In the moments following the Denver Broncos’ victory over the New England Patriots in the 2015 AFC Championship Game, Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick exchanged pleasantries after the 20th matchup in their storied decade-plus rivalry.
Manning told the Patriots coach then that the AFC title game “might be my last rodeo. So, it sure has been a pleasure.”
As it turns out, it will be the final time Belichick and Manning embrace during the quarterback’s illustrious career. Manning will announce his retirement from the NFL on Monday following 18 combined seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.
When asked to comment on Manning’s legacy following his retirement decision, Belichick had nothing but praise for the surefire Hall of Famer.
“It is with great admiration that I congratulate Peyton Manning for his tremendous career in the National Football League,” Belichick told ESPN Insider Field Yates. “Peyton raised the bar as a performer and as a competitor and with a personal class in which he carried himself off the field. My relationship with Peyton is special, it is unique and it is one that I value greatly.
“For 18 years, we battled fiercely but regardless of each game’s outcome, I always walked off the field with the utmost appreciation for the highest level of competition in which those games were prepared for and played. Peyton’s immense contributions to the game reflect how genuinely passionate he is about it. I can honestly say that I never ‘enjoyed’ our meetings, but the respect I have for Peyton Manning as a competitor was, and will likely remain, second to none.”
Belichick’s teams own the better head-to-head record against Manning with 12 wins, but the QB does have a 3-2 advantage in the playoffs. And that’s how the biggest rivalry in football since the turn of the century will end.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick