Peyton Manning is going to come back this season. He’s a competitor and having watched his biggest rival, Tom Brady, solidify himself as the best quarterback of the era, Peyton will not find in himself the desire to walk away from the game. Nor will he find the wisdom to. When Peyton returns this season, it will be the worst decision of his storybook career, and it will leave a sour memory in the eyes of the young generation watching football. I hate to tell you this, Peyton, because you’re one of my favorite players and people ever, and I know you’re reading this, but by coming back next season, you’re just jumping the shark. Peyton Manning is no longer capable of taking a team of any kind to the Super Bowl, and with the Broncos crumbling around him, he will endure the worst season of his career this season. Let me explain why.
In 2013-2014, Peyton Manning made the world think he was the ageless wonder. At 37 years old, he set career highs and NFL records in both passing yards and touchdown passes. He also did it with the weakest arm in the NFL. Yes, it was the most accurate arm in the league, but it was weak. Even the season before he shattered every record, Peyton led the Broncos to a 12-4 record, and had it not been for Rahim Moore blowing coverage in the divisional round, Peyton may have had another shot at a ring. This isn’t to say that he had the laser of Aaron Rodgers, which he hasn’t since his neck surgery, rather, he’s just been cerebrally exquisite.
Then came the Super Bowl XLVII, and the Seattle Seahawks staunching defense figured out Peyton with a blue print the rest of the league learned from: jam the receivers and play hard, man-to-man coverage, because he’ll find the holes in a zone, but he can no longer throw receivers open against a man. I don’t need to tell you how the rest of that game went and how embarrassing it was for the greatest regular season quarterback of all time. This year, Peyton had a near-Peyton-perfect regular season until his streak of consecutive games throwing a touchdown snapped against Buffalo in week 14, and filling in for Peyton “The Sheriff” Manning at quarterback came the ghost of Brett Favre’s past (see Brett Favre, 2009-2010 to get the reference). Just like that, CJ Anderson became the feature player of an offense starring Peyton Manning. Of course, it wasn’t enough to get them anywhere, and Peyton’s already gloomy 11-12 playoff record sank to 11-13 against the team that cut him almost 4 years ago. The game was a definitive loss as Peyton put together his lowest QBR of the season at 27.9. To put that in perspective, Geno Smith averaged a QBR of 35 this past season.
So, what, you ask? Is there anything wrong with a loss in the divisional round? That’s still good, no? I’m glad you asked. That would be good, I mean, I’m a Jets’ fan and I’d kill for a divisional round loss, but let me clarify: the 2015 Broncos will not be in the Divisional Round. At all. John Elway built a win-now team with an eye on these past two seasons, and now, with Wes Welker contemplating retirement, and Demaryius and Julius Thomas set to hit the market, it seems impossible for the Broncos to keep their core together to make a run at the Super Bowl. It’s time for the old guys to step away, and let the young leaders of the team like Von Miller step up. With Peyton playing the way he did at the end of this season, and with his arm as weak as it currently is (I mean, just watch that ball flutter in the air), there’s no way that a Peyton Manning team will return to the promise-land. They’re just wasting their own time.
To wrap up, of course Peyton is coming back. His competitive fire is what’s gotten him so far in his career, but it will also be why it fizzles out the way it will. As an avid fan of NBC’s The Office for all of its time on air, I can honestly call myself an expert in the field of witnessing things jump the shark and run too long with a good thing. Peyton Manning has changed the NFL forever from an analytical standpoint. He is the greatest regular season quarterback of all time. This season, however, will be rough and even if the Broncos can make their way to playoffs from composing a winning record with wins over mediocre teams, the 2015-2016 Broncos pose no threat as Super Bowl champions. I’m rooting for you, Peyton, and I know it hurts you to read this, and I know you won’t listen, but the best thing you could do for your legacy is walk away now.
You’d be one hell of a quarterbacks coach, and an even better commentator, Peyton. Best of luck.