He looked battered. He looked beaten. He looked broken. That is the best way to describe Peyton Manning as he departed from the field on Sunday night. The 38-year old veteran had lost for the thirteenth time in the playoffs, an NFL record. Every loss, especially a playoff loss, has to hurt, but this one stings just a little bit more. The defeat came at the hands of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, the man who replaced Peyton as quarterback in Indy after Manning’s 13-year tenure with the team. Now, Peyton must enter the offseason with that sour taste in his mouth and wonder if it is worth coming back for the 2015 season.
It is hard to admit it, but it is time for Peyton Manning to call it quits on his playing career. I love watching Manning compete but saying he should stay would be selfish. We saw as the season progressed on that the Broncos quarterback began to struggle. Part of the reason was due to the torn quad Manning played with for the last month of the season. That aside, Manning threw for over 700 fewer yards, 16 fewer touchdowns and saw his completion percentage drop 2 percent. Sure, it might not be fair to compare him to the best statistical year ever produced by an NFL quarterback but the offense around him did not change. Nope, Manning actually had more support from the running game and even a better defense, yet his play declined. Manning was still playing at high level, just not the level he could have been.
The bigger issue though was the continual drop in zip Peyton had on his passes. His arm strength is clearly deteriorating and the offseason will only further that trend. Manning, unfortunately, is declining and the odds that he is going to turn around next season and play well enough to get this Denver team to a Super Bowl is highly unlikely. Peyton is not going to get any better before next season and I would really hate to see him come back for another year and put up a mediocre performance because his body was beginning to fail him. It is hard to say what you want the guy to do because he was so great this past season, putting up top-5 quarterback numbers. However, if Sunday’s game was a sign of what is to come, then maybe it is best that Peyton just rests on his laurels. Manning completed only 56.5% of his passes, averaged only a measly 4.6 yards per attempt, posted a meager 75.5 passer rating and finished with a lowly 27.7 total quarterback rating. Not to say that’s always how Manning would play, but if it’s any indicator, then Peyton should stay on his couch.
Another contributing factor would be the departure of Head Coach John Fox. This likely means that the team will undergo some pretty serious overhaul in the offseason as it attempts to find a new direction. There are also rumors that offensive and defensive coordinators Adam Gase and Jack Del Rio could be on the outs, which would mean an almost completely fresh start in Denver. All of the change likely wouldn’t suit Manning and if it turns out that General Manager John Elway is looking towards the future then it is likely that Manning would not even really be part of his plans. Manning after all does count for $21.5 million if he is on the roster at the beginning of the new league year. With Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Orlando Franklin, Will Montgomery and Jacob Tamme’s contracts set to expire, that money could be crucial. It is still likely at least one of them will not be back meaning the offense will take a hit. Three defensive starters could also be missing next year. That is a decent amount of turnover for a professional team and I think the uncertainty could cause Manning to reconsider returning to Mile High for another year.
In all honesty, Manning does not have much left to play for. He holds the single season record for passing touchdown and passing yards. He set the career mark this season for passing touchdowns and ranks second for career passing yards. He is tied for the most passing touchdowns in a game. He surpassed Dan Marino this year for the most game-winning drives in NFL history and has the most fourth quarter comebacks of all time as well. Manning also ranks only behind Brett Favre for most career wins. There is no doubt that Peyton will be a Hall of Famer. At this point, I do not know what else he has to prove. I do not think that he can suffer through a whole season to lead Denver to another Super Bowl win. He could probably catch Favre in both career wins and career passing yards next season but outside of that, there is little left for Manning to accomplish.
As sad as it is to see a great player retire, I think now is the right time. It is certainly not how Peyton would have wanted it to go but if he tries to hang on too much longer, it is only going to hurt his legacy. I would think that Manning would want people to remember how dominant he was during his illustrious career and never leave a doubt in anyone’s mind that he was one of the best ever. If he comes back and struggles, it tarnishes that legacy with the last season fans have to look back on being one where number 18 showed his age and was clearly past his prime. I just do not think it will get any better for Peyton and with the way things are going this seems like the perfect time to get out. But I guess that is for him to decide. Manning is a competitor and this loss might have just lit a fire under him. We will have to see what his future holds.