By Evan Brown
After a season of declining performance, sidelining injuries, and his second Super Bowl victory, the 39 year-old Peyton Manning’s ended all questions of his future and decided to retire. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, Peyton has chosen to end his career on top and ride off into the sunset. Was it the right call to hang up the cleats and live a lavish life of Papa John’s and Budwiser? After looking at the numbers, I believe it was overwhelmingly the right decision.
It’s no secret that Manning’s performance as of late was suffering. After three consecutive years with a passer rating above 100, Manning’s dropped to just 67.9 in 2015. The future Hall of Famer found himself consistently in the upper echelon of Quarterbacks throughout his career but dropped to 34th in passer rating in 2015. That ranking placed him below the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, both Quarterbacks of the San Francisco 49ers, the League’s 7th worst team, and even Manning’s own backup, Brock Osweiler. After leading the NFL with a stunning 55 touchdowns in 2013, Manning threw only 9 in 2015. With 17 interceptions, Peyton threw just over half a touchdown per interception. To put that in perspective, he threw 5.5 touchdowns per interception back in 2013.
One might be tempted to think this ratio would be more in Peyton’s favor had he played in more than just 10 regular season games. However, Peyton’s playoff performance suggests more games would not have made much of a difference. In three playoff games, Peyton threw only two touchdowns (both against the 30th ranked pass defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and one interception. So even if Peyton had played a full season, his touchdown numbers would have hardly increased. As for his interceptions? Despite missing six fewer regular season games, Peyton still threw two more interceptions in 2015 than he did playing a full season in 2014.
Given Peyton’s age and performance drop, it’s clear his body is starting to break down. Despite a rather healthy start to his NFL Career, he’s had a multitude of injuries the past few years. Only twice has he actually been sidelined. The first came after his third neck surgery in 2011, which caused him to miss the entire season with the Colts. The next came as a torn quadriceps late in the 2014 playoffs. Although Manning was able to play the full game against his former team in that AFC Divisional Matchup, he’d throw for only 211 yards and a single touchdown in their 13-24 defeat. Most recently, it was a bout of plantar fasciitis that sidelined him for over a third of the regular season. It’s clear the once seemingly-immune Peyton Manning is becoming prone to injury, and whether it’s the pain of injury, fear of further injury, or both, Manning is no longer able to perform at his best.
From a health standpoint, retirement will preserve what’s left of Peyton’s body. Peyton has already come out and said he’ll need a hip replacement at some point. Playing more games would have only increased his chance of needing even more serious operations later on or, if traumatic enough, immediately.
Obviously, Peyton faced a huge decision for his future. There was the temptation for greater success coupled with the nagging pain of years of abuse. There were millions of fans to consider as well as a wife and two kids. But like any intelligent person, Peyton weighed the prospects and eventually arrived at a decision that he knows is best.
On a personal note, as a man who literally grew up watching Peyton play, I believe this is the right call. I’ve celebrated and suffered through all of Peyton’s high and lows in the NFL. I remember the Colts going nearly undefeated in 2010 and the agony of the Dark Days in 2011 with Curtis Painter behind center and Peyton on the sidelines. I remember the shock felt when Peyton left the Colts and signed with the Broncos, and the spiteful smile I wore when he made it to his third and now fourth Super Bowl despite all the projections about his health and age. Peyton Manning is my idol. I want him to stay that way. I want him to walk away in greatness. This past season humanized him enough. And things weren’t looking up.
Peyton, thank you. Thank you for all the years of incredible play and redefining what it meant to be a quarterback. Now go out with your body somewhat intact, and go sell some pizzas.