Peyton Manning’s 14-year career as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts is over, owner Jim Irsay announced at a Wednesday news conference.
“The 18 jersey will not be worn again by a Colt on the field,” Irsay said.
“We both wanted to be together, it’s been very difficult and just tearing at our hearts to try to look a the situation and find the best solution and I think Peyton’s been completely unselfish.”
After reports an announcement was imminent, Manning and Irsay reportedly flew together to Indianapolis from Florida Tuesday night.
“For 14 years the only profession I’ve ever known is Colts football… I’ve been a Colt for almost all my adult life. But, like in life, we know that things don’t last forever,” Manning said. “Jim and I have had conversation about where we are today. And we know we have to take the next step. It is not easy for him and it is not easy for me.”
Since being drafted first overall by the Colts in 1998, the 36-year-old has set every franchise passing record, and led the team to eight division titles, two AFC Championships, and victory in Super Bowl XLI. But medical procedures on Manning’s neck forced him to miss all of this season.
With the Colts finishing with an NFL-worst 2-14 record, and Manning set to receive a US$28-million bonus on Thursday, speculation foamed late in the season that the Colts were ready to move on. The team is expected to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall at the NFL draft on April 26.
“In the end, before we ever got into any specifics, it has never been about money,” Irsay said. “It has never been about those type of things.”
Manning, who has 54,828 passing yards, 399 touchdowns and 198 interceptions in his career, will now enter the market as the most sought-after free agent as his arm strength continues to improve.
Teams like the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and New York Jets are the supposed front-runners. The front page of the New York Daily News’ Wednesday sports section made it clear what the Jets should do.
Matthew Scianitti, The National Post