Patriots

Manning: Patriots played role keeping me in AFC during free agency

Patriots

Imagine if Peyton Manning had bolted for the NFC when he hit free agency following the 2011 season?

In a wide-ranging conversation with Bill Simmons of The Ringer on his podcast Friday, Manning said that one recurring theme in his mind following his release from the Indianapolis Colts was that at heart, he was an AFC guy after spending the first 13 seasons of his career in Indy. But he also factored in that in order to win the Super Bowl at the time, you were likely to need to go through the New England Patriots one way or another.

Might as well get it over with sooner than later, Manning thought.

"If you're a fan, it's like, 'please get away from the Patriots, go play in the NFC,'" Manning said. "I don't know, it's like, if you're gonna get in the Super Bowl, you're gonna have to go through New England, so might as well just play them in the AFC Championship Game every year to have the chance to win the Super Bowl."

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Sure enough, the decision to sign with the Denver Broncos put Manning on a collision course with the Patriots in the postseason twice during his four years in the Mile High City. In both meetings, Manning and the Broncos defeated the Patriots at home in the AFC title game to advance to the Super Bowl.

"New England had a little bit of a role in my decision to stay in the AFC, believe it or not," he told Simmons.

 

Manning finished his career 6-11 head-to-head against Tom Brady, but was 3-2 in the postseason thanks to the later wins in Denver.

Simmons and Manning touched on plenty of other Patriots and Brady-centric topics in the episode, including the difficulty of getting a compliment from Bill Belichick. Discussing Belichick's "A Football Life" episode and his affinity for former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, Manning recalled conversations with Belichick prior to the Pro Bowl one year where he didn't similarly gush over other all-time greats -- namely, a few quarterbacks.

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"I remember sitting on the bus at the Pro Bowl with him one time, and I love hearing about the days when he was [the New York Giants] defensive coordinator," Manning said, asking specifically about going up against Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. "He's like 'well, I mean, you've got Jerry Rice on these short drag routes, how hard is it to complete it to him?'"

Jim Kelly and the K-Gun offense of the Buffalo Bills? Belichick mentioned the presence of running back Thurman Thomas instead, Manning said.

"I'm like, don't ever ask Belichick what he thinks of me," Manning joked, mentioning some of his offensive weapons  with the Colts like Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison. "When he compliments Ed Reed, that tells you how special of a player he thinks Ed Reed is. He means it."

Manning added another anecdote, however, where Belichick met with him backstage in Canton, Ohio prior to his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction earlier this summer. Belichick had requested to meet with Manning personally to shake his hand, he recalled.

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Manning, who retired after winning Super Bowl 50 in February 2016 at age 39, told Simmons that we've passed the age for Brady where it becomes ridiculous to see what he continues doing.

At his own induction, Manning mentioned Brady getting elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot some day -- in 2035, which would mean Brady would be retiring after the 2029 season at 52 years old.

"He deserves all the credit," Manning said of Brady. "I know he'll talk about people who've helped him along the way, but he's flat done it, kept himself healthy and it's extremely impressive."