Jim Irsay is desperate. This is out-and-out panic. How do you reconcile the feelings of your fans with the act of giving the finger to their hero? Irsay is desperate for a way to get rid of Peyton Manning, without losing paying customers.

The getting-rid-of part is easy enough. Irsay has to decide by March 8 whether to keep Manning, and give him a $28 million bonus. Forget it.

Clearly, Irsay wants to say goodbye to Manning by then. The hard part is keeping the fans.

So Irsay is playing politics with Manning, who seems to be playing, too. But Manning is craftier at it. Irsay is awful. And Colts fans?

Well, your quarterback and your team owner are using you, playing you for the fool.

Suddenly, and from unknown sources, Sports Illustrated has reported that Manning actually had four neck surgeries, not three, and might need more. Not long ago, reports leaked out that Manning was clear to play. It's impossible to know who is leaking what, but it sure does help Irsay's side to hear that Manning's neck is more messed up than anyone had thought. And it sure helps Manning's side to hear that he's good to go.

I'm calling b.s. on both of them, though Irsay seems to be more full of it than Manning. Of course, it is on Irsay to prove to fans that Manning can't play anymore. Manning doesn't have the burden of proof.

The latest is that Irsay told the Indianapolis Star that if Manning wants to stay on with the Colts, as he always says, then he can. Irsay said he'll leave it up to Manning. He just has to agree to a lower price, and then Manning can get his wish, to stay with the Colts.

It is such hypocrisy from Irsay, who just a few weeks ago complained to the media that Manning was taking his fight to the, um, media, and shouldn't be taking his case outside the "family.'' He also complained that Manning was a politician.

Pot, meet kettle.

"We can make it work if he wants to be here,'' Irsay told the Star.

"We'd be excited to have him back and finish his career with us. I want him to make the choice . . .

"I want him to be able to make the call. He deserves that. It can work out.''

Nice try, Jim. This is just so obvious and transparent. Irsay is counting on the stupidity of Indianapolis fans. He is trying to make it appear as if Manning is the one who has to choose between money and loyalty to fans. Really, the whole decision is Irsay's.

This way, he can say, "Hey, I wanted him to stay, but money meant more to him.'' Then, Irsay can keep his $28 million, and give a bunch of it to Andrew Luck after taking him with the first pick in the draft.

It feels as if we are in the middle of a union-management negotiation.

The thing is, we're not involved. So why should we have to be subjected to this? Well, you Colts fans have to be subjected: You are the judge and jury.

The truth is, both sides know it's over. Manning is leaving. They are both just trying to spin the inevitable. Maybe Manning is holding out hope.

But Irsay has already fired coaches and Polians, gotten rid of players from the Manning era. They are starting all over, behind Luck. Irsay should just have the courage to tell fans that Manning has meant everything to the team and city, but that it's time to move on. Manning is 35 and with a bad neck, and Luck is the future.

Instead, when Manning said he didn't want to get into a fan campaign, but that he wanted to stay, Irsay angrily went on Twitter with this:

"Knowing medical situation last yr. n still paying $26,000,000.00 to #18, I've got no regrets. It was right thing2do, I'm not pissed, contrary2rumor.''

Yes, Irsay was telling fans that he had already given Manning his goodbye money. A lot of it. So they shouldn't be angry when he doesn't give more.

Owner and quarterback bickered during Super Bowl week in Indianapolis, stealing the focus from Eli Manning and the actual game. They are like little kids.

Manning's politics come without proof that he's the one doing it. Irsay just thinks you will be too dumb to see what he's doing.

It's his desperation showing. And it will backfire.

Just say goodbye to Manning. It's clean. It's neat. It's fair.

Reasonable people can understand. But bad-mouthing Manning out the door? That's just dirty politics.