With all the news, rumors, talk, opinions, fanposts, fanshots, tweets and polls about the future of Peyton Manning, I'm going to dive in with an expansion of a comment that I made yesterday about the subject. As of now, nobody really knows what the future holds for Manning, and it's likely that he doesn't even know for sure just yet. His options, assuming Irsay doesn't want to spend a king's ransom on the current deal, seem to be limited to one of the following: figure out a new deal with the Colts, sign with another team or retire.
My strong belief is that retirement is his best option at this point of his illustrious career, and while I know there are a great number of fans across America who cheer for the Chiefs and the Dolphins and the Jets and yes, the Colts and would love to see Manning continue to play, I'm going to lay out my reasons why his best choice is to go quietly into that good night and peacefully await his first ballot unanimous Hall of Fame election.
So, what did Manning actually have done? Well, it was a cervical neck fusion to repair a bulging disk. Moreover, it was his third neck surgery. Not his first. Not his second. His third. We're not talking about Steve DeBerg's pinky here, this is Manning's neck and spinal cord. And we're not talking about someone who simply needs to grab a cup of coffee or lift a pen to a paper to do his job. This is football. This is an impact sport. How many of us remember holding our collective breath when we saw Trent Green lying helplessly on the ground? How many of us remember the late Darryl Stingley? It only takes one hit, one jarring tackle, one time of Manning's body being slammed to the ground and his head slamming back on the turf for something beyond horrible to happen.
Jack Tatum & Darryl Stingley Hit (The Final Play) (via jaw1987cchs)
Is it worth the risk? Remember, too, that was in a preseason game. Yes, the rules have changed since then, but it's a reminder of the bottom line violence of the sport. Sure, it was an accident, a fluke. The point remains: in a sport as violent as football, anything can happen. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Just ask Trent Green.
Is it worth the price of going too far, too long? Muhammad Ali would probably say no. Ali. The Greatest. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. A few hits too many have changed all that. Forever. At what point is too much simply too much? How far does our need to see violence and bone jarring tackles need to go? At what point does Manning's longterm health and future become more important than our desire to see a game and our own greed for glory as embodied in our team gaining wins and Super Bowl victories? If I'm Peyton Manning, that time is now.
The Record Book
3rd in alltime passing yards behind Favre and Marino
2nd in alltime passer rating for a single season behind Rodgers
1st in alltime single season 4th Qtr comeback victories (and tied for 2nd as well)
2nd in alltime comeback 4th Qtr victories behind Marino
2nd in alltime career game winning drives behind Marino
2nd in alltime TDs in single season behind Brady
3rd in alltime TDs career behind Farve and Marino
And the list goes on and on and on, suffice it to say that Manning's place in NFL history, and the record books, is secure. One interesting statistic is single season touchdown percentage, where Manning is tied for 6th with George Blanda. Manning's 9.9% season came in 2004. Blanda's was in 1961. Adrian Burk (who?) ranks 5th with 10% and that happened in 1954, and those above were all from the 1940's. There's not another "Modern Era" name to be found until you get to Aaron Rodgers' 9% from this season, ranking in a tie for 15th with names from the 1940's, or Brady's 8.7% from 2007 ranking tied for 20th.
The list for those who'd like to see some history is here. Fascinating look at names from a bygone era, with Manning right up there in a seemingly out of place and out of time statistical anomaly.
The point? Manning doesn't need to complete another pass or throw even one more touchdown to be considered one of the greatest of all time. He's already there. He's proven it time and time again. The man simply has nothing left to prove.
Alright, anyone who thinks that Peyton Manning actually needs more money because he's foolishly frittered away millions of dollars please raise your hand. I'll wait ... and wait ... and wait ...
Right. Manning is arguably one of the most intelligent players in football, or any sport. His contracts over the years have been worth millions of dollars. Hundreds of millions. Plus bonus money. And endorsements. And more endorsements. Back when Michael Jordan was at the top of his game, it was reported that his salary from the Chicago Bulls was about $20 Million a year, and his endorsements were worth another $80 Million a year. Really. That's more than the GDP of some nations. Anyone care to bet that Manning isn't in similar company? Right, that's what I thought.
Peyton Manning doesn't need another dime. He doesn't need a contract, or a bonus. He doesn't need the glory. So much as been tossed about concerning the "best city to live in" should Manning sign with a team not called the Colts. City to live in? Peyton Manning could buy his own city. His own island. Manning Island. To be truthful he already has an island in Indianapolis, but it's in the guise of a domed stadium.
The Bottom Line
In short, it's time for Manning to do what's best for Manning. At this point, with nothing left to prove for his place in history, with no need for money and nothing worth risking his health and perhaps his life for, it's time for Team Manning to do the right thing. It's time for Manning to take a deep breath, sit back and think of his family, his kids, himself. I'm a lifelong Chiefs fan, but I've long been a huge Manning fan and admirer. Amazing talent! I appreciate all you've done and all you've given to the sport, to the game I love. But it's time. All good things must come to an end.
It's time for Manning to hang up the cleats one last time. One final time. Forever. Canton awaits your arrival.