Peyton Manning put together a nearly perfect NFL career. On Monday, he ended his career with the perfect goodbye.
The legendary quarterback retired from professional football on Monday with an emotional news conference at Broncos headquarters. Manning was joined on the dais by Broncos president Joe Ellis, general manager John Elway and head coach Gary Kubiak -- each man speaking of the record-breaking QB with respect and reverence.
When it was Manning's time to speak, he held nothing back in an emotional address. It was clearly not an easy task for the longtime star.
"There's something about 18 years, 18 is a good number, and today I retire from professional football."
Elway heaped praise on Manning as being the key to the Broncos' success in his four years in Denver. Elway said Manning made his job easy and said the team would have never won a Super Bowl without the quarterback.
"Peyton Manning revolutionized the game," Elway said. "We always used to think that a no-huddle was a fast paced, get to the line of scrimmage and keep people off balance. Peyton revolutionized it in that, 'You know, we're going to get to the line of scrimmage, we're going to take our time, I'm going to find out what you're doing, and then I'm going to pick you apart.'"
Manning thanked each of his five head coaches in the NFL, his hundreds of teammates and longtime agent Tom Condon. Manning jokingly thanked Broncos linebacker Von Miller for coming in from his "celebrity tour to be here today."
"I fought a good fight," Manning said in his closing remarks. "I finished my football race, and after 18 years, it's time. God bless all of you, and God bless football."
» Kubiak was very emotional during his address, telling a long story about the behind-the-scenes happenings during Manning's injury-plagued final season. Manning conducted private workouts for weeks leading up to his return in an effort not to cause a distraction, something that clearly resonated with the coach. "It was only nine months for me, but I'll remember it for a lifetime."
» A reporter asked Manning about the University of Tennessee allegations that have been in the news in recent weeks: "I think it's sad that some people don't understand the truth or the facts. I did not do what has been alleged." Manning ended his remarks on that issue with: "Like Forest Gump said, 'That's all I have to say about that.'"
» Manning was asked if he seriously considered returning for a 19th season in 2016. After the season ended, Manning vacationed with family and went on a hunting trip with former Colts teammate Jeff Saturday, before making his final decision. "I thought about it a lot, I prayed about it a lot, but it was just the right time."
» There's been plenty of speculation about Manning following an Elway route into the business side of football, or perhaps following the Phil Simms model into the broadcast booth. He didn't offer any hints Monday: "I haven't ruled anything out."
» Manning's sense of humor was on display at moments throughout the proceedings. When he shared a story about his daughter asking him whether Super Bowl 50 would be his last game, he joked, "I was thinking Mort (Chris Mortensen) and Adam Schefter had gotten to my 5-year-old daughter and cultivated a source." Later, after taking the final question from reporters, he uttered the word "Omaha" before stepping off the podium for the last time as a player. Well played.
» Watching this and considering the timing of it all, you really got the sense Manning didn't want to retire, but he just couldn't convince himself it was a good idea to keep going. Another way to look at it: His body gave out before his mind and heart did. It created a bittersweet undercurrent than ran through the proceedings.
"You don't have to wonder if I'll miss it," he said. "Absolutely I will."