Peyton Manning announced his retirement to the Denver Broncos this weekend and gave his retirement speech and final goodbye, at least as a player, to family, friends, players, coaches and fans this afternoon. The press conference started with statements and stories of gratitude and greatness in regards to the legendary 18-year veteran by Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis, followed by Vice President of Denver football operations and legend in his own right John Elway, as well as current head coach Gary Kubiak. The speeches highlighted Manning’s greatness as a player in Indianapolis and Denver but also focused on his leadership, organization and community contribution, teamwork, and personal relationships he had with everyone involved with him in Denver. In a split screen on ESPN one could see the three aforementioned speakers giving examples of his illustriousness career in all capacities mentioned above with an emotional Peyton Manning doing his best to fight back tears.
When it was Peyton’s turn to speak he was as he usual is during interviews and media gatherings, all class. He had difficulty containing his emotions but did get through his speech which was full of career highlights and woes, stories of his first days on the NFL gridiron, and reflections on what specific moments in time meant to him both playing the game and interacting with players past and present in those moments.
Manning alluded to the Patriots on more than one occasion, the following is transcript from his speech: “I’m going to miss a steak dinner at St. Elmo’s in Indianapolis after a win. My battles with players named Lynch, Lewis, Thomas, Bruschi, Fletcher, Dawkins, Seau, Urlacher, Polamalu, Harrison, Woodson and Reed. And with coaches like Fisher, Ryan, Belichick, Kiffin, Phillips, Rivera, LeBeau, Crennel, Capers, Lewis, the late Jim Johnson, and so many more.”
“I’ll miss that handshake with Tom Brady and I’ll miss the plane rides after a big win with 53 teammates standing in the aisles, laughing and celebrating during the whole flight. I’ll miss playing in front of so many great fans both at home and on the road. I’ll even miss the Patriots fans in Foxborough, and they should miss me because they sure did get a lot of wins off of me.”
As a player Peyton Manning was always someone New England fans loved to hate, but now it is time to give Peyton his due, to honor his greatness, and to respect his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever put on the uniform.
Bill Belichick was quoted as saying: “For 18 years, we battled fiercely but regardless of each game’s outcome, I always walked off the field with the utmost appreciation for the highest level of competition in which those games were prepared for and played. Peyton’s immense contributions to the game reflect how genuinely passionate he is about it. I can honestly say that I never ‘enjoyed’ our meetings, but the respect I have for Peyton Manning as a competitor was, and will likely remain, second to none.”
Tom Brady on the Monday Morning Quarterback Show had this to say: “What just happened, winning the Super Bowl in his last game, is a perfect way to end a career. But what he’s accomplished through all these years, what makes it so admirable, is the pressure he’s had on him his whole life. He was the highest-rated recruit in high school. He was the biggest quarterback in college football. He was the first pick in the draft. Who has lived up to the expectations year after year after year as well as Peyton? He’s done it so gracefully, so admirably. He set the standard for how to play the quarterback position.”
The drama provided over the years by the Brady vs Manning match ups has been unbelievable, for so many seasons these two quarterbacks were at the top of their game and their places in history will be forever intertwined. The level of preparation and surgically precise execution as well as competitive fire and Super Bowl contending teams made the contests some of the most well-played and exciting games of the era.
Peyton’s success can be measured with his statistics and accolades which include but are not limited to:
-Most all-time passing yards: 71,940
-Most all-time passing touchdowns: 539
-Most all-time career wins (regular season and post season): 200
-Most all-time regular season wins: 186 (Tied with Brett Farve)
-Most all-time game-winning drives: 56
-Most all-time Pro Bowl Selections: 14
-Most all-time 4,000+ yard seasons: 14
-Most single season passing yards: 5,477
-Most single season touchdowns: 55
-Most NFL MVP awards: 5-time winner
And the thing that one would imagine Manning is most proud of (even if Eli isn’t psyched about it) is being a 2-time Super Bowl Champion.
Manning has countless other statistics that are impressive if not the best all-time but what fans can appreciate about Manning is that he was a student of the game and he respected the game as much as anyone who has ever played it.
As much as New England fans have hated Peyton Manning over the years, there is no match up that has been looked forward to more. The conversation of ‘who is the better quarterback’ in regards to Brady and Manning has been had in about every sports bar in New England and probably many places around the country. Wherever fans land on this is their own perspective from their own experiences but one thing is for sure both of them could make a case for the best all-time. There has rarely been a television event that is more must-see TV than Brady vs Manning, Patriots vs Colts/Broncos over the last 15 seasons.
Manning finished his speech with this to say: “When I look back on my NFL career, I’ll know without a doubt that I gave everything I had to help my teams walk away with a win. There were other players who were more talented but there was no one could out-prepare me and because of that I have no regrets.
“There’s a scripture reading, 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight and I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.
“Well, I’ve fought a good fight. I’ve finished my football race and after 18 years, it’s time. God bless all of you and God bless football.”
The final touch on the final day of his career was one of class, grace, and respect for the players, the fans, and the game of football. To read Manning’s entire speech transcript click here http://espn.go.com/blog/denver-broncos/post/_/id/19274/transcript-of-peyton-mannings-retirement-speech.