It seems so. Before a press conference that will happen in a few hours, it appears Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has decided to part ways with Manning. A big surprise? It shouldn't be.
Even the players understand and will tell you the NFL is a business which, in the end, is based on talent, performance, competition, and financial realities. The good players get more money. Those that don't measure up are gone. Every year, every team will have many new faces, while some of the old ones go away. I can't say for sure if age discrimination is alive and well in the NFL, but if a younger guy is as good or better than an older guy, and has a lesser salary, I'm pretty sure I know which one will get the nod from management, and which will be shown the door. It's one of the harsh realities of the sport. Nothing personal.
Peyton Manning appears to have been caught up in such a situation, and perhaps deservedly so. Yes, he's been an All-World quarterback for many years in Indianapolis, regular season NFL MVP, Super Bowl winner, MVP there as well, and his career passing statistics rank amongst the best of all time.
But he's also going to be 36 years old in a couple weeks, has had 3 recent neck surgeries which caused him to miss the entire 2011 season, and there's no guarantee he'll ever be able to withstand the pounding an NFL QB normally gets during the course of a single game, let alone a season.
Much has been made of the $28 million "roster bonus" Peyton was due in a couple days, to stay with the Colts. But that doesn't tell the whole story. On top of that, Manning would have collected a "signing" bonus of $4 million, a salary of $7.4 million, and a "miscellaneous" bonus, whatever that is, of $5.6 million. Total cost to owner Jim Irsay? $45 million dollars, for one season -- whether he can play or not.
Even in the world of ridiculous professional athlete salaries and the billionaires that own the teams, I dare say $45 million isn't exactly a minor detail that will go unnoticed. With Andrew Luck, the hot-shot QB from Stanford, likely to be taken by the Colts with their #1 pick in the upcoming draft, Irsay said he finally decided to change quarterbacks and the financial considerations with Manning didn't enter into it.
To which I say -- who do you think you're kidding, Jimbo? Of course that amount of money entered into it, especially for a guy past his prime that may or may not ever be able to play again. Why not just say so? People would understand it was a prudent business decision. Luck may be the next Manning, or he might be the next Ryan Leaf. Either way, the Colts are in rebuilding mode, have to take the kid, and hope for the best.
Some would say Irsay "owes" it to Peyton. Hogwash. While Manning may have been the "face" of the franchise for many years, Irsay has paid him an obcene amount of money over those same years to do his job. He doesn't owe him anything. Loyalty? Well, OK, but if you buy into that, then how do you explain free agents that made their name with one team only to jump to another for more money?
Besides, Irsay doesn't really have that much money. At a mere estimated $1.4 billion net worth, he only checks in at 879th on the world's billionaire list. Having inherited his father Robert's lucrative heating and ventilation empire, maybe he's not doing so well amongst the 1 percenters these days.
Then again, Forbes ranks him #312 in their Top 400. That's not bad. I doubt if I'm in the Top 312 in my own subdivision. But I've watched neighbors come and go. They've bought, they've rented, they've sold, they've been foreclosed on or lost their homes to taxes, and still I remain with my killer yorkies ever vigilant for those that may dare to trespass.
Like Irsay -- it was a pleasure knowing them, and I hope they stay in touch -- but it didn't work out.
And I sure as hell didn't give them $45 million dollars to tide them over, just in case they needed it.