That’ll do, Peyton Manning.
Aided by a vicious defense led by Von Miller and a running game anchored by C.J. Anderson, Manning has collected that elusive second Super Bowl, with Denver beating the Carolina Panthers 24-10. The one he needed to vindicate a Hall of Fame career that hopefully ended on Sunday night in San Francisco.
Manning became the oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl. He became the only quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. He has collected 200 wins, between the regular season and the playoffs, and that is also a record. Add in a slew of regular season records and Manning has done it all. For the postseason, he completes 63 percent of his passes and threw 40 touchdowns against 25 interceptions.
Manning admitted in the week leading up to Super Bowl 50 that he wasn’t exactly Bruce Springsteen anymore. “I’m still a part of the band. I’m not the lead singer, but I can still play a few solos.” He isn’t what he used to be, but that was by design. The Broncos defense, the quickest in the lead, didn’t need Manning to be Joe Montana out there. Wade Phillips defensive schemes were more than enough to sink the ship of Tom Brady and scramble the brain of the young Cam Newton. All Manning had to do was take the field, limit the mistakes, make some precise passes and hand the ball off.
He went from the guy who wasn’t supposed to play football five years ago after four neck surgeries to a guy tossing a two point conversion at the end of Super Bowl 50 to pound the nail into the coffin of another team. The Colts cast him off after he was deemed damaged goods. When he brought Denver back to the Super Bowl two years ago, the Seattle Seahawks embarrassed him. He was denied against New Orleans years earlier. Today, he can wake up and acknowledge that he was able to bring the Broncos back to the promised land at the rye old age of 39 years old. The only guy who can claim to do that this late in the game is the guy who brought Peyton to Denver. A man named John Elway.
Now, Manning should ride off into the sunset. Hop on a bronco, grab his hat, sit high and ride off. He should say no to that lame offer from Stan Kroenke and the LA Rams when it comes in. Flip Stan the bird as you ride past his house. He has no reason to go out there and be a part of that circus, unless he wants to be laid out at least 4-5 times per game behind that weak offensive line. The Rams are 5 years away from thinking about a Super Bowl, so forget it. There’s no need to be Johnny Unitas or Joe Namath on a football field, existing as more of a prop and marketing tool than an actual football player. Manning should walk away a champion while his back is straight and his brain is intact. Very few players leave when it’s right in their head and heart.
Let me give you some numbers before I leave.
In his career during the regular season, Manning completed 6,125 passes for 71,940 yards(40.8 miles worth). He threw 539 touchdowns and 251 interceptions while fumbling 47 times in 266 games with a 96.5 passer rating. He won a pair of Super Bowls to go with those stellar stats.
Peyton Manning will retire. Bet on it. He will rest, talk with his family, hug his son, kiss his wife and drink some Budweiser. He’ll film a dozen commercials and host Saturday Night Live. He will hang out, reap the rewards of a 17 year career. He will hang out a little and decide if he has thrown his last pass. Sometime this month or next, before the NFL draft unfolds and training camp uncoils, Manning will call it a day. He can’t go out on a higher note and will hopefully resist the Brett Favre body assault tour.
Peyton Manning loves football, so I can only hope he takes that passion to the sidelines and becomes a coach. He won’t be able to stay away and will stick around to keep an eye on his brother and the upcoming fleet. He has one of the smartest minds in the game and doesn’t need to be a color analyst next to Joe Buck or cram into a booth with Boomer and Steve Young. Be a coach. He will make a great head coach one day.
When Manning threw his last college football pass, I was a freshman in high school. When he won his first Super Bowl I had been married for two years. As he contemplates retirement, my son is four years old. Every football fan has their guy. The one they root for no matter what. Manning is my guy.
It’s time for my guy to hang it up. He’s at the top of the mountain. Everybody is looking up at him now. He is the star. One last time. There’s a reason several Broncos and Panthers players broke out their camera phones to snap photos of Manning and get a moment with him.
Everybody wants to share the stage with a legend.