John Fox knows what he's doing taking on Jim Irsay


As Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne told reporters on Wednesday, the "circus" arrived in town early this week in anticipation of Peyton Manning's return. Denver Broncos coach John Fox helped add to the noise.

Fox called Colts owner Jim Irsay's words about winning one title in the Peyton Manning era a "cheap shot," which seemed to be overstating the matter. NFL Network's Jeff Darlington had the smartest take we've seen, all in 140 characters or less.

Bingo. Like Rodney Harrison finding any way to drum up a perceived lack of respect during his playing career, Fox is using fairly benign comments from Irsay to rally the troops. He's supporting Manning and putting Irsay on the defensive.

Irsay's endless tweets about the subject say it all. The Colts owner wishes this wasn't a storyline. And Irsay's objections to his words being twisted are completely fair.

As Dan Hanzus pointed out Tuesday, Irsay wasn't taking a shot at Manning. He was taking a shot at former general manager Bill Polian, and his concept of team building. (Polian predictably is annoyed.) Listen to Irsay's words to NFL Media's Albert Breer last week.

"We really just proved how now special teams and defense are winning games along with a great franchise quarterback," Irsay said about the victory over Seattle. "That's a different type of team, but that's the vision I had going into this era.

"Because it's about world championships. We got one in our era. The Steelers got two, Baltimore got two, New England got three. ... It really came down to inconsistent special teams and inconsistent defensive play, particularly against the run. The vision when I brought in (GM) Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano was to have a really well rounded team that when it gets into the playoffs and it's 20 degrees and snowing, that we're not just depending on the passing game."

Irsay essentially said the same comments to Breer that he said to USA Today. Irsay just said them more artfully. He made similar comments to the Associated Press in the offseason. They weren't a big deal then, and they shouldn't be a big deal now.

Fox probably doesn't care if the quotes were misinterpreted. He saw an opening, and he went for it. There isn't much room for nuance with bulletin board material.

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