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January 6, 2012

Irsay: Colts are in 'rebuilding stage'

INDIANAPOLIS —  So are the Indianapolis Colts in a retooling or a rebuilding mode heading into the offseason?

If you ask the players, they would prefer to use the retooling philosophy. In their minds, get some injured players back and the Colts can be right back in the thick of the AFC South title race and once again be a contender for the AFC championship.

Team owner Jim Irsay, though, sees a tougher road ahead.

“Clearly we are in a rebuilding stage, there is no sugar-coating the fact that there are areas of talent that we need,” Irsay said earlier this week.

“So the decisions that are coming up are crucial, and obviously, when you’re looking at general manager, head coach, having the number one pick in the draft and knowing that you’re rebuilding in some areas, that is about as massive as it gets. But we are up for the challenge, and I’m excited about the future.”

The Colts’ owner wants a general manager with a long-range view and a plan for restoring the Colts after this year’s 2-14 record. He wants someone with a sense of the franchise’s place in the community.

Still, Irsay made one thing very clear. The buck stops with him when it comes to making the final call on all of the pressing issues that are currently facing the Colts’ franchise.

“When it comes to some of those major decisions, it ultimately has always been presented to me that, ‘This is what we’re thinking, but it’s your call.’ That is the way it has to be,” he said.

The first of those “major decisions” will be deciding on just who will take over as the day-to-day leader of the franchise.

Potential candidates to be the Colts’ new general manager include Dave Gettleman (Giants), Eric DeCosta (Ravens), Reggie McKenzie (Packers), John Dorsey (Packers), Les Snead (Falcons); Jason Licht (Patriots), Tom Gamble (49ers), Duke Tobin (Bengals).

Tobin is a former scout for Indianapolis and the son of former Colts GM Bill Tobin. The Colts, meanwhile, have requested permission from Baltimore officials to talk to DeCosta.

Whomever is hired will have to make the call on whether to keep or jettison coach Jim Caldwell and his coaching staff. But that’s only the only tough call that Irsay and a new general manager will have to address in the coming months.

Quarterback Peyton Manning, 35, is due a $28 million option bonus on March 8 that triggers the final four years of his five-year, $90 million contract.

If the Colts opt to not pay it and Manning declines to push back the date, the NFL’s only four-time MVP becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Is Manning optimistic he’ll be where he needs to be, physically, in early March?

“We’ll see,” he said. “I may, but I’m probably not going to share.”

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