Jim Irsay: Losing His Goddamn Mind or World Class Actor & Tanking Genius?
New Colts article dropped behind a paywall on The Athletic yesterday, which I paid $1.99 to read because journalists support journalists. I'm not sure the rules about posting quotes from paywall articles like I normally would when citing a story, so I'll just give a brief synopsis.
The Athletic (paraphrased by me) - Jim Irsay had long been vehemently against owners meddling in football decisions. But then the Colts got blown out by the Jaguars as 15-point favorites in Week 18 of the 2021-2022 season in a game that the Colts needed to clinch the playoffs, and Jim Irsay lost his mind. He had essentially gotten rid of Carson Wentz before that game even ended. From there on, he slowly lost trust in everyone. It got worse as this season went on. He no longer trusted GM Chris Ballard, and started making football decisions himself, which culminated in the hiring of ESPN Analyst Jeff Saturday as the Colts Head Coach. The Colts kept losing. Colts coaches across the team slowly started leaving for other jobs. And now the Colts are 4-11-1. If the season ended now they would have the 5th overall pick in the NFL Draft, and that could get even better with a loss to the Texans this Sunday.
To the layman, it appears that Jim Irsay is losing his goddamn mind. Despite being a cartoon character, Irsay has been a successful NFL owner for several years because he's always trusted his staff. But then Carson Wentz melted his brain, and it all went to shit. Could have happened to anyone. The Colts now appear to be at the mercy of decisions made by a lunatic drug-addict for as many more years (or months) the spry 63 year old Jim Irsay has left on this earth.
Or is that what he wants you think?
Are these the ramblings of a 63 year old loon?
Or Julliard level acting from a man who has fooled the NFL into thinking that the big dumb Colts will be fumbling around the basement of the AFC South for the foreseeable future, when in reality he has the league in the palm of his rough calloused hand (he used to be a power lifter so that reference makes sense).
It's my 2023 New Years Resolution to not use the phrase "masterclass" in a single blog, so instead I'll ask - Is Jim Irsay failing as an owner, or is he putting on a "high level lesson" in tanking?
Let's talk facts. Something that nobody on the internet wants to do anymore. Jim Irsay took ownership of the Indianapolis Colts after the passing of his father Robert Irsay. But he wasn't just "given the Colts". He took the Colts. Took them away from his evil step-mother after defeating that bitch in a vicious legal battle over ownership of the team. In the end, Irsay claimed what was rightfully his, and became the youngest owner in the NFL at age 37.
His first order of business: Drafting Peyton Manning
He could have drafted Ryan Leaf. Someone who Irsay has much more in common with than the clean cut aww shucks Peyton Manning, but he refrained. He drafted Manning. Drafting Peyton Manning = 13 years of successful Jim Irsay ownership.
But drafting Peyton Manning is kind of aside the point. Let's focus on what happened after Peyton Manning. Manning's contract ran out after the 2010 season. Manning dealt with a neck injury in 2011 that made him unable to play. The Colts actually put the franchise tag on Manning for the 2011 season, but it was becoming clear that he would never again suit up for the Indianapolis Colts. The franchise needed a fresh start.
Luckily for the Colts, one of the most sure fire draft picks in the history of the NFL was entering the draft next season in Andrew Luck. And what did Jim Irsay do? He SHAMLESSLY trotted out the three-headed monster of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, and Kerry Collins to lead the Colts to a 2-14 season, and the #1 pick in the NFL Draft.
Tanking does not get any better than that.
And you can't hold Andrew Luck retiring early against Irsay. It was 1000% the right decision. Talentwise, he was everything the Colts could have hoped for. Teams spend decades in mediocrity trying to find "the guy" at quarterback. The Colts spent 1. They identified their target, dressed 2 insurance salesmen and 1 AARP member up as football players, put them under center, and sucked their balls off for 16 games. A good tank indeed.
He's tanked before. Who's to say what is happening with the Colts this season is not another brilliant move from a brilliant owner? The problem is this 2022-2023 season tank wasn't so simple. The Colts still had hope going into the year. They still have some good talent on their roster. Irsay had to give it a shot. He signed Matt Ryan, who many people thought still had a couple good years left in him. A few people even had the Colts as dark horses to make a run at the Super Bowl.
Fast forward to week 10. The Colts reached a point in their season where they were 3-5-1. You can't just blatantly tank from there. Not in the AFC South. All you need is 8 or 9 wins to make the playoffs. Tanking from that position would be unprecedented. Small minded Colts fans like myself still had hope. But in reality, what the fuck is a 8-8-1 season, and a loss to the Bengals on Wild Card weekend going to do for the Colts? Absolutely nothing.
MAYBE.. just maybe, Jim Irsay knew this. Sure, if he wanted to, he could have kept trusting Chris Ballard to make decisions. Maybe the Colts could have made the playoffs 2 out of the next 4 years. Maybe they'd win one playoff game before getting pumped by the Chiefs in the divisional round. But Irsay knows better than to settle for that. He knows that the Colts need a rebuild, and they need it immediately. So what does the mad genius do?
He blows the whole thing up. He pretends he's going crazy. He drinks a pint of whisky, slaps a fentanyl patch on his arm, and takes the podium. He spews nonsense to a room of confused reporters for a full hour. He says he's glad Jeff Saturday doesn't have NFL experience, and how he's just what the Colts need. He gives some weird quote about rocket science. He compares Colts GM Chris Ballard to Michael Jordan. And the idiots at The Athletic fell for all of it.
He might not even be done. He might have the balls to do the whole thing again next year. Lord knows the Colts have enough positions to fill.
Maybe Jim Irsay has the NFL right where he wants them. Maybe a few years from now, the Colts will have another franchise quarterback, and a roster stacked with young talent. Maybe we'll look back on this season as the most masterful tank job in NFL history. Maybe, as we speak, Jim Irsay sits behind a comically sized mahogany desk in his office, reading the article about him in The Athletic. Fading in an out of consciousness as multiple different high powered opiates coarse through his veins. He laughs to himself because everyone has taken the bait. Maybe Jim Irsay is the brightest football mind of our generation. Maybe Jim Irsay knows exactly what he's doing.
But more likely than that he's just dumb and high.