Manning politely declined to adress the comments during his own conference call, but former Colts general manager Bill Polian had no problem firing back at Irsay. In his own conversation with USA Today, the architect of teams that had seven consecutive 12-win seasons defended his record in Indianapolis — including six division titles and two Super Bowl appearances — and challenged Irsay's new regime to match that success.
"It's up to them to meet or exceed that standard," Polian told reporter Jim Corbett. "I wish them well. But nobody can ever erase what we did."
Irsay also fell under fire on Twitter from outposts as varied as Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla, former Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe and former Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton — a friend of Manning's dating back to their days together at the University of Tennessee.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano, meanwhile, had his owner's back.
"I don't think there is anybody that Mr. Irsay respects and cares for more than Peyton," Pagano told Denver media during a conference call. "What can't you say about Peyton? What he's done for this organization, what he's done for this city, our fans, what he's done for football — it's off the charts. And certainly all I know is that our owner has the utmost respect and love and passion for that guy and always will."
Irsay spoke about retiring Manning's No. 18 jersey and even hinted at a possible statue being erected in his honor in the future. The Colts plan to honor their former quarterback prior to Sunday's game, and Irsay said that ceremony is "the tip of the iceberg."
But once it's over, Indianapolis will be challenged with stopping Manning. It's something nobody else has been able to do during the Broncos' 6-0 start.
And there's no misconstruing Irsay's respect for the Colts' next opponent.
"We're going to, obviously, have our hands full playing them," Irsay said. "I think 16-0 is certainly within their reach the way they're playing."