Peyton Manning's future as the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts remains in limbo, but if the four-time NFL MVP can make a full recovery from his third neck surgery, then he'll be back for a 15th season with the team.
"If the situation is where he's back and healthy," Irsay told Rich Eisen, "I see him come back and playing here."
The Colts would have secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft had they lost to the Texans, but they now have matched the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams with two wins this season. Regardless of where Indianapolis picks, many have speculated it will take a quarterback.
"I think there's a lot of speculation about the draft pick and all those sorts of things," Irsay said. "I think what people have to realize is this: The likes of Peyton Manning to be seen again is not coming, if ever, for a very long time. You're not going to go in this draft -- or the next draft -- and get a Peyton Manning."
The Colts announced earlier this week that Manning wouldn't participate in practice the rest of the season. Because of his third and most invasive neck operation, Manning has missed the entire season after starting the first 208 regular-season games of his career.
Manning signed a five-year, $90 million contract before this season, and with a $28 million option due to the quarterback March 8, five days before the start of the league year, Irsay was asked if money would play a factor into the Colts' decision-making process.
"I don't see that being the issue," Irsay said. "Look, I paid him $26 million this year, and he didn't play. I knew it was an iffy situation going in, in terms of if he's healthy and if he's ready to play. ... The draft will be what the draft is. There's a lot of situations that can unfold from here. If there's a great, young quarterback there, we wouldn't hesitate to take him."
Irsay has previously said that he'd ideally like to have Manning and his predecessor on the roster next year, and it's something the two have discussed, though Irsay didn't provide details on their conversations.
"We've always been on the same page," Irsay said. "When the neck injury came up, it was him and I who really sat down and got the contract done. He really wanted to make sure there were other players that were around him so he could have greatness on the field. That's the kind of unselfish guy that he is.
"I don't see the numbers being a problem in terms of this. This is really about, is he going to be able to come back and be the old Peyton Manning and play at a very high level?"
For now, there is no clear answer, but Irsay hopes to have a better sense in the near future.
"These things are always difficult whenever you look at the history of great players and great franchises coming towards the end of some eras," Irsay said. "It's never easy; you try to manage your way through it. This has been a very complex and difficult situation, and it will remain one. But answers will come in the offseason."