On Sunday, it was announced that Peyton Manning has informed the Denver Broncos that he is retiring. It marks the end of a legendary career and my favorite football player of all time. I grew up in an era where Manning was the cream-of-the-crop among quarterbacks, and his ability to command the offense and make changes at the line of scrimmage was awe-inspiring. Even though the defense carried him to a Super Bowl this year, I was happy that he finished with two rings, something that will help establish his legacy for those who were critical of some of his playoff woes.
The Cleveland Browns will always have something to brag about, though: out of all 32 teams in the NFL, Manning's worst quarterback rating came against the Browns. In six games against Cleveland, he had a rating of 75.7. His career QB rating was 96.5. Despite that, Manning went 7-0 against the Browns, including some very close finishes. Let's take a brief look at them.
1999 - Week 16
Manning was 27-of-43 for 276 yards in a 29-28 win in Cleveland. The Browns led 28-19 heading into the fourth quarter, but an Edgerrin James touchdown run followed by a Mike Vanderjagt 21-yard field goal as time expired gave the Colts a win in Cleveland's first season back. (Browns QB = Ty Detmar)
2002 - Week 15
Manning was 20-of-34 for 277 yards, 2 TD, and 1 INT in a 28-23 win in Cleveland. After a William Green touchdown run, the Browns led 23-14 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Colts got a 3-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Marvin Harrison, followed by a 3-yard touchdown run from James Mungro to finish off the game. The Browns had four shots from inside the 10 yard line to win the game, but couldn't convert. (Browns QB = Tim Couch)
2003 - Week 1
Manning was 27-of-43 for 211 yards and 2 INT in a 9-6 win in Cleveland. I remember this game vividly, as it was one of the Browns' opening losses to a season. With the game tied at 6-6, Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 45-yard field goal as time expired for the win. This was the season after the Browns had made the playoffs, so there were high expectations for the club with Kelly Holcomb now under center. The team had re-done their veteran linebacker group, and for one week, it paid off as Kevin Bentley and Ben Taylor each had interceptions. (Browns QB = Kelly Holcomb)
2005 - Week 3
Manning was 19-of-23 for 228 yards and 1 INT in a 13-6 win in Indianapolis. This was just another low-scoring type of game between the Colts and the Browns. For once, the Colts actually had the lead the entire game; 13-6 was the score near the start of the fourth quarter. Showing how good he was, though, Manning got the ball with 7:40 left in the game and was able to take a kneeldown to let time expire -- Cleveland couldn't force a fourth down. (Browns QB = Trent Dilfer)
2008 - Week 13
Manning was 15-of-21 for 125 yards and 2 INT in a 10-6 win in Cleveland. This one didn't even need Manning. The Browns led 6-3 in the fourth quarter, Derek Anderson was stripped of the football by Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis recovered the fumble for a 37-yard touchdown. (Browns QB = Derek Anderson)
2012 - Week 16
Manning was 30-of-43 for 339 yards, 3 TD, and 1 INT in a 34-12 win in Denver. This was the Browns' only game that was a no-contest against Manning, and it came in their first match-up from when he was a member of the Broncos. This was Manning's first season after he missed all of 2011 with neck surgery. (Browns QB = Brandon Weeden & Colt McCoy)
2015 - Week 6
Manning was 26-of-48 for 290 yards, 1 TD, and 3 INT in a 26-23 OT win in Cleveland. This one still hurts from this past season. Manning clearly wasn't himself this past year, and it showed with two interceptions thrown to Karlos Dansby, one of which was a stadium-rocking pick six. In overtime, he threw an interception to Barkevious Mingo, which set the Browns up about five yards away from field goal range. The Browns' offense fluttered, and with under five minutes to go before a tie, Brandon McManus kicked the game-winning, 34-yard field goal. (Browns QB = Josh McCown)
Now, the big question Browns fans will be asking is whether this opens the door for a position in Cleveland's front office for Manning, now that team president Alec Scheiner is on-the-way-out. Even if Manning doesn't have the experience yet to be a team president, is it possible that the team brings him in to the mix in some other role to groom him to be the future team president?