– Zack El-Sharif
Peyton Manning is a living legend, he’s had a storybook career and on Super Bowl Sunday he might be able to write his own ending. Peyton has always been in control whether it’s at the line of scrimmage or during that crazy off-season where the Colts decided to cut him because they were in position to draft Andrew Luck. That summer of 2011 Peyton controlled the attention of the NFL, and virtually every team wanted Peyton. From Arizona all the way to Minnesota the reports about him going to a team were wild and full of speculation, the only person that knew where Peyton was going was Peyton. This is a rare circumstance due to the fact that it seems like NFL front offices control every move of the players. Normally a team wouldn’t bother signing a normal 36 year old quarterback, especially one that just missed a full season due to neck surgery, but luckily for Peyton he was never normal. Peyton was a QB that had 11 seasons of 4,000 plus yard passing seasons, 399 passing touchdowns and 4 time MVP.
Eventually as we all know he was courted by John Elway and signed with the Denver Broncos. His first game back was an event that made every NFL fan a Peyton-Believer. It was a Thursday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he threw for 253 yards and 2 Touchdowns as the 36 year old quarterback started his story with the Denver Broncos. His 2013 season while being 37 had a year that will end up being one of the greatest seasons of all-time and by far his best ever. Two years after being cut by a team that he gave 14 years to, he goes for 5477 yards, 55 Touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He had a season good enough for him to earn a 5th MVP and lead his team to the Super Bowl. This season was the first time since the surgery that we saw Peyton weak. On November 15th, Manning got benched for the first time in his career, after going 5-20 and throwing 4 interceptions. Once again it looked like Peyton was ending his career on a bad note being benched for the first time as the Broncos turned to a younger quarterback to try to get to the postseason. The media hounded him. Was the living legend Peyton Manning going to be able to be a backup in the league? Had we seen the last of Peyton? But in week 17 when the Broncos are battling for playoff positioning he was able to come back onto the field and lead his team to a victory in order to clinch the number 1 seed in the AFC. He was able to stand tall when his team needed a veteran leader at the quarterback position. “The Sheriff” was able to take control one last time.
Now as he prepares for the Super Bowl, the media has evidence that he told rival coach Bill Belichick that this maybe his “last rodeo”. They’ve spent the last week and a half debating if this really is the last of Peyton Manning. On Sunday Peyton has an opportunity to be in control one more time. It’s hard to believe a player of his caliber would ever give up the chance to be in the place he’s in control the most, the football field. But perhaps there’s no better example of a player controlling their own destiny than being able to decide when it all comes to an end. Win or lose on Sunday, despite all the criticism he’s received throughout his career, there was no one quite like #18. He changed the game for quarterbacks and the sport of football will be worse off without him.
– Zack El-Sharif (Twitter)