By Michael LeCompte
Athletes are notorious for staying in the game too long, for hanging on at least one season too many. Very few superstar athletes retire on their terms, usually the game dictates when they go.
Peyton Manning should retire.
Over the past 17 seasons he has become the best quarterback the NFL has ever known, as well as the face of the league. He is tops in every statistical category, including most touchdown passes (530).
He’s been so good for so long that we expect him to continue to perform at a high level, but when the end of an athletic career comes, it comes quickly. Seattle thoroughly dominated Manning in the Super Bowl and last Sunday the Colts made him look older than 38.
By all accounts Manning’s a classy guy who would never do anything to embarrass himself or the game of football, which is why he should retire now.
At times on Sunday Manning simply looked like a tired, frustrated, old man. He finished the game a respectable 26/46 for 211 yards and a score, but it was obvious he could no longer do what he wanted to and what we’ve all become accustomed to seeing him do. He couldn’t march the Broncos up and down the field seemingly at will, he couldn’t even hit his wide open receivers. As a result the Broncos lost to what is probably an inferior Colts team.
Manning should heed the example of another retired superstar, Brett Favre, the man whose records he broke.
Like Manning taking the Broncos to the Super Bowl last year, Favre was also able to conjure some late career magic. He took the Vikings to the NFC Championship in 2009 and was a few bounty-gate hits by the Saints away from the Super Bowl.
After coming so close Favre insisted on coming back the next year, but only played in 13 games and tossed 19 interceptions. Peyton came back this season and the Broncos were again a playoff team, but the Manning magic was clearly gone, especially in the postseason.
Although it often went unnoticed by broadcasters due to the NFL’s weird love affair with Manning, it seemed as though about half of his pass attempts this season were wobbly ducks, rather than tight spirals. Whether this stems from his multiple neck operations or was the result of him playing with a torn right quad muscle for the final month of the season, as ESPN reported, the end is painfully and obviously here for Manning.
Of course he has come back before. Overcoming four neck operations was no small feat and after all he’s accomplished over the past seventeen seasons, perhaps Manning has earned the right to say when he’s done.
Peyton Manning proved he was a champion by winning a Super Bowl, he showed his heart by working his way back from injury, and he became the greatest by re-writing the record books.
If he is concerned about his legacy, if he has any doubts about it at all, he need only look at the career of Ryan Leaf, the man drafted #2 behind him in 1998, who many thought should have been the #1 pick.
And if the cautionary tale of Favre weren’t enough, Manning should follow the shining example of another superstar from a different sport and retire now. Last summer, Derek Jeter provided a classy blueprint of how an aged, yet beloved player with a clearly declined skill set, could walk away from the game.
The Broncos could probably win their division again next year, however, another Super Bowl run with Manning at the helm is unrealistic. His play has already started to decline and if he comes back he will undoubtedly be hampered by nagging injuries.
Peyton Manning is the best quarterback to ever play football, which is why he should retire…NOW. He should retire while there is no question about who the greatest is. He should retire without generating any debate by coming back and becoming yet another athlete who stayed in the game too long.