The Decline of Peyton Manning

To understand how  quickly value drops in the NFL, you only have to look at the career of Peyton Manning. Once the most awarded player ever, Manning is now a backup quarterback with little value as an NFL player. At 39 years old, with a long list of major injuries, not many teams want to build their roster around him. That’s quite a fall from back in 1998, when he was the most decorated and sought-after quarterback to enter an NFL Draft in years.

In that draft, Manning was taken first overall by the Indianapolis Colts and began his NFL career at the age of 22.

18 Apr 1998: First overall pick Peyton Manning shows off his jersey after being selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire /Allsport
18 Apr 1998: First overall pick Peyton Manning shows off his jersey after being selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire /Allsport

Manning was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Indianapolis Colts and the face of the Colts franchise. He has the most Pro Bowl appearances and MVP awards (5) of any NFL player. In 2006, Peyton and the Colts won Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears 29-17 and he was named Super Bowl MVP. In 2011, Manning had neck surgery to repair displacements within his neck. Without Manning for the 2011 season, the Colts finished 2-14 and had the number one overall draft pick.

The last time Indianapolis had the number one overall pick, they took Manning. While they had it once again for the 2012 draft, they wouldn’t have Manning. Manning and the Colts mutually agreed to part ways as the Colts had publicly said they would be drafting quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts planned to start Luck right away, leaving Manning — who still felt he still had something to give to a team –on the bench. So arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game became a free-agent, something that rarely ever happens as teams sign their star players before they even hit the free-agent market.

The top three teams interested in Manning were the Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos. Manning signed with the Broncos. In Denver, Manning asserted himself as the greatest regular-season quarterback ever. (You may notice how I said regular-season, and not greatest quarterback ever. That title belongs to Tom Brady.) From 2012 to 2015, Manning has thrown for 140 touchdown passes in Denver, led them to a Super Bowl but came up very short in that game against the Seattle Seahawks, losing 43-8.

The last game Manning played this year was on November 15th and he then was benched. He threw for only 35 yards with four interceptions before being benched in the second quarter. Brock Osweiler replaced Manning, and virtually took Manning’s job. Manning has missed the past six games with a lingering foot and rib injury and replacement Osweiler had emerged as the starter. Manning was active for the final regular season game this past weekend versus the San Diego Chargers, the first time since being benched six weeks ago.

Manning also has been accused of using HGH, a human growth hormone, during the recovery from his neck surgeries in 2011. HGH is an illegal substance in the NFL but because the alleged offense was several years ago, and Manning took a long list of medications for his surgeries, it’s unlikely the league will try to suspend Manning for illegal substance use. It adds a new factor to the legacy for the great Peyton Manning.

Like I said, value can drop very quickly in the NFL. Although Manning made it back onto the field for the Chargers game, I believe the end of his career is near. No doubt when he was put it to the game on Sunday against the Chargers, he created a spark that led Denver to victory. The Broncos are the number one seed in the AFC and have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. But Manning has a losing record of 11-13 in the playoffs and is known to play very poorly in the postseason. Denver is going to start Manning against whoever comes out victorious from wildcard weekend, likely putting their season in his hands for the final time. If Brock Osweiler is truly Denver’s quarterback for the future, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t allow him to play and grow and get experience in the postseason. It’s not like Osweiler is so bad that they’re just throwing away the number one seed if they start him. Osweiler gives them a legitimate chance to succeed in the postseason. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak needs to review the NFL history books and learn that teams led by Manning usually don’t go too far into the playoffs. That’s certainly not going to change this year.

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