SIDELINES: Discussing Peyton Manning

Lost feeling in his hands and his game

Peyton Manning has been places most haven’t in his storied football career.

From growing up in New Orleans, watching his dad become a legendary quarterback for the Saints, to being selected first overall in the 1998 NFL Draft.

He’s been to Hawaii for a record 14 Pro Bowl selections, and he’s stood with confetti raining down on him at Super Bowl XLI while hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

But this past weekend, in his uniform, pads and helmet, he watched the conclusion to a game from unfamiliar territory: the bench.

Manning broke the all-time passing yards record early in the first quarter on Sunday in what appeared to be a game where football fans could celebrate the renowned quarterback’s career.

But Manning went on to throw four interceptions Sunday before being told to take the rest of the day off.

While watching the NFL last weekend with a few of my friends, everyone in the room except for me was quick to proclaim that Peyton Manning was “done” and needs to hang it up.

I defended Manning, arguing that a quarterback can’t truly be ready to call it quits when his team is 7-2 and in first place in the division by three games.

But statistically speaking, Manning is currently the worst quarterback in the league, with a league high 17 interceptions and the league low in QB rating.

As one of my friends cleverly put it, “Nothing shows that a player is past his prime like breaking a major record the same day he throws four interceptions.”

My friends credited Denver’s success this season to their top-ranked defense rather than their so-called “star” quarterback.

I’ll be the first to say that no argument is all about statistics, but upon watching the highlights of Sunday’s Broncos game, it’s clear that this is a different Peyton Manning than we’re used to seeing.

I mean, he really looked incapable out there.

Under-throwing passs he used to pinpoint with perfection.

Dropping back and throwing ugly off-balance passes like he was throwing with his left hand.

While he may be the same Peyton Manning between the ears, he’s not the same player on the outside.

His 39-year-old body is deteriorating out of professional football shape.

His series of neck surgeries have numbed all feeling in his fingertips. He needs a brace on one of his knees for support. He has battled shoulder and rib problems of late, and after the game Sunday it was reported that he suffered a broken bone in his foot.

He can still run his signature no-huddle offense and analyze a game like he could in his prime, but when it comes to executing, his physical abilities, like many of his passes, fall short.

I think it’s safe to say we will never see the old Peyton Manning again—on the field that is.

Even if he does decide to quit in the next year, I’d be shocked if this is the last we’ll see of Peyton Manning.

He’s a likable personality. He excels in front of the camera in countless commercials, ESPN segments and SNL skits. He’s the epitome of what the NFL wants its representatives to be.

Former NFL stars like Michael Strahan, Terry Bradshaw and Keyshawn Johnson have rebranded themselves as characters on sports and non-sports related TV shows. Manning is the perfect person to follow suit.

So not to worry, football fans: While we may see the end of Peyton Manning the quarterback in the near future, don’t expect to have him off your TV screen for long.

He’ll be a welcomed guest in any football fan’s living room any day of the week.

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