Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is hopeful Peyton Manning will retire with the organization that drafted him with the first overall pick in 1998, regardless of how the quarterback decides to move forward after his Denver Broncos face the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post passed along comments Irsay made about the situation during an interview with Anthony Calhoun of WISH-TV in Indianapolis. He understands Manning is trying not to focus on the future, but did speak with him about returning to Indy for a final sendoff:
I want him to and I've asked him to. I would love to have him retire as a Colt and how he handles that part of his career. And when it comes, I think he's going about it the right way. Look, he's focused on this game. We all talk about staying in the moment, staying in the day, and I think the older you get, the more you practice that because you realize you're given only one day at a time. I think he really has tunnel vision in the sense that he doesn't want to think about that part of his life after football. Him and I have talked about that through the years, of course, as he's gotten older. What he might do and the opportunities are obviously many for him.
Throughout this season, the 39-year-old quarterback has rarely looked like the player who dominated the NFL for most of his career. He finished the regular season with nine touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in 10 games while battling injury.
Although the Broncos managed to reach the Super Bowl, Manning has served more as a supporting cast member in the team's two playoff wins. It's been the team's defense that's carried most of the load.
That has raised questions about whether Manning will walk away after Sunday's game. He's repeatedly downplayed all of that talk, however, and stated he's doing his best to focus on the Super Bowl, as he told NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk (h/t Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports).
"I don't know the answer to that," Manning said. "I think one thing I've done well all season and the team has done well all season is stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand."
While the questions have hovered over him for most of the season, they have become even more intense since audio was released of him telling New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC Championship Game that it may be his "last rodeo."
Meanwhile, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Wednesday that the Los Angeles Rams had "internal discussions" about potentially signing Manning for the 2016 season, if he wants to continue playing but the Broncos decide to move on.
So it's clearly a situation with a lot of moving parts, as Manning tries to isolate himself from the outside noise and focus on the sixth-ranked Panthers defense. Protecting the football will be his main task after Carolina led the league with 39 takeaways during the regular season.
There will be plenty of time after the game to think about what comes next. Whether that means heading back to Indianapolis for a ceremony to retire as a Colt, or possibly gearing up to help the Rams build interest as they head for Los Angeles, is a question for another day.