"When you look at everything Peyton has accomplished as a player and person," said Broncos GM John Elway in a statement, "it's easy to see how fortunate we've been to have him on our team."
Emerging late-career scandals alleging sexual harassment and performance-enhancing drugs notwithstanding, the outwardly jovial Manning was a marvel of icily competent efficiency on the gridiron. The Broncos' statement listing some of his accomplishments offers ample evidence:
- NFL all-time record holder in career touchdown passes (539)
- NFL all-time record holder in passing yards (71,940)
- NFL career leader in combined regular-season and playoff wins by a starting quarterback (200)
- Only quarterback in NFL history to lead two teams to a Super Bowl victory (Super Bowl XLI, 50)
- Most NFL MVP awards (five)
- Led teams to an NFL-record 15 playoff appearances
- Most Pro Bowl appearances (14)
- NFL single-season records in passing touchdowns (55) and passing yards (5,477)
Manning's decision to go out on top wasn't a big surprise. He even told Patriots coach Bill Belichick in an off-hand post-game comment that Super Bowl 50 would be his last rodeo.
That Manning didn't leave the game earlier is actually something of a miracle and testimony to the linemen keeping the heat off the QB through the years—18 years is a miraculously long career for any NFLer.
Now he can have all the Budweiser he wants, whether he gets paid to plug it or not.