POSTED: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 2:55pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 7:34pm
Peyton Manning has played his last game in a Colts uniform. After 14 seasons, Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay announced the decision to part ways this afternoon.
"It's a difficult day here of shared pain between Peyton, myself, the fans, everyone. I think in that vein as well, the 18 jersey will never be worn again by a Colt on the field," said Irsay.
At a news conference this morning, the two men said they had long discussions on how they could move forward with Manning still with the franchise, but that there were just too many questions that couldn't be answered and that led them to the decision to part ways.
"We always kept trying to come back to the circumstances that were before us. And we tried to put each other in each others shoes, and tried to realize what the situation was for the franchise, what it was for Peyton, and in the end those circumstances were too difficult to overcome" said Irsay.
"Well, I don't want to retire. And no, I don't feel like I have anything to prove. Nobody loves their job more than I do. And nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do. And I still want to play. But there's no other team I ever wanted to play for," said Manning. "Nobody's had it better than I have playing for the Indianapolis Colts these 14 years. I can't say how thankful and how fortunate to have played here, but I love playing quarterback."
Perhaps no one has had the impact on one professional sports franchise in the last two decades than Peyton Manning has had on the Indianapolis Colts.
Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008, is affectionately called by some in Indianapolis "The House that Peyton Built", and for good reason. In the years the Colts have been in Indy without Manning between 1984 and 1997, and including this last season, the Colts have had nineteen different playcallers start behind center. Since Peyton Manning was drafted in 1998 until the end of 2010 season, Manning has been the one and only quarterback that started for Indy and coming the closest anyone ever has to Brett Favre's streak of 297 consecutive starts, with 208.
The Colts had made only made three playoff appearances without Manning in Indianapolis, and eleven with him, including two trips to the Super Bowl. He hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 2007 after defeating the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl forty one.
Manning now will become the most sought after free agent in the history of the NFL. The early contenders to land Manning are Miami, Washington, Arizona, New York Jets, San Francisco, and Seattle. Manning could sign with a new team as early as today.