(Editor’s note: This was written before the news about Chuck Pagano leaked out, but it’s more about Jim Irsay. Today’s leak only further confirms our writer’s point here. We’ll have more on Pagano later. For now, let’s turn it over to Jim. – MD)
Sophia Petrillo loved to spin stories of the old days on The Golden Girls. Her signature opening line was “Picture it, Sicily, (insert year)”. The stories were usually embellished and quite hilarious, however most of the time ended with a very good moral that was applicable to the listener’s current dilemma.
For the life of me, I can’t begin to imagine what tale Sophia might tell Jim Irsay to advise him of next steps in his haphazard and delusional approach to the current Colts offseason. The short story is that he has tried to play both sides of the fence to (so far) very predictable results.
After four solid days of an apparent gag order and zero leaks out of West 56th Street, plenty of information emerged yesterday afternoon. The highlights: that Irsay was and remains “very interested” in bringing Peyton Manning into the fold of football operations, however Peyton feels that he “isn’t ready” to take on that kind of role at this time. Here’s the problem with that; it’s only a piece of the story.
Inside information began to surface Tuesday afternoon, however, that the real issue is the topic of ownership. The fact of the matter, according to sources who communicated with John Michael Vincent (@JMV1070 on Twitter) of 1070 The Fan, Brad Wells (@BradWellsNFL on Twitter) and yours truly (@jimosborne45), is that Jim Irsay considers that subject to be completely off the table. The PR angle that Manning isn’t ready is merely an attempt to spin doctor that impasse.
Word also surfaced that Ryan Grigson is staying put, which is said to be firm, and that it was possible Chuck Pagano could still be fired, however only if a “suitable replacement” was found (Update: That suitable replacement, apparently, was not found…Chuck is staying as well). That seems to somewhat explain the silence of Jim Irsay regarding the status of either man moving forward.
Where do we begin when discussing the problems with this approach? Let’s start with the only known candidate Irsay has pursued to replace Grigson (and make no mistake, Manning would have the title of President and/or General Manager and Grigson would be sent packing).
Jim Irsay charged after Peyton Manning, unprepared to go all the way. Coach Bobby Finstock of Teen Wolf fame lived by three rules, the second of which was never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city. No, this doesn’t literally apply to Manning, however it’s the same principle. Manning is simply a better negotiator than Irsay and has a far superior sense of leverage and value.
Jim Irsay went to the table unwilling to even touch on the subject of ownership stake. Irsay seems to have envisioned talking Manning into a deal not involving equity, and then, once achieved, he could cleanly fire Grigson and Pagano. Peyton would hand pick the new coach and the party would commence. If (and really, when) Peyton didn’t buy Irsay’s fairy tale ‘One for the Shoe’ spin and brought up ownership stake, apparently Jim planned to cut bait and float a story that Peyton simply wasn’t ready.
Aside from the fact that this was completely delusional, Irsay is left with a real dilemma. If Manning was Plan A (which certainly appears to be the case), what is Plan B? If that included another candidate or two for General Manager, you have to think yesterday’s leak wouldn’t have included the news that Ryan Grigson is staying put.
We are talking about Jim Irsay, so it’s completely possible that he wakes up today and changes his mind on the ownership issue. It’s just as likely that there is no real Plan B, other than trying to spin doctor the decision to keep his current GM to an angry (and rapidly becoming apathetic) fan base. Not to mention, Ryan Grigson now knows that he’s toast if and when Irsay finds a more preferable option. This makes his tactics with Manning all the more baffling and absurd.
Jim Irsay has not publicly confirmed the information that was leaked via sources, which means none of it is set in stone. However, unless he has an epiphany and decides to discuss ownership stake with Peyton Manning, it’s as close to done as you can get. After all, if Irsay wasn’t hedging his bets, he would simply fire Ryan Grigson and enter a wide open GM search.
I will concede that the franchise represents roughly 95% of Jim Irsay’s wealth. We have to keep that in mind as we consider the ownership angle. However, I don’t for a second believe that Peyton Manning wants a majority stake in the Colts. I’d be surprised if we’re even talking 10 percent. Please realize that a five percent stake in the franchise would be in excess of $100M.
Contrast that to a Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Browns. Haslam’s fortune is far more diversified, so giving up partial ownership of the Browns to Peyton Manning would certainly be more palatable. Don’t sleep on the Tennessee Titans. While their ownership remains in a trust since Bud Adams’ death, and the heirs are in litigation, should Amy Adams retain long term control, one can envision her making Manning an attractive offer.
But hey, enough doom and gloom. After all, the leak did say that Pagano might still be fired! (Again, this was meant to be posted yesterday, before we found out, unofficially of course, that ol’ Chuck apparently is staying)
Let’s move on to Chuck Pagano. Six franchises have legitimate head coach openings, and all have announced interviews or the intention to set up interviews with many of the main candidates. Those include Josh McDaniels, Kyle Shanahan, Vance Joseph and a few other names.
Jim Irsay sure doesn’t seem inclined to join that fray. Then again, it’s pretty tough to publicly announce interviews when you don’t have an open position. Once again, he is taking a half measure, unprepared to go all the way and simply fire Pagano.
If you’re Kyle Shanahan, probably the hot coordinator this offseason, you’re already set to interview with Denver, Jacksonville, Los Angeles (still seems a little weird to say/type) and San Francisco. Hypothetically speaking, in what world would you even consider an interview with the Colts? They don’t have a vacancy and are mired in a mess of Jim Irsay’s bungling and Ryan Grigson’s “solid” status.
The simple answer is, you don’t. So who does that leave? Jon Gruden? Jim Harbaugh? Neither man is coming within 50 miles of Indianapolis without being offered total control. If Jim Irsay won’t take full measures to bring Peyton F. Manning into the fold, there’s no way he stands a chance at Gruden or Harbaugh.
No coaching candidate worth a damn is coming to Indianapolis to interview for a job that doesn’t exist, under a GM who remains only because Jim Irsay wasn’t willing to meet Peyton Manning’s demands.
Half measures. The title of a Breaking Bad season three episode in which Mike Ehrmantraut told Walter White how big of a mistake he once made, taking a half measure when he should have taken a full one. I’ll let you Google or Bing that to reminisce on the exact mistake.
Mike had learned the hard way, and told Walt flat out that there were no more half measures. Jim Irsay is mired in the middle of that lesson, one he will surely learn. It’s tough to envision a better outcome for Irsay than Mike realized.