Peyton the ‘Man’-ning

He’s retiring. Read about his career!

Players like Peyton Manning are a rarity, he has two super bowl rings, five MVPs, 200 combined regular and postseason season wins (the most all-time), the most career passing yards and touchdowns in league history, and the most single season passing yards and touchdowns in league history. Additional accolades the legend has racked up in his 18 year career include 14 Pro Bowls and the orchestrator of the best offense in league history for the 2013-2014 Broncos. With these accomplishments, it is more fact than opinion that Manning has cemented his spot into the conversation of the greatest quarterback of all-time.

It is expected that the 39 year old will retire this NFL offseason and hang up his cleats for good. If Manning does decide to call it quits, he gets to ride off in style as he’s coming off his second Super Bowl win this past February. However, it was certainly an odd year for Manning. The superstar even got benched—and oddly enough, in the very game that he broke the NFL career passing record.

The roller coaster that was this season for Manning started off good at least for the team. The Broncos got off to a 7-0 start, but Manning didn’t necessarily play well. He then lost the next 2 games and due to his poor performance in the 2nd loss (four interceptions) he got benched. That dreadful start, where Manning accomplished one of the greatest feats a quarterback could dream of but still managed to play a horrible game was, in all likelihood, his last regular season start. Backup QB Brock Osweiler would go on to start the remaining 7 games and go 5-2 in that the span. Manning, hoping to heal old, nagging injuries, did not even dress out for another game until the 16th and final game of the regular season—a game where he would come off the bench for the first time since his college days at Tennessee.  Manning entered that game as a substitute, provided a spark for his offense, and led his team to a victory, securing the number one seed in the playoffs.

In the playoffs, Manning, aging and riddled with injuries, wasn’t as big a contributor to his team as he would have liked to be, but he did enough to get the job done. He relied more on his team’s defense and running game this time around, but with a solid two touchdown performance in the AFC Championship (semi-final) Game. He anchored his team to a victory and Super Bowl birth against arch nemesis Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This was his second consecutive victory against Tom and the Pats during the season. Ultimately, Peyton had a subpar performance in the Super Bowl, but with the scary and historically good Denver defense at his side, his normal heroics weren’t necessary.

Nevertheless, Manning has been the leader and sole bright spot for his team many times and his defense has let him down before. It only felt right that one of his defenses repay him this time and take on the heavy load of carrying his team through the playoffs.

In many ways, Manning’s up-and-down, roller coaster of a season brought out a major reason why so many of his fans like him so much-his class. Manning, throughout his career, has always been a true professional. He always respected the game, avoided any on or off field controversy or drama, and went about the game in the humble, old-school way most parents wish their kids would. He interviewed well and never let his attitude, demeanor, or mannerisms come into question.

Manning also worked hard and was known for putting an excessive amount of time in the film room—even when his body began to fail him, his mind stayed ahead of everybody. He is often regarded as the best ever at knowing what play to call and when to call it—a true student of the game.

Maybe that’s part of why we liked him so much. He certainly was a superstar athlete, but it wasn’t just all raw talent. He treated the training facility like an office and his job like just that—a job. With a focus unmatched, he undoubtedly got the most out of the talent he was given, which was already a lot.

Whether you like him or not, if February second was the last time Manning decides to put on pads, our generation will be able to say that we got to see one of the best to ever play, play.