Peyton Manning easily could've run away from Tom Brady and the New England Patriots when he was figuring out his post-Indianapolis Colts career.
The legendary quarterback was a free agent entering the 2012 season and, after being beaten in two of the three Patriots-Colts playoff matchups against Brady, Manning had the option to move to the NFC and not have to face the New England juggernaut until the Super Bowl.
Emotional Tom Brady opens up about relationship with Belichick
But Manning embraced the challenge, and on Brady's "Let's Go!" podcast Monday night, he explained that staying in the AFC to face the Patriots was one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Denver Broncos.
"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 explained.
"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 turned out to be a good one for Manning.
He beat Brady and the Patriots in the 2013 and 2015 AFC Championship Game. The Broncos lost to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII but beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
The 2015 AFC title game in Denver was the 17th and final time that Brady and Manning squared off. Brady owns an 11-6 record, including the playoffs, although Manning had a slight upper hand in postseason matchups with a 3-2 record (all three wins at home).