Colts fans are in a tough spot – one of their favorite players is getting some bad advice, and the owner just can’t stop making it worse by talking and tweeting.
Running back Jonathan Taylor wants out of Indianapolis because the franchise tag calculus in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement artificially depresses running back pay. Colts owner Jim Irsay feels it is necessary to rub Taylor’s nose in that fact – reducing him to a widget level functionary in the NFL’s machine during poorly phrased comments Saturday night.
There is no correct side of this standoff. Taylor is wrong, AND Irsay is wrong.
Taylor is capable of exploding for points at any moment. He is fast, elusive, and unique, but he is also entering the fourth year of his rookie contract – and will either be paid $4.3 million to ball out for the Colts, or he will sit. Irsay could do what most owners do – eschew the public eye and choose to not interfere with the potential success of the franchise he owns – but he indulges in extemporaneous explanation.
Taylor has asked for a trade, but Irsay knows his value is much greater to the Colts than what they might be able to get in return for a player who will require the same deal with someone else he is demanding from the Colts.
Irsay is also feeling the pressure of fellow owners who will be most upset with their brother owner if he costs them money by negotiating an off schedule extension with a running back that would elevate the tag value for any running back they may choose to tag.
Taylor has put himself in an untenable position in an effort to compel an owner to do the right thing by members of his fraternity. He needs to face facts – a Quixotic assault on a billionaire windmill is futile, foolish, and possibly requiring him to sacrifice his career and legacy.
Fans have a problem supporting Taylor because 99.44% of them would LOVE to earn $4.3 million at whatever job they have, and next year a healthy Taylor would almost certainly be tagged for an income of nearly $11 million. That’s not ideal for Taylor, but that’s lotto level cash for a teacher, police officer, or firefighter.
There is also the reality that owners only get removed by costing other owners money or relentless embarrassment. Irsay will run the Colts until he passes over the threshold to a life everlasting where all angels have custom cruisers for meetings. Colts fans are either pleased with Irsay – or must feign pleasure with Irsay’s ownership because there is no changing it.
Irsay is verbally inglorious, and never has that been more true than when he said Saturday night, “If I die tonight and Jonathan Taylor is out of the league, no one’s gonna miss us. The league goes on. We know that. The National Football (League) rolls on. It doesn’t matter who comes and who goes, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.”
We know what Irsay meant. The NFL has been around for over a century, and no one plays, coaches, or owns forever. Vince Lombardi, Jim Brown, Red Grange, Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor, and every other hall of famer was forced to leave the NFL for one reason or another.
Marshall Faulk was a very good back for the Colts, was dealt and the Colts went from 3-13 to 13-3. Faulk’s replacement was Edgerrin James, and when he was allowed to leave via free agency, the Colts replaced him with Joseph Addai and a Super Bowl Championship was won!
We get it. NFL glory is fleeting, as is the wealth it generates. For all of Irsays swag and bag, even he can’t take it with him.
The way the comment was accepted was – “Taylor is a widget – replaceable and disposable – like all players.” That is a message that negatively resonates with Taylor as well as a locker room filled with men, not widgets.
Petulance should be expected from 24 year olds who haven’t learned the immutable truths and vagaries of business – or the quirks of billionaires like Irsay. It takes an adult to explain things to a player like Taylor. Irsay could have been that adult, but he chose to indulge in an honest reckoning of NFL business practices from the lofty perch of his cruiser.
The World According to Jim is not compatible with the world according to his players. That is true for each of the other 30 owners (Green Bay, of course, has no specific owner), but the other owners know it is unnecessary, toxic, and contrary to success to shout it into microphones or on Twitter.
This dust-up was easily avoided and will likely not have a winner. Sadly, the biggest losers will be the fans.