Peyton Manning’s last pass in an NFL game was on January 8, 2011. This date also represents his final game as an Indianapolis Colt. The team released Manning a day before he would have made a $28 million roster bonus. The funny part about this situation is that Peyton Manning and the Colts owner, Jim Irsay, both insisted that the decision was never about the money. The Colts are expected to draft Stanford quarterback, Andrew Luck, with the 1st overall pick in April’s draft. During the press conference Manning and Irsay each fought tears, and paused frequently. It was an awkward scene to see the man who was once the face of a franchise to be let go. Irsay used the word “rebuilding” and acknowledged: “We’re definitely a few years away.”
The Indianapolis Colts broke ties with the future hall of fame quarterback , Peyton Manning . This marks the end to what one could have called a perfect relationship between a player and a team. Manning was drafted by the Colts and had started every meaningful game for 13 seasons with Indianapolis. Including playoff games. That makes it a total of 227 games in a row. He single handedly took the Colts from the bottom of the NFL to one of the elite franchises and in 2007 a Super Bowl title.
In the 2009 season, Peyton Manning led the Colts to almost reaching NFL history with a 14-0 start. This fueled talks about a possible perfect season, but it was not going to happen. One could argue that was the beginning of the end for Peyton. The Colts pulled their starters against the Jets and lost the finals two games of that season. The Colts ended up losing to the Saints in the Super Bowl. During the off season Peyton Manning went on to have his first neck surgery.
After an early playoff exit in the 2010 season, Peyton Manning underwent another neck surgery to repair a damaged nerve that was causing weakness in his throwing arm. When the nerve did not heal as expected , another surgery had to be executed. Manning had two vertebrae fused in September. This forced him to miss a game for the first time in his NFL career.
So what will happen with Peyton Manning, now that he is no longer a Colt?
Manning said that he will not be retiring and hopes to be playing in the NFL at the start of next season. Here is a quote that stuck to me: “I will always be a Colt. I always will be. That’ll never change.” The 35 year old Manning who is now a free agent will definitely be generating interest from at least a half dozen teams in the NFL. This of course, if he is able to play again. Of those teams the biggest rumors are starting to come from the New York Jets, this is because Manning’s former offensive coordinator worked for the Jets as a consultant last season. Manning would want to join a team that is ready to win so this is going to make his decision interesting. Other teams that have been rumored as possible destinations are: Arizona, Miami, Tennessee, and Washington. No matter where he ends up it is going to be a very odd scene to see Peyton Manning on the field wearing something else besides a horseshoe on his helmet.
Whichever team does end up signing the future Hall of Fame quarterback will be lucky to have one of four players with more than 50,000 passing yards , one of three quarterbacks with more than 350 TD passes and one of two quarterbacks with more than 200 starts in a row. He single handedly broke all of the Indianapolis Colts franchise’s major career passing records that were previously held by the Hall of fame quarterback Johny Unitas.
One thing is certain about Peyton Manning’s legacy in Indianapolis , no one will ever wear his number 18 jersey every again. When the clocks strike midnight on March 13th, NFL teams will be able to sign free agents. I truly believe that Manning fully intends to play for another team, this will arguably make him the most sought-after player on the market. At the very least, he will be the most-watched player as free agency plays out, which is saying something considering no one knows if he will be able to play and the fact that he didn’t even throw a single pass last season.