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