ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Peyton Manning surveyed the landscape of his brilliant career and called one last audible. He’s retiring a champion.
A month after Denver’s triumph in Super Bowl 50, Manning informed John Elway he is following his lead and riding off into that orange sunset just like the Broncos’ boss did 17 years ago after winning his second Super Bowl.
Just shy of 40, Manning will forgo $19 million and a 19th season in the NFL, where he served as both a throwback and a transformer during a glittering career bookmarked by an unprecedented five MVP awards and dozens of passing records.
“Peyton was a player that guys wanted to play with,” Elway said. “That made us better as a team and I’m thrilled that we were able to win a championship in his final year.”
The Broncos scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Monday.
Manning leaves the league he helped popularize to supersize status as its all-time leading passer and winningest starting quarterback, the only one in NFL history to win Super Bowls with two franchises.
His first came in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998. The Colts gave up on him after a series of neck surgeries forced Manning to miss all of the 2011 season and left him without feeling in the fingertips of his right hand.
A rare superstar quarterback on the open market in 2012, Manning resettled in Denver, where, despite a right arm weakened by nerve damage, he went 50-15 with his fifth MVP award and two trips to the Super Bowl in four seasons.
So, defensive coordinators, you can breathe a little easier today: Manning will no longer be on the docket to wreck your game plans and ruin your designs on a title.
There will be no more showdowns matching skills with Tom Brady or wits with Bill Belichick – against whom he was just 6-11 but 3-2 in AFC championships.
With no more defenses to dissect, the face of the league since the turn of this century no longer has to be buried in an iPad all day, nor will he have to submerge his battered body for hours in a cold tub in a labor of love.
“I get asked a lot about my legacy,” Manning said before the Super Bowl. “For me, it’s being a good teammate, having the respect of my teammates, having the respect of the coaches and players. That’s important to me. I am not taking this for granted. I just love football.”