Just as we watched Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the Super Bowl, it bears remembering that very few legendary players spend their entire careers with one team anymore. Brett Favre ended his career playing with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. Philip Rivers jumped ship this past season to play his final NFL campaign with the Indianapolis Colts. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning also did not finish his career where he started it.
Peyton Manning was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts with the number one overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. The former University of Tennessee star spent the first 13 seasons of his career with the Colts, establishing himself as one of the greatest passers the game had ever seen.
After missing the 2011 season recovering from a concerning neck issue, Manning was hopeful that he could continue to play the game he loved for several more years. Indianapolis was hesitant to bring him back considering the difficult nature of the injury, but fortunately for the veteran, there were suitors knocking on his door. Manning ended up signing with the Denver Broncos, where he spent the final four years of his career.
Also Read: Who are Peyton Manning's kids?
The Indianapolis years
Before Peyton Manning got to Indianapolis, the Colts only had sporadic success as a franchise. They had some respectable years with Jim Harbaugh playing quarterback in the mid 1990’s, but were not serious contenders to perennially make the Super Bowl in the AFC. Ahead of the 1998 season, Indianapolis cleaned house. They hired experienced head coach Jim Mora Sr. to help stabilize the franchise and brought Manning in as a can’t-miss prospect out of college. Their initial season together was not much of an improvement over their 1997 campaign, as the team went 3-13.
However, with the experience he accrued in his rookie year, Manning was a completely different player in year two. He led the Colts to a 13-3 record in 1999, and it became evident that Indianapolis would be a force to reckon with for years to come. In the subsequent 11 seasons with Manning under center, the Colts averaged 11 regular-season wins, and featured one of the most prolific offensive stretches the league has ever seen.
It all came together for Manning and the Colts in 2006-2007. After many years of heartbreak and disappointment in the postseason, Indianapolis finally slayed the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, and advanced to play the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. He connected with longtime preferred target Reggie Wayne for a touchdown in the big game, which helped Manning get his first ring.
The Denver years
Fans weren’t quite sure what to expect from Manning after his neck injury in 2011. As a 36-year-old coming off of a serious procedure, there was a lot of doubt as to whether he would ever be the same again. Indianapolis wasn’t willing to invest in Manning’s comeback since they had the number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but Denver Broncos general manager John Elway jumped at the chance to sign one of the game’s greatest players.
As it turned out, Manning pretty much picked up right where he left off in Indianapolis. He threw for 4,569 yards and 33 touchdowns in his first season in the Mile High City. The team made the playoffs every season that he was with the team.
The two years Broncos fans are most likely to remember forever are 2013 and 2015. In 2013, Manning raised the bar from quarterback play in the NFL. He threw for an astounding 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, both single-season records that will be tough to break. In 2015, with Manning’s effectiveness waning, Denver’s defense stepped up and brought the Lombardi Trophy back to the Mile High city. The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl that year, giving Manning his second ring in what would ultimately be his final career NFL game.
Also Read: Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl Wins