Peyton Manning's coach John Fox accused Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay of taking a "cheap shot" at Manning in a story published Tuesday in USA TODAY Sports.
Fox, on his weekly SiriusXM NFL Radio appearance, said the Colts owner sounded "ungrateful" by saying his team only won one Super Bowl ring during Manning's 14-year tenure in Indianapolis. Manning returns to Indianapolis on Sunday for the first time since he was released by the Colts in 2012.
"To me, in my opinion, they were disappointing and inappropriate," Fox said. "I mean, 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 has set a standard, won a Super Bowl, won division titles, won four MVP awards. I'd be thankful with that one Super Bowl ring because there's a lot of people that don't have one."
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Fox's comments are particularly interesting because of his normal measured approach to the media. Fox rarely publicly says anything controversial and is extremely conscious of saying anything that could provide any sort of bulletin board material or a competitive advantage. That he fired back at Irsay shows just how much Irsay's comments irked him and others in the Broncos' organization.
Irsay retorted late Tuesday night on Twitter.
"Those expressing negatIvity about the concept of building well rounded teams around great QBs 2 achieve Championships have negative agendas," he tweeted.
Manning will meet with reporters on Wednesday, when he will certainly be asked to respond to Irsay's comments, which included praise from the Colts' owner for the success Manning has found in Denver, and a recounting on a conversation in which Manning told Irsay he would be crazy not to draft Luck.
But in the same interview, Irsay also said the Colts, in releasing Manning before he was due a $28 million bonus, was a conscious effort to change the franchise's business model, to build a team that was better suited to win in January than put up what Irsay called "Star Wars numbers" in the regular season.
"(Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these," Irsay told USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell, showing off his 2006 Super Bowl ring. "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 (the ring)."