Manning, Irsay fly back to Indy together

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Arizona, Miami, Tennessee and the New York Jets all have been rumored as possible spots, and Manning’s former longtime offensive coordinator Tom Moore did work with the Jets as a consultant less season.

It’s still possible, however unlikely, that Manning could return to Indy for a lower price if he can prove he’s healthy.

“This isn’t an ankle, it isn’t a shoulder. Often times the NFL is criticized for putting someone out there at risk, and I’m not going to doing that,” Irsay said in January. “I think he and I just need to see where his health is because this isn’t about money or anything else. It’s about his life and his long-term health.”

But based on some back-and-forth comments made by Manning and Irsay of late, indications were that the two were squabbling.

With the Colts in full rebuilding mode, Irsay was expected by many to play for the future by allowing Manning to try to chase a second Super Bowl ring somewhere else.

Manning’s impending departure marks the end of a remarkably successful era that included the 2006 league title.

He started every meaningful game for 13 seasons in Indy, 227 straight including the playoffs, and took the Colts from perennial also-ran to one of the NFL’s model franchises.

In the two decades pre-dating 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 Super Bowl since moving from Baltimore in 1984.

Indy broke the league record for most regular-season wins in a decade (115), tied Dallas’ league record for most consecutive playoff appearances (nine) and the success changed Indy from a basketball town to an NFL town.

Manning is one of four players with more than 50,000 yards passing, one of three with more than 350 touchdown passes and one of two quarterbacks with more than 200 consecutive starts. He broke all of the franchise’s major career passing records, previously held by Hall of Fame quarterback John Unitas, and he may not be finished.

In 2009, Manning placed the Colts on the cusp of football history with a 14-0 start.

It’s been mostly bad news ever since. The Colts pulled their starters against the New York 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 surgeries.

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 together in September, a surgery that forced him to miss the first game of his career. There are still questions about the strength of Manning’s arm.

Still, he has insisted he plans to play football next season.

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