Peyton Manning is going out on top. The NFL's all-time leading passer officially announced his retirement on Monday, bringing his storied career to a close just a month after he captured his second Super Bowl win.
"There's just something about 18 years. Eighteen is a good number. And today I retire from pro football," Manning said in his farewell press conference.
The Denver Broncos released statements on Sunday from general manager John Elway, head coach Gary Kubiak and president Joe Ellis.
Though Manning struggled in Super Bowl 50, he's one of just 12 signal callers to win multiple titles as a starter, and is the only starting quarterback to win a ring with two different franchises. The victory over the Carolina Panthers was also the 200th of his career, moving him past Brett Favre and into first place on the all-time quarterback wins leaderboard.
The news of his retirement has been expected for a while. Manning was set to make $19 million if he was still on the roster when the new league year begins on March 9, a steep price for a quarterback who will turn 40 on March 24.
Manning was prepared for this being his final season, too. He told Bill Belichick that "this might be my last rodeo" after the Broncos beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. On Monday before the Super Bowl, it was reported that Manning had told his close friends that he expected Super Bowl 50 to be his final game. His father, Archie Manning, also said he expected his son to hang it up after the Super Bowl win.
After the game, Manning's teammates praised the future Hall of Famer and reflected on his incredible legacy.
"[He] has a legacy that makes him one of the greatest quarterbacks and makes for a nice ending to a career," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
Injured offensive tackle Ryan Clady echoed many people's sentiments when he noted that now seemed to be the perfect time to walk away from the game.
"I don't know why he wouldn't retire now," Clady said. "Man, he's played a long time. ... He understood what he needed to do to win this championship, and that was just let the defense do its thing. I think it's good to go out on top. I don't know why he wouldn't."
In his final season, Manning completed just 59.8 percent of his passes and threw 17 interceptions against just nine touchdowns in 10 regular season games.
Despite his noticeable decline, Manning really had nothing left to prove in his 18th year as an NFL quarterback. He threw for 71,940 career yards, tossed 539 regular season touchdowns and sported a career quarterback rating of 96.5.
Manning holds numerous NFL records, including most touchdown passes in a season (55) or career, most passing yards in a season (5,477) or career, and most quarterback wins including the playoffs (200).
In addition to the Super Bowl victory, Manning's final season was marred by scandals relating to PEDs and the resurfacing of sexual harassment allegations dating back to his days at the University of Tennessee. He vehemently denied the Al Jazeera report about alleged HGH use, and has made no comment about the sexual harassment story that's been brought back to the public eye in recent weeks. The fallout from either scandal remains unknown.
Since being made the first overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, Manning has been named to 14 Pro Bowls, has been named a first-team All-Pro seven times, and has been the league MVP a record five times. He led the NFL in passing yards three times and was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year twice.
The full statements released on Sunday:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
"Peyton Manning's extraordinary career was driven by his talent, an incredible work ethic, and an unwavering desire to be the best and ended so perfectly for him with a Super Bowl victory. Peyton's competitive fire and love of the game made him a legendary player who thrilled fans for a generation. He has served as a great representative of the NFL both on the field and in his community. We are forever grateful for Peyton's unmatched contributions to the game and know that his success will continue in the next phase of his life."
Broncos GM John Elway
"When you look at everything Peyton has accomplished as a player and person, it's easy to see how fortunate we've been to have him on our team. Peyton was everything that we thought he was and even moreânot only for the football team but in the community.
"There's no question that his work ethic is what made him into one of the great quarterbacks of all time. All the film study Peyton did and the process that he went through with game planning and understanding what the other teams did was second-to-none.
"Peyton was a player that guys wanted to play with. That made us better as a team, and I'm thrilled that we were able to win a championship in his final year. Peyton won a lot of awards and set a lot of records, but to me, what he helped our team accomplish during the last four years is what stands out the most.
"I'm very thankful Peyton chose to play for the Denver Broncos, and I congratulate him on his Hall of Fame career."
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak
"It was a blessing to coach Peyton Manning. Nobody worked harder at the game and nobody prepared harder than Peyton. His preparation was the best I've ever seen with how he went about his business. There was nothing like his work habits. Each and every week, he did everything he could to get ready to play not only against the defense but even against the coordinator.
"After competing against Peyton many, many times, I already had great respect for him. But being with him this season, going through what we went through and accomplishing what we accomplishedâthat was special. He and I battled together and along the way we talked about dreaming that it could end the way it ended. And I'll be damned, it did.
"Peyton and I will have some interesting stories throughout the rest of our lives to talk about going through this year together. He's a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person, and I wish him all the best in the future."
Broncos CEO and president Joe Ellis
"The Denver Broncos are so proud to have called Peyton Manning our quarterback for the last four years, and we can't thank him enough for his many contributions to our team and community.
"On the field, Peyton's competitiveness, intensity and leadership helped us to one of the most successful periods in our history, highlighted by four consecutive division titles, two AFC Championship victories and a win in Super Bowl 50. Off the field, Peyton's kindness and generosity, especially toward those in need, made a real difference on a very personal level.
"Our team, our organization and our community are all better because of Peyton Manning. He raised the performance of those around him and raised the level of excellence here at the Broncos.
"Peyton's been a first-class ambassador who did things the right way and had such a positive impact on the Broncos. We look forward to celebrating his future induction into both the Broncos' Ring of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Colts owner Jim Irsay
"Few have left their marks on a sport as Peyton Manning has. Simply put, he revolutionized NFL football. Peyton energized it as had no one before him, he made it more fun for our fans, and made the game better.
Off the field, Peyton has been a tremendous ambassador for the game and the epitome of someone who gives back to the community. He is the most recognizable face in the history of the NFL, and perhaps its most popular.
I will miss seeing #18 on the field on Sundays and I am proud and thankful for all he’s done for the Colts, our community, and the NFL. On behalf of Colts and NFL fans worldwide, I thank Peyton and congratulate him on an incredible career."
* * *
Super Bowl Rings: From one diamond to hundreds through the years