There are plenty of story lines to follow for Super Bowl XLVIII, but Peyton Manning is one all himself with the historic year he had, his resurgence since half a billion neck surgeries, and the possibilities that he could ride off into the sunset with the Lombardi Trophy.
While nothing has been substantiated yet and Manning himself has denied any rumors that he’s leaning towards hanging up his cleats with a win over the Seahawks, the topic still is an interesting one. At 37 years old, a dinosaur in football years, should Peyton Manning take the opportunity to go out on top and retire if the Broncos win the Super Bowl?
Manning had a historically great season with the Broncos this year that players in his age just don’t get the opportunity to have nowadays. After sitting out the 2011 season, the first time he ever missed games in his career, and being released from the Colts, Manning has come back as an offensive power house and shattered both Drew Brees’ passing yards and Tom Brady’s touchdown records.
It could be very enticing for him to have the chance to go out on top.
His own team executive, John Elway, knows a thing or two about doing such a thing. Only 5 quarterbacks over the age of 35 have won a Super Bowl ever. The only player older than Manning to attempt it and succeed; John Elway. Elway was 38 when he led his Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl XXXIII victory over the Atlanta Falcons and then he subsequently retired before the start of the next season.
In Peyton’s own words he’s not even considering retirement at this point, regardless of the outcome of the Super Bowl.
“I still enjoy playing football. I feel a little better than I thought I would at this point coming off that surgery, and I still enjoy the preparation part of it, the important part of it. Everybody enjoys the games, and everybody’s going to be excited to play in the Super Bowl. But I think when you still enjoy the preparation; I think you probably still ought to be doing that.” – Peyton Manning
There’s no doubt that the grinding months of training and practice takes its toll on the player and getting weary of doing those is probably one of the main factors in a players’ decision to retire. If a player can still find enjoyment in the preparation aspect of playing, then they’re probably not ready to be done with it altogether. As long as Peyton still thinks he can kick your ass, he’s probably still going to keep playing.
No one likes to see the great ones fizzle out at the end of their careers. Michael Jordan fans basically just ignore the fact that he ever even played games for the Washington Wizards. In spite of how entertaining it might be to speculate on whether or not Brett Favre would “unretire” ever again, no one really wants to see an aging quarterback out on the field who is the last to realize that he doesn’t have “it” anymore. Add that to how incredible it would feel to be one of the few greats who get to go out on top with trophy in hand and you couldn’t blame Manning for stepping down after a victory parade.
I think that Peyton should keep playing as long as he wants and feels he still can. It’s said that there’s no smarter quarterback in the game than Manning so I’d seriously doubt he’d turn into one of those guys who can’t see the writing on the wall.
If the Broncos win the Super Bowl and Manning returns next season only to have decreased offensive numbers (which wouldn’t necessarily mean he’s in a decline considering this years’ numbers were inhuman) and then realize it’s time to leave I don’t think he has to worry about his legacy being affected in the least bit.
Manning is one of the greats with or without a Super Bowl XLVIII victory and I’m inclined to take him for his word when he says he’s not interested in exiting the game just yet. Whether he still finds the enjoyment in offseason workouts, training camp, and hours of practice once he’s hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and finished the victory parade, remains to be seen.