According to ESPN, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy believes that Colts owner Jim Irsay’s recent criticism four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning was probably strategic in nature.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Dungy, who won a Super Bowl at Indianapolis with Manning at the helm, understands the comments.
“Jim [Irsay] is making this personal. I’m surprised,” said Dungy in a text message to ESPN.
Earlier this week, as the Colts prepare for Manning’s homecoming with the Denver Broncos, Irsay stated that the decision to move on from Manning was because the team favored championships over stats. While Irsay has since stated he didn’t mean it this way, the comments can only be interpreted as a criticism of Manning, who only won one Super Bowl while receiving countless other accolades.
Dungy believes that Irsay’s comments were intended to rile up Manning.
“I think that’s what he’s trying to do,” Dungy said, via ESPN. “Have him make it such a big game he doesn’t perform well. I can’t figure any other reason to go this way.”
Dungy added the following:
Without Peyton, there would be no Lucas Oil Stadium. This team would be playing in L.A. right now. I don’t understand Jim saying this.
Both Denver head coach John Fox and current Colts head coach Chuck Pagano defended Manning. Fox told SiriusXM NFL Radio, that Irsay’s comments were “disappointing and inappropriate” and “a cheap shot.”
Pagano had the following to say in a conference call with the Denver media:
I don’t think there’s anybody that Mr. Irsay respects and cares for more than Peyton. What can’t you say about Peyton, what he’s done for the organization, what he’s done for this city, or fans? What he’s done for football? It’s off the charts and it’s certainly — all I know is our owner has the utmost respect, love and passion for that guy and always will.
Manning has been on a record setting pace this season with Denver, and if Irsay wanted to rile Peyton up to get a competitive advantage, I have this feeling he is going to regret that decision come Sunday night.