Since the season ended 17 days ago, the primary story we’ve been following and analyzing has involved Peyton Manning, Jim Irsay, Andrew Luck and their intermingling fates.

Some of the details are clear: Manning is due $28 million on March 8. Irsay almost surely won’t pay that. Luck is a surefire top pick.

Some of the details are mysterious: What’s the deal with Manning’s neck? Will he renegotiate his contract? Will Luck pull a John Elway and power-play his way to another city?

And some of the details are buried. For instance, why is this taking so long to play out?

Irsay could simply be leaving the door open until the last minute, figuring there’s no rush to cut bait now in case things change with any of the involved parties in the next two weeks. But speculation naturally runs rampant at times like these.

In a blog post this morning, Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star relayed 10 theories on the time factor. Here’s the most intriguing one:

Irsay is putting it off until after the season-ticket deadline. I’ve heard this speculation from some fans. I don’t buy it, but then again, who’s to say there’s not something to it. Fans are thinking it. They are often reminded of how the NFL is a business. Someone emailed me about having a $12,000 bill due by March 2 and asking what he should do. I will never blame fans if they decide they can’t afford to shell out that kind of money, especially after seeing a 2-14 season in 2011.

I wrote last week that I don’t think letting Manning go would ultimately cost the Colts fans, but Irsay might not see it that way. And we can speculate, but the reality is that we really don’t know how fans are going to react to major developments such as this one. Irsay might not want to risk an embarrassing dip in season-ticket sales, which is why he might be inclined to wait this thing out.

Of course, there are other factors at play. Wilson also writes that it’s possible (or at least speculated) that Irsay is holding back for the following reasons:

1. Perception. The wait might indicate that he’s the one waiting on Manning. That would be a good thing for his image.

2. Hope. He could be giving Manning a chance to simply retire and end the saga.

3. Convenience. If they rush into a meeting and it doesn’t end in an agreement, word of that will leak quickly and Manning will start negotiating elsewhere.

And it’s also possible that Manning is the one holding things up. Wilson wonders if Manning is delaying the process in an attempt to “apply pressure by winning public perception in a war of words through the media.” Even if he’s not currently winning that battle, it’s probably in the nature of a professional athlete to believe he can and will do so.

And then there’s the possibility that one or both are simply not manning up (no pun intended). A final two-sided theory from Wilson:

Could it be that Irsay doesn’t want to release Manning, and it bothers the boss so much, he’s not going to make the decision he knows must be made until the last possible day?

Or could it be Manning doesn’t want to return to the Colts and isn’t looking forward to sharing his two cents with Irsay?

We probably know how this soap opera will conclude, but we may never find out what each party is thinking.

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