Is it time for Peyton to hang ’em up?

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.

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Determining the NFL MVP

Week 17 concludes the NFL season tomorrow and usually by this point, we all have a good sense of who the league MVP will be. For example, last year it was obvious that Peyton Manning would be named the most valuable player following his record-breaking performance where he topped the single season passing yards and passing touchdown records. Manning is still in the mix this year but it definitely not as clear-cut. I figured it would be fun to have a breakdown of some of the candidates for this year’s award.

We will stick with the reigning MVP from a year ago and start with Manning. The Broncos quarterback began the season right where he left off in the previous one (well minus the Super Bowl) and looked like he was on his way to his sixth MVP award. He averaged 305 yards and 3 touchdowns per game over the first seven he played. Then the Broncos visited New England and Peyton had his worst performance of the season at that time. In the seven games since the trip to Foxboro, Peyton has averaged only 269 yards and 2 touchdowns per game. Those are still good numbers, but they do not scream MVP either. Not to mention after throwing only three interceptions in the first seven games, he has thrown 12 in his last eight appearances. Sure Manning is still in the conversation but I do not think he is a legitimate contender this season. He does have a game against Oakland tomorrow, which he beat up to the tune of 340 yards and 5 touchdowns, but I do not think he will repeat the performance.

To another former league MVP, Aaron Rodgers might have the best chance to win this year’s trophy. He has been nothing but efficient so far this year, save two games in New Orleans and Buffalo. Rodgers got off to a “rocky start” or about as rocky as it ever gets for the Packers’ quarterback. Rodgers only has two games this year where he has thrown two interceptions. He has never thrown more than that all year and only has five in total on the season. Rodgers has also been the focal point of an offense that averages the second most points per game behind only the Patriots. The Packers’ game against Detroit tomorrow could be crucial to his MVP chances. He struggled the first time he played the Lions throwing for only 162 yards and 1 touchdown in a loss. Putting up a good performance against one of the best defenses in the league could cement Rodgers as the front-runner for the award.

It is time to look at the surprise of this year’s MVP race, Tony Romo. If I had told you this time last year that Romo would be a top candidate for this year’s award, you would have laughed at me. Romo has had a very good campaign though and has lead what many felt was a talent deprived Dallas Cowboys team to an 11-4 record so far this year. The things that stand out for Romo are his league leading completion percentage (70.3) his league leading yards per attempt (8.49) and his league leading quarterback rating (114.1). The things that hold Tony back are his yards per game average of 243, which ranks 18th in the league and the existence of Demarco Murray. Murray has rushed for the most yards in the league by over 400, which puts a bit of a damper on Romo’s campaign for most valuable player with teammate who has stolen a lot of the spotlight and offensive production. Still, Romo has a great touchdown to interception ratio (4:1) and has been stellar in the month of December. I think heading into the final week of the season, Romo is Rodgers’ greatest competition for the award.

We have a defensive player on this list as well. J.J Watt is having a season to remember, mainly due to the highlight reel has put on which includes two defensive scores and three offensive touchdown catches. Watt has been great though on the defensive side of the ball. He has recorded the most tackles by a defensive lineman this year, tied with Jason Pierre-Paul at 72. The Texans’ superstar also ranks second in sacks, just a half sack behind the league leader with 17.5 on the year. Watt also has the most pass deflections by a defensive lineman with ten. He has additionally racked up three forced fumbles and a league-high five fumble recoveries. The issue is that Watt has not done enough to even guarantee that his team will be in the playoffs. It is hard as a defensive player to make such a huge impact that you can carry your team. Watt definitely has my vote for defensive player of the year but I do not think he will be the league MVP.

I am including one darkhorse candidate as well who has not really garnered much media attention as an MVP option but I think he deserves to be in the conversation. LeVeon Bell has been the most complete back in the NFL this season. He rushed for over 1300 yards, caught 77 passes for 774 yards and scored 11 total touchdowns. His 1341 rushing yards rank second only behind Demarco Murray. His 77 receptions are tied for 21st among all players, not just running backs, and are the most by any back. His 774 receiving yards also rank second only behind Matt Forte among running backs. His 4.8 yards per carry land him third among players with more than 200 attempts. Bell also has not fumbled the ball this season. So, the guy never turns the ball over and he has generated more yards from scrimmage than any other player except Murray, by only 35 yards mind you. Bell racked up over 225 yards of offense and accounted for 3 total touchdowns the last time he met the Bengals. If he can even come close to reciprocating those numbers, he has a chance at being in the conversation for MVP.

There are other players you can make cases for in the MVP race, (most notably Tom Brady or Murray) but these are the ones I think have the best chance to win it. It will be interesting to see how Week 17 affects this tight race. I am curious to know who you think should be the MVP. Feel free to comment and tell me why. Enjoy watching on Sunday.