It does seem as though Jim Irsay wants to end the Peyton Manning era, but it also seems as though he’s attempting to cut ties from Manning and his $28-million option in the cleanest way possible. When he tells us that the door is essentially open for Manning to return if he’s willing to renegotiate his contract, the assumption is that Irsay is attempting to salvage his image.

As local Indy sports radio host┬áJohn Michael Vincent told me during Super Bowl week, “the last thing you want to do is draw lines between the future Hall of Fame quarterback who everybody loves and the billionaire owner.”

Irsay is almost certainly trying to save face, but is he also trying to save fans?

Greg Couch makes that argument in a column posted today at FoxSports.com, claiming that Irsay is trying to reconcile the feelings of Indy sports fans while giving the finger to their hero.

The problem with that logic is that opting not to pay Manning $28 million isn’t a middle finger. It’s sensible from every standpoint imaginable. And for those who say or think that the Colts “owe” something to No. 18 for all of his years of service in Indianapolis, I think they should stop and consider the $26.4 million the man was paid despite not taking a single snap in 2011. Or the $99-million deal the team gave him in 2004. Or the $48 million they gave him as a rookie in 1998.

Are the fans really stupid enough to ditch the team for rightfully ditching Manning after making him one of the richest men in the history of professional sports? Believe me, I’m usually the first to point the finger at dumbass fans — and human beings in general — but I don’t buy it. The moment Andrew Luck dons stampede blue, they’ll catch that fever. And the moment the team returns to the winner’s circle, any of the fans who walk when Manning is cut will be back in full force.