Manning, Colts announce end of 14-year partnership 26

Posted: March 7, 2012, 5:59 PM ; Updated: March 7, 2012, 6:00 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Now that Peyton Manning's 14-year run with the Indianapolis Colts is over, the only four-time MVP in NFL history will turn his attention to finding a new team.

Manning and the Colts ended their successful partnership with a tearful goodbye Wednesday, when team owner Jim Irsay released the star quarterback rather than pay a whopping $28 million bonus while there are lingering questions about his health.

"We all know that nothing lasts forever," Manning said. "Times change, circumstances change, and that's the reality of playing in the NFL."

Another reality: Manning is sure to command plenty of offers on the open market as one of the most coveted free agents in league history - assuming he shows he is fine after a series of neck operations that forced him to miss all of last season.

Arizona, Miami, Seattle, Tennessee, Washington and the New York Jets all have been rumored as possible destinations; Manning's former offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, Tom Moore, worked for the Jets as a consultant last season.

"I'm throwing it pretty well. I've still got some work to do; I've got some progress to make," Manning said. "But I've come a long way. I've really worked hard. I can't tell you the hours and the time I've put in."

He turns 36 this month, but his importance to the Colts' success was never more apparent than in 2011, when their record plummeted to 2-14 without him.

"Peyton is on the mend to try to resume his career," Irsay noted.

Manning and Irsay each paused frequently, fighting tears and their voices shaking, as they appeared together at a news conference at the Colts' team complex. It was an unusual and awkward scene, two men whose NFL lives have been so closely intertwined, standing side-by-side in jackets and ties as they told the world they were splitting up.

"This has not been easy for Jim," Manning said, "and this has certainly not been easy for me."

A few hours after the news conference, the Colts issued a statement giving the official news. The stark first sentence: "The Indianapolis Colts today released quarterback Peyton Manning."

Indianapolis needed to cut Manning this week to avoid paying him a bonus from the $90 million, five-year contract he signed in July, although both owner and player insisted the decision was not really about money. The Colts are widely expected to begin moving on by taking Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft.

Irsay repeatedly used the word "rebuilding" and acknowledged: "We're definitely a few years away."

Manning won't retire and hopes to be playing in the NFL at the start of next season.

Still, he said Wednesday: "I'll always be a Colt. I always will be. That'll never change."

The announcement was made in a room at the Colts' complex normally reserved for celebratory news conferences, such as the hiring of a new coach or general manager - two other major steps Irsay took recently. The room is lined with banners honoring some of the team's greatest stars, including, of course, Manning himself, flanked by Pro Football Hall of Famer members Eric Dickerson and John Mackey.

Clearly, this was not an easy goodbye for Manning. He even got choked up while discussing all of the Colts employees he'll no longer be around, pausing to collect himself while noting: "We've got the greatest equipment guys in the world."

"I think about those type of relationships - not necessarily always on the field, and the touchdown throw to win the game. It's the behind the scenes. The laughs. The stories. The times spent together. Those are the memories. Those aren't going away. Those will be with me for the rest of my life."

Manning forever will be thought of around these parts as No. 18, the quarterback who led the Colts to an NFL championship, barking out signals while waving his arms at the line of scrimmage to change a play after reading the defense - something he did as well as any QB.

He'll be remembered, too, for his record four MVP awards, his 50,000 yards passing and his 200 consecutive starts. Most of all, Manning will be the guy in the horseshoe helmet who turned around a franchise and transformed a basketball-loving city into a football hotbed that hosted the Super Bowl a month ago.

And during that Super Bowl week, the hottest topic of conversation was Peyton Manning, not his younger brother Eli, who wound up leading the New York Giants to the title.

"There will be no other Peyton Manning," Irsay said, adding that he hoped Wednesday's joint appearance would serve to "honor incredible memories and incredible things that he's done for the franchise, for the city, for the state."

This marks the end of a strong marriage between a player and team.

After being a No. 1 draft pick himself, Manning started every meaningful game for 13 seasons in Indianapolis - 227 in a row, including the playoffs - and took the Colts from perennial also-ran to one of the NFL's model franchises and the 2007 Super Bowl title.

In the two decades predating his arrival, the Colts won 116 games, one division title and made the playoffs three times. With Manning taking snaps, the Colts have won 150 games, eight division titles, two AFC championships and the franchise's first league championship since moving from Baltimore in 1984.

Indianapolis broke the NFL record for most regular-season wins in a decade (115), and tied Dallas' mark for most consecutive playoff appearances (nine).

Manning is one of just four players to reach 50,000 yards passing, one of three with more than 350 TD tosses, and one of two quarterbacks with more than 200 starts in a row. He broke all of the franchise's major career passing records, previously held by Hall of Fame quarterback John Unitas.

In 2009, Manning led the Colts to the cusp of NFL history with a 14-0 start, fueling talk of an unbeaten season.

But it has been mostly bad news ever since.

The Colts pulled their starters against the Jets and lost the final two games that season. Indy then wound up losing to New Orleans in the Super Bowl. During the offseason, Manning had the first of his neck operations.

Then, after making an early playoff exit in the 2010 season, 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 quickly as expected, Manning had two vertebrae fused in September, an operation that forced him to miss a game for the first time in his NFL career. There are still questions about the strength of Manning's arm.

But given all that he's accomplished, there are sure to be new suitors.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Guys, The Colts Had No Choice. I'm a die-hard Colts fan too!!!

I hate his choice of Denver.
He needs to change to the Dolphins, now.


I am the biggest Peyton Manning fan you will ever meet! I was so sad when found out the colts where dumping him after all he did for them!! >:( I want him to come to my hometown team the KC Cheifs! He can help them so much like Joe Montanna did for them! Peyton PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE COME TO THE CHEIFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to say no he needs the Dophins.

I hope he comes to the Dolphins! Go Dolphins!

They're talking about him going to Denver!

If you question why the Colts released Peyton Manning, it is not because he won't be that good anymore. The Colts had to pay Peyton the 28 million dollar bonus so they released him so they wouldn't have to pay him!

Why would they get rid of Manning? FalconLasertag1 is SO right! He has at LEAST 3 years left in him. Come on, Indianapolis. You just lost one of the best QBs in the NFL.

Think about it. They can have a quarterback who (might) be great right now and who (might) have 3 years left on him, or, they can take Andrew Luck, who will (probably) take a year or two to become great, and then he can (probably) carry the team for the next 15 years. They couldnt have both (too much money). If I had to choose, I think the choice is pretty clear. Good job, Irsay.

P.S. Who in their right mind would want to pay a 38 year old quarterback 28million after coming off of FOUR neck surguries?

money on the floor

You say what?!?!



To bad he was good.

Colts are STUPID! There's still at least three years left in Manning. But I suppose Andrew Luck might be good. I guess we'll see.

Maybe the Colts will be lucky with Luck. ;)

I think this was smart of the Colts. It's still sad though. hopefully go RGIII.

I think the Colts made a good choice of letting him go to. I just hope the Colts do not do something odd and not pick Andrew Luck. If they do not the Colts will be in a 0-14 situation agian.

Are you crazy?!? Why do people think it's a good move?

Best wishes to Peyton manning. Still don't know why the Colts let him go.

TO BAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wouldn't it be funny to see him go to the Packers as a backup.

This is sad. :(

Not if your a Redskins fan. GO REDSKINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah! He was a legend!

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