 1, is he going to be released? No. 2, is he going to be healthy? No. 3, at the end of the day, is he willing to come back and play in the NFL. We don’t know those questions,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I think everybody would want Peyton Manning, if he was healthy. You’d be crazy not to want Peyton Manning if he was healthy. Nobody knows now if he’s going to be cleared to play. And if he is cleared to play, wouldn’t the Colts either want him, or [pick up his option] and then try to trade him?”
The Redskins find themselves in dire need of a quarterback and are expected to address the position either through the draft or free agency this offseason.
Washington holds the sixth pick in the draft, but isn’t likely to have a shot at the top two quarterbacks – Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III – and no other passer is considered worthy of the sixth overall pick. Mike Shanahan and his staff worked with prospects Nick Foles of Arizona, Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State and Ryan Lindley of San Diego State last week at the Senior Bowl. All of them struggled. They are projected to go in the second to fourth rounds, and are viewed more as projects rather than franchise saviors.
The Redskins coaches would have liked to work with Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, but he had to pull out of the game because of a broken foot.
Rex Grossman, who last season threw 16 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 13 games, is due to become a free agent. The quarterback has said he wants to come back to Washington, but the Redskins very well could look elsewhere.
This year’s free agent quarterback class isn’t particularly strong, however. The top player is New Orleans’ Drew Brees, but the Saints aren’t expected to let him get away. The pickings get slim from there. Green Bay backup Matt Flynn is expected to draw the most attention. But the Redskins aren’t believed to have much interest in the LSU product.
The next best option could be Kyle Orton, who started last season with the Broncos and was released and claimed off of waivers by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Beyond that, the free agent class includes Alex Smith (expected to re-sign with San Francisco), Jason Campbell (whom Shanahan traded shortly after taking over as head coach in 2010), Donovan McNabb (been there, done that), and Philadelphia’s Vince Young (whom Washington passed on last offseason).
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