INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay fought back tears and shared a public goodbye on Wednesday, confirming the end of Manning’s career with the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning and Colts owner Irsay met with the media at the Colts’ West 56th Street complex and announced the quarterback’s 14-year Colts career is over. He will be released Wednesday as the Colts declined to pick up the option on his contract.
Irsay said Manning’s No.18 jersey would be retired. Manning said he will always be a Colt, but will continue his career with another team.
“In life and sports, nothing lasts forever,” Manning said. “Times change, circumstances change. That’s the reality of playing in the NFL. . . . I recognize circumstances made it necessary to take this next step.”
Irsay and Manning talked about their time together, both fought back tears at time and they hugged before leaving the news conference. Colts coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson attended the news conference, but did not speak.
Irsay said the Colts’ rebuilding process led to the decision to part ways with Manning.
“This town and this team means so much to me,” Manning said. “It truly has been an honor to play in Indianapolis. I love the fans and will always enjoy playing for such a great team.”
Manning immediately becomes a free agent and can sign with any NFL team as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Irsay said the pieces are not in place for the Colts to give Manning the kind of final few years that he deserves to finish his career.
“Hopefuly, we’ll watch Peyton win immediately, and we’ll slowly build and find our stride,” Irsay said. He added that the Colts were much stronger when Manning joined the team as a rookie in 1998.
Manning played 13 full seasons with the Colts, leading them to 11 playoff berths, a record seven straight 12-win seasons, two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title. He finished with a wealth of Colts team records, including every passing mark. His 399 career touchdowns rank third in NFL history.
The road that led to Manning’s departure began with his off-season health issues. Manning, who underwent four neck surgeries in 19 months, was unable to play last season in his 14th year. The Colts finished 2-14 and landed the No.1 pick in April’s NFL Draft. They are expected to pick Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
If the Colts had picked up Manning’s $28 million contract option, along with $7 million in salary, plus another $15 million-plus for Luck, they would have spent $51 on two quarterbacks. Irsay said money was no factor, but also mentioned the Colts have salary-cap issues that will lead to more changes in the roster.
Manning said he doesn’t know what his next step is, but he feels he is close to throwing the ball like he always has. He mentioned that he has had good throwing sessions with Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley.
“I don’t want to retire,” Manning said. “Nobody loves their job more than I do. Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do.”