Peyton Manning had an important decision to make in the spring of 2012.
After missing the entire 2011 season due to a neck injury, Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts, who had the first overall pick in the upcoming draft and were going to start fresh at quarterback with Andrew Luck. Manning, who spent the first 14 seasons of his NFL career in Indy, effectively had his pick of the litter in his first foray into free agency.
The five-time league MVP ultimately chose to take his talents to Denver, where he played four seasons before calling it a career after the 2015 campaign. And as Manning revealed on the latest episode of the “Let’s Go!” podcast, Tom Brady was a driving force that kept him in the AFC.
“I’ve never told anybody this, but Tom’s a big reason why I decided to stay in the AFC after I left the Colts,” Manning said, as transcribed by Yahoo. “I mean, I easily could have gone to a couple of NFC teams but I thought, ‘No, look, I’ve played against Tom a bunch and the Patriots and eventually you’re going to have to play them at some point. Let me at least try to earn it in the AFC, seeing them in the playoffs. I enjoyed those games. I enjoyed that rivalry. And so that was one of the reasons I decided to stay in the AFC in chapter two for me.”
The decision ended up paying off for Manning, who beat Brady’s New England Patriots in two AFC Championship Games as a member of the Broncos. The second of the pair preceded a Denver win in Super Bowl 50, which allowed Manning to ride off into the sunset with football’s ultimate prize.