DENVER - Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox has fired back at Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay for the owner's comments suggesting he wanted to move on from former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning because while Manning's "Star Wars" stats are great, Super Bowl rings are better.
Fox called Irsay's comments a "bit of a cheap shot" and Fox's own comments are likely to add fuel to the red-hot hype over the Sunday night game between the Broncos and Colts. This will be Manning's first time to play against his old team at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis since he was cut.
Fox's comment occurred during Fox's weekly interview with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan on the Moving the Chains show on Sirius XM NFL Radio. Irsay's comment on Manning's tenure with the Colts was published in Tuesday's USA Today.
"I saw the comments, and to be honest with you I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot," Fox told the hosts. "To me, in my opinion, they were disappointing and inappropriate. Peyton would never say anything, he's too classy to do that, but they sounded a little ungrateful and unappreciative to me, for a guy that's set a standard, won a Super Bowl [for the Colts], won division titles, won four MVP awards. I'd be thankful of that one Super Bowl ring because a lot of people don't have one."
After Manning sat out the 2011-12 season because of multiple neck surgeries, the Colts released the future Hall of Fame QB rather than pay a $28 million contract bonus. Indianapolis took Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top pick in the 2012 draft.
Irsay's quote about Manning occurred while he was discussing the change from Manning to Luck.
"We've changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these," Irsay said, pointing to his Super Bowl ring.
"(Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these," Irsay continued. "Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated.
"You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this," Irsay said, again pointing to his ring.
During Fox's radio appearance, Miller and Kirwan pointed out that Lucas Oil Stadium might not have been built without the winning tradition Manning orchestrated during his 14 years in Indianapolis.
"I think any time you're able to get that done as an organization, there's got to be great commitment from your city, your fans," Fox said. "I know at least the feedback that I've gotten, I don't live in Indy, but we do spend some time there during the combine every year. He did a lot of great things in that community and for that organization."
Fox said Manning is too focused on his renowned game preparation to get caught up in the frenzied coverage surrounding his return to Indianapolis.
"He's the most prepared player I think I've ever been around," the head coach said. "He's a guy that raises all boats in that locker room. Nobody cares more about winning than Peyton Manning. I think his teammates feel that, and it doesn't even just mean offense -- I'm talking about offense, defense, kicking game, everybody down there.
"So he's going to stay focused. He's not going to get involved in the circus. All his focus will be on the preparation that's going to take us to beat the Indianapolis Colts," Fox added.