Peyton Manning… Retiring?
A little over two years ago, Peyton Manning had just had his fourth and most serious neck surgery to try and repair his damaged spine. There were talks of how Manning could never come back to the football field, how his arm strength would vanish, how he wouldn’t be able to take any hits like he became accustomed to and how he would never be the same quarterback who terrorized defenses and threw for miles and miles of yardage.
Flash forward two years, and Manning is coming off one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in the history of the NFL. He broke the single season records for passing touchdowns and passing yards in a season, and he led his team to a number-one seed in the AFC. He outplayed his archival Tom Brady in the biggest possible game for either side, and now he is one win away from obtaining his second Super Bowl victory and solidifying his place as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.
Aren’t sports the best?
To say Manning has had a “roller coaster ride” would be utterly cliche. It’s more like he went off-roading in a Humvee. On top of mount Everest. During a blizzard. With no shirt on. Blindfolded. With one hand tied behind… okay you get it right? The guy had four neck surgeries in 18 months. A year later, Manning and the Broncos were rolling and finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. Two years later, and he’s in the Super Bowl.
People have been talking again now that Manning might retire after this season. The thinking behind this being that he can finish his career with respect by not playing while he’s ineffective (Favre in 2010?). He can go out with respect, and he can go out on top with a Super Bowl win against one of the greatest defenses the NFL has ever witnessed (seen in this article at footballperspective.com as the 2nd best pass defense in the NFL since 1970). He can put to rest all that doubters who say “Manning can’t win in the playoffs”, as if that wasn’t stupid enough already, by winning his second Super Bowl. He can shut up all the analysts who say he can’t win in cold weather in a freezing cold outdoor game in New York City. It would be the perfect answer to all the people who have nitpicked the one person who makes it so hard to do so.
Manning can finish his career nearly identically to that of John Elway, who people say couldn’t have finished his career any better. Like Manning, Elway was criticized for not being able to win the big game, as he didn’t win a Super Bowl until his last two seasons at the ages of 37 and 38. Manning is 37. Elway’s playoff record before winning a Super Bowl was 7-7. He then finished with a playoff record of 14-7. Manning’s playoff record is 11-11. He can finish over .500 with a win on Sunday. Elway’s last game was in a Denver uniform, winning Super Bowl XXXIII as well as winning MVP of the game. Manning can do the same Sunday if he dismantles the Seattle defense. It’s also worth mentioning that Elway was one of the people most responsible for bringing Manning to Denver after the Colts released him following the 2011 season. It’s as though all these things happened just so Manning could finish his career in the most perfect ending possible. So why would he not?
“I still enjoy playing football.” That was Manning’s response to questions on his retirement during media day. “When you still enjoy the preparation and the work part of it, I think you ought to be still doing that. I think as soon as I stop enjoying it, if I can’t produce, if I can’t help a team, that’s when I will stop playing. If that’s next year, then maybe it is. I certainly want to continue to keep playing.”
With Elway, it was his time. Another year wouldn’t have been fun, it had turned into work. With Manning, he still enjoys the endless film sessions, the practices, and picking apart defenses. It’s not work, it’s fun. As long as it stays that way for him, and as long as he’s breaking records, expect Manning to play until he drops.
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