“Grateful is the word that comes to my mind when it comes to theDenver Broncos,” Manning said.
All in all, it was a celebration of Manning’s four years with the Broncos as well as his 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, as well as an appreciation of his Hall of Fame career. Broncos CEO/team president Joe Ellis, executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway and coach Gary Kubiak all spoke before Manning.
A short tribute video was shown in an invitation-only gathering in the team meeting room at the Broncos’ complex in suburban Denver. Manning has wrestled with the decision about whether or not to retire until late last week.
Ellis opened the event by calling it “a historic day” and said Manning had “made our team better, made our organization better and made our community better.” Ellis added he “looked forward” to Manning’s induction into the team’s Ring of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is a five-year waiting period for both.
On Saturday night, Manning started to notify many in his most-trusted inner circle of his intentions to call it a career. Manning made a call to Kubiak as well that night.
Manning said, “I revere football … so if you wonder if I’ll miss football, absolutely I will”, and thanked coaches and teammates as well as naming opponents and opposing coaches he will miss. He thanked his family, his teammates, his coaches and fans.
Manning closed his remarks with a scripture reference (Timothy 4:7) and added “I fought the good fight, I’ve finished the football race.”
Manning has retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (539) and passing yards (71,940). With 186 quarterback wins, he is tied for the lead with Brett Favre. After he signed in Denver in 2012 as perhaps the greatest catch of the free agency era, his four-year run with the Broncos resulted in four AFC West titles, 50 regular-season wins and two Super Bowl trips, including the Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers last month in Super Bowl 50.
Manning, who will turn 40 later this month, was a Super Bowl MVP, a 14-time Pro Bowl selection and a seven-time first-team All-Pro. His teams made the playoffs in 15 of his 18 seasons, and he reached the 4,000-yard passing mark in 14 seasons.
In the Broncos’ record-setting 2013 season, when they scored a single-season record 606 points — the first time in league history a team topped 600 — Manning set single-season records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55). It was the second time Manning threw for at least 49 touchdowns (2004 was the first) — a mark reached only one other time in NFL history (Brady in 2007).
Manning’s retirement follows what he has often said was the “most unique” season of his career. He missed seven starts with a tear in the plantar fascia near his left heel. In November, Manning had a cast on his left foot. In December, he was running the scout team, and by January, Kubiak had put him back into the lineup for one more playoff run.