Even superstar players are always a hair’s breadth away from a trade.
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts released quarterback Peyton Manning after 14 seasons, and drafted Andrew Luck in the first round of the NFL Draft.
But the months leading up to Manning’s release were not the first time the Colts considered letting Manning go, according to an in-depth interview with Jim Irsay by The Indianapolis Star.
Irsay reportedly said then Indianapolis general manager Bill Polian suggested trading Manning in 2004 in the hopes of acquiring several defensive players, and “become like Tampa Bay or Baltimore.”
However, Irsay claims he shot down the idea immediately, in favor of loyalty, which he also credited for his hesitation to releasing Manning at all.
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“What people don’t realize is the pain you have and the tears you have having to make decisions you know are the right ones and must be made,” Irsay said. “At the same time, you can’t let emotion rule you. You can’t make decisions emotionally as much as you’d like to.”
Irsay even said Manning understood that the Colts had no choice but to draft Luck, who was seen as one of the best quarterback prospects since Manning in 1998.
The moves clearly paid of huge for both parties. Luck improved the Colts record by nine wins and a playoff berth, and Manning was an MVP candidate for the Denver Broncos after several neck surgeries nearly forced his retirement.
In 2004, Manning won a second consecutive AP MVP award, but the Colts fell to the New England Patriots in a disappointing 20-3 loss in the Divisional Round. That poor playoff showing was one of the reasons Manning was unfairly branded as a "regular season" quarterback, and may have contributed to Polian's thinking that the future Hall of Famer was expendable.