Today in sports: Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are officially moving on after 14 years, the Saints braintrust breaks its Bountygate silence, and Joe Gibbs gives a brief bounty history lesson.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay formally announced the team would release quarterback Peyton Manning after 14 hugely successful seasons with the franchise. Manning was at Irsay's side during the press conference, which a month ago would have seemed close to impossible, given the nasty public back-and-forth between the two sides on the status of Manning's surgically repaired neck and Irsay's overhaul of the team's front office. Wednesday's news conference was light on bitterness and long on choked-up expressions of gratitude and thanks. Irsay pledged Manning's no. 18 jersey would "never be worn again by a Colt on the field" and that the quarterback would "always (be) part of the horseshoe." (Notable, since last month, Irsay accused Manning of "paint[ing] the horseshoe in a negative light" after he was mildly critical of the owner in an interview with the Indianapolis Star.) Manning, for his part, tried very hard -- with little success -- to keep his emotions from pouring out on live television. [Indianapolis Star]
There's no shortage of numbers to measure the level of greatness Peyton Manning reached in Indianapolis. But these seven are the most telling.
2 Super Bowl appearances, with one win
4 MVP awards, the most in NFL history
9 Consecutive playoff appearances by the Colts from 2002 to 2010. Tied for an NFL record.
141 Career wins for Manning, fourth all-time among quarterbacks
227 Consecutive games started
399 Touchdowns thrown. Also fourth-all-time.
54,828 Career passing yards. Third all-time.
But enough about the past: where's Peyton Manning's future? The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reports that five teams -- the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Arizona Cardinals -- plan to pursue Manning once his release is official. According to The Washington Post, the Redskins plan to make "aggressive effort" to sign Manning within the next few days, but there's "mixed" opinion among those who know the quarterback as to whether he'd consider signing with the roaringly dysfunctional franchise. Meanwhile, ESPN New York Jets reporter Rich Cimini tweets that, according to a league source, the Seahawks intend to come out after Manning "checkbooks blazing." Hot image! Not to be outdone, fans in Arizona, Miami, and Nashville (home of the Tennessee Titans) have already begun billboard lobbying efforts to land the quarterback. [NFL.com]
Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said he had no idea that Gregg Williams ran a bounty program similar to the one he presided over in New Orleans when he was Washington's defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2007. That struck many people -- especially Redskins fans -- as plausible, since Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls before initially retiring in 1992, was more of a mascot during his second administration. But former offensive lineman George Starke, who played under for Gibbs for four seasons in the 1980s, says the coach had his own bounty program back then, one which consisted of coming into the team meeting room with "a fistful of $100 bills" which defensive players receiving one for each time they knocked down the opposing quarterback. Gibbs has already pointed this kind of "incentive program" was permitted under league rules at the time, and that handing out $100 after the fact is much different from offering $10,000 before a game to the player who knocks out Brett Favre. [DC Sports Bog]
In New Orleans, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton are finally acknowledging their own role in the team's cheap shot fund, issuing a joint statement saying they take "full responsibility" for the whole cash-for-gruesome-injuries incentive program and vow that they've "made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again." That's right: not even one more highly illegal bounty program that, after being uncovered, could result in crippling penalties for the franchise. Never again! The statement comes a day after Don Banks of Sports Illustrated reported the league office was growing more and more frustrated by Payton and Loomis' refusal to commenti on the NFL's internal investigation, viewing it as an attempt to push the blame off on Williams. [WDSU New Orleans]
Mo Isom, the goalie for LSU's women's soccer team from 2008 to 2011, wants to be placekicker for the school's football team. There have been lady kickers before, most notably Katie Hnida, the first woman ever to play in a D-I college football game, whose claim that she was raped by teammates at the University of Colorado led to the suspension and dismissal of head coach Gary Barnett in 2004. Isom sounds like the real deal: she made a 51-yard kick on the Tigers' practice field and was apparently booming kickoffs down to the goalline Tuesday during a try-out with other would-be walk-on kickers. Coach Les Miles invited her back to audition again on Thursday, and seemed enthused about the chance to add a 6-foot tall walk-on with real varsity experience to his second-string. "The good thing about it is she's an athlete," said Miles. "She's been through team before. She understands the commitment. I would have much less reservation with her than I would any number of other people that frankly didn't know what they were getting into. But the real interesting thing is it has to be an advantage obtained." That last line, we think, is coach-speak for wanting to know if she can execute quick kicks, drop kicks, and any other quirky special teams play that Miles -- who likes such trickery, and has used it to win games in the past -- might have in his arsenal. [Shreveport Times]