Dear Jim Irsay,
This must be a very difficult time for you, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts. You have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, a holder of myriad records who brought your city its first Super Bowl victory and who, everyone seems to agree, is a nice (and occasionally funny) guy. Last July, you rewarded the future Hall of Famer with a five-year, $90 million contract. But then a neck injury forced him to miss last season, and your team performed so miserably as to earn the top pick in the NFL draft, which surely will be Stanford's Andrew Luck, one of the most promising college quarterbacks since — well, since Manning.
Some pundits think you should start Manning next season and groom Luck, but a growing chorus of sportswriters say it's "a virtual certainty" you're going to release Manning, which will cost you tens of millions but also save you tens of millions more, and let some other team take the risk on a 35-year-old QB with a tweaked neck. I beg of you, please, don't consider it another minute. Do it right now — and not as a courtesy to Manning, or so your team and its fans can move forward, but rather for all of us here in Washington, D.C., who can't bear to read one more article in the Washington Post about Peyton Manning definitely, possibly, maybe, conceivably wearing a Redskins uniform next season.
In just the past week, our hometown paper of record has published more than a dozen stories on the subject. Sally Jenkins' "Peyton Manning: Washington Redskins should get him as soon as he’s available" was followed, a day later, by Jason Reid's "Washington Redskins need a quarterback, but Peyton Manning not the answer," which was followed, a day later, by Tracee Hamilton's "Peyton Manning isn’t the answer to the Redskins’ quarterback question." That's three columns in three days on the very same subject, two of which agree with each other. Thank goodness the Post's sports columnists aren't among those being offered buyouts. No redundancies there whatsoever.
If the paper's columnists are riled up, you can only imagine how its bloggers have pounced on the "story." LaVar Arrington, of Hard Hits, argued the 'Skins shouldn't gamble on Manning's health. Cindy Boren, of The Early Lead, transcribed Eli Manning's comments to David Lettermen about Peyton's future. Mike Jones, aka The Insider, said a lack of talent could hurt the 'Skins chances of landing Manning. And then there's the content machine known as D.C. Sports Bog. Dan Steinberg has posted about Manning on Mike Shanahan, Joe Gibbs on Manning, Steve Young on Manning, Chris Mortensen on Manning, and Joe Theismann on Manning, while also asking "Why would Peyton Manning want to play for the Redskins?" and "Would Peyton Manning avoid Redskins because of Eli?"
Remember, all these stories have been posted since early last week. No wonder, then, that other D.C. media outlets are feeling pressure to write about all things Manning, however tangential. Yesterday, for instance, DCist's Martin Austermuhle wrote a post about Mayor Vince Gray's comment, on Bruce DePuyt's show, that Manning isn't a good fit for the Redskins. So now we're quoting the mayor — who, with all due respect, doesn't know any more about football than you or I do — on Peyton Manning? Who's next? Bryan Weaver? Before you know it, we'll be quoting Hill interns and parking attendants and, god forbid, media critics.
Not that I fault Austermuhle or DePuyt for joining Manning Mania. The Post, through blunt journalistic force, has made Manning-to-the-Redskins an inescapable topic in this town. The rest of us have no choice but to tag along, however unwillingly. Which is why, Mr. Irsay, you need to release Peyton Manning today, so that he can sign with another team and end this speculative madness, this catastrophic waste of CMS space. Only then can we journalists resume covering the things that truly matter, like Marion Barry's Twitter account or the latest spurious study to rank D.C. above New York.
UPDATE: Irsay has heard my call! Actually, not so much. Last night, after this post had been scheduled to publish in the a.m., news broke that Manning remains welcome in Indianapolis — if he restructures his contract. “We can make it work if he wants to be here,” Irsay told the Indianapolis Star. “We’d be excited to have him back and finish his career with us." And where did I read about this? In the Post, of course.
So consider this an open letter to Manning now: Please restructure your contract as quickly as possibly, because you're getting everyone's hopes up — and down — at the Post.