Amid tears, Peyton Manning says goodbye to Indianapolis

Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Joe Montana and Kurt Warner: quarterbacks who won Super Bowls with one team, only to end their careers with another. And now it’s time to add Peyton Manning to that list.

Professional football is a very mercenary game. Players and teams part ways all of the time with hardly a second thought. But you’d never know that from watching a tearful Manning say goodbye earlier today to the city he’s called home for 14 incredible NFL seasons.

Said Manning, struggling not to choke up: “I guess in life and in sports, we all know nothing lasts forever. … Times change, circumstances change and that’s the reality of playing in the N.F.L.” Reading that, it’s impossible not to shake my head in wonder that the Colts franchise has committed two of what might be the most unforgivable sins in the history of pro football: abandoning the city of Baltimore and now cutting the greatest quarterback who ever played the game.

A few weeks ago I wrote that Manning had nothing left to prove, something he took pains to point out today even as he announced that he would not retire and would seek employment elsewhere next season. Given that Manning will likely take his time to both consider his options and fully recover from his most recent neck surgery, you can count on the fact that this story will be with us for months — a prospect that must have the talking heads at ESPN giggling like little girls. Given how they’ve over-covered stories like Brett Favre’s multiple retirements as well as the recent emergence of Jeremy Lin, we can pretty much guarantee the public will be sick of the story in just a few weeks.

Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.