(Photo credit: Brad Mills, US Presswire)
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay may have made one of the worst sports business decisions ever by cutting quarterback Peyton Manning and drafting QB Andrew Luck over Robert Griffin III.
In March, Irsay was sitting pretty.
Irsay could keep Manning if he was willing to pay a $28 million bonus owed off the $90 million, 5-year deal he’d given No. 18 the previous July. Yes, Manning was still recovering from the multiple neck surgeries that wiped out his 2011 season. But Peyton was still Peyton, the only four-time MVP in league history, an 11-time Pro Bowler and the franchise player who transformed the lowly Colts into 2007 Super Bowl champions.
And thanks to a gift from the football gods, Irsay had the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Without Manning, the Colts plummeted to a 2-14 record, improbably giving the Colts the first pick. Irsay could either take Luck from Stanford or Griffin from Baylor, who had beaten out Luck for the Heisman Trophy as college football’s outstanding player.
We all know what happened next. After weeks of sniping and spinning between the Irsay and Manning camps in the media, Irsay sent Manning packing. And right into the waiting arms of John Elway’s Denver Broncos.
Elway promptly gave one of the most hotly-pursued free agents in NFL history a $96 million, five-year deal with $18 million guaranteed for this season. Irsay used the No. 1 overall pick on Luck instead of Griffin. Luck signed a $22.1 million, four-year deal with the Horseshoes, including a $14.5 million signing bonus. The ‘Skins signed Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick, to $21.1 million, four-year deal, including a $13.8 million signing bonus.
Fast forward to Sunday.
Manning looked great in his regular-season debut with the Broncos, throwing for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns (including the 400th TD of his career) and leading his team to a 31-19 home win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC predicts the Broncos will make the Super Bowl.
RGIII became the first rookie QB to throw for more than 300 yards in his NFL debut and led the Redskins to a 40-32 road win over the New Orleans Saints. Along the way, he outplayed Saints QB Drew Brees, a six-time NFL Pro Bowler who set the league record for passing yards last season. And finally brought some hope to Redskins fans who’ve suffered under mediocre QB’s such as Rex Grossman and an aging Donovan McNabb. What about Luck? He looked good but not great in his debut and the Colts lost 41-21 to the Chicago Bears.
Hey, I hear what you’re saying. ‘Mike, you’re crazy, it’s only one game, you’re overreacting.’ True. But think about all the options Irsay had. He could have signed Manning and Luck, and let the young QB develop under the master. He could have picked RGIII instead of Luck. Hell, he could have traded the first overall pick for a boatload of players and draft picks to a team desperate for a QB and transform his team overnight.
Instead, he put all his eggs in one basket with Luck. The attention-loving Irsay has a lot of Jerry Jones in him. Maybe he wanted to show Manning who was boss. Maybe he let his ego interfere with his decision-making.
What will Irsay have to say on Twitter a few months from if Manning’s Broncos or Griffin’s Redskins make it to the Super Bowl — and his club remains in the basement?
What do you think? Sound off below.