LeBron James probably could have used some tips from Peyton Manning on how to leave a small-market professional sports franchise. Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay were amicable yet somber as they publicly severed ties at a press conference this afternoon. Manning might end up taking his talents to South Beach, but he wasn’t interested in talking about the future.
Irsay broke down first, but that was simply a result of the speaking order. Tears weren’t actually wiped, but both men struggled with emotional moments during a 22-minute presser that wielded enough local power to force Indianapolis schools to put classes on hold.
The only real newsworthy development? Irsay made sure to point out that Manning’s No. 18 is now retired in Indy, adding that “there will be no other Peyton Manning.”
Predictably but hilariously, neither Manning nor Irsay (nor “Circumstances,” whom Manning claimed “was the third guy in the conversation” between he and Irsay) wouldn’t admit that the $28-million roster bonus due to Manning at the end of this week played a role.
“It’s never been about money,” Irsay said. “It’s never been about those type of things.”
Manning, who said that “the contract and the money was never a factor,” seemed to want us to believe that this development had more to do with Andrew Luck and the No. 1 overall pick and the “circumstances” in play that didn’t include the financials. But Irsay alluded to the salary cap on multiple occasions.
“As a franchise, where we are with the salary cap, where we are rebuilding, we’re definitely a few years away. I want to see him come back and play great,” Irsay said. “I want the opportunity for him to succeed at the end of his career.”
And it appears that end isn’t coming in the immediate future. Manning noted that he’s “getting closer and closer” in his rehab and that he has to remind himself it’s only March.
Why not walk away?
“I don’t wanna retire.”