INDIANAPOLIS — Jim Irsay expects Peyton Manning to keep his complaints to himself. Or at least within the confines of the Colts' team complex.
Shortly after introducing Chuck Pagano as Indianapolis' new coach, the team owner responded to the comments Manning made earlier this week by referring to the only four-time league MVP as a "politician."
"I don't think it's in the best interest to paint the horseshoe in a negative light, I really don't," Irsay said, referring to the Colts' logo. "The horseshoe always comes first, and I think one thing he's always known, because he's been around it so long, is that, you know, you keep it in the family. If you've got a problem you talk to each other, it's not about campaigning or anything like that."
Clearly, Irsay was not happy to see Manning's comments in The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday, just as the Colts were interviewing Pagano.
Manning explained that the environment at team headquarters was not the best and said people were nervous because of the major offseason overhaul that has already claimed the jobs of vice chairman Bill Polian, general manager Chris Polian, coach Jim Caldwell and most of Caldwell's assistants.
Irsay didn't like that, either.
"I have so much affection and appreciation for Peyton. I mean we're family. We always will be and we are," Irsay said. "He's a politician. I mean look at, when it comes to being competitive, let's just say on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, we're both 11s, OK? So there's been plenty of eggshells scattered around this building by him with his competitive desire to win."
Irsay's comments are indicative of how tense things have gotten in Indy.
Some considered Manning's comments an acknowledgment that he was unhappy in Indianapolis and that he could be playing in another city next season -- if he returns from his third neck surgery.
The Colts, who also have the No. 1 pick in this year's draft and could take Andrew Luck as their quarterback of the future, also have to decide whether to pay Manning a $28 million by March 8 or risk losing him as an unrestricted free agent.
Manning said he's been told the decision will be Irsay's to make. And Irsay again said Thursday that money will not be the issue, Manning's health will.
"I think fans already understand that," Irsay said when asked whether Manning may have played his final game in Colts' blue. "This isn't an ankle, it isn't a shoulder. Often times the NFL is criticized for putting someone out there at risk, and I'm not going to doing that. I think he and I just need to see where his health is because this isn't about money or anything else. It's about his life and his long-term health."