How long will Peyton Manning play? That’s the question every Denver Broncos fan would love to know the answer to. While I cannot give you a definite answer, I can provide you with some insight as to why I believe the end of Manning in Denver is still a ways off.
Let’s start by taking the injury question out of the equation for now. Obviously any kind of serious injury to Manning changes any time line, and there’s no way to predict if or when an injury may happen. So let’s assume that the quarterback who has answered the bell for every game in every season, except for the year he missed, will remain relatively healthy.
There is a school of thought out there that believes if Manning were to win a Super Bowl in the next year or two that he would walk away, much like his boss did 16 years ago. John Elway retired and went out on top after winning back-to-back Super Bowls. Elway, however, did not retire because he liked the story book ending to his Hall of Fame career.
He retired because his body was beat up and he could not do it physically anymore, he even said those very words at his retirement press conference. If Elway had been healthy after the Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons, trust me he would have returned for a run at a third straight title.
Manning is healthy and has said on multiple occasions that his body feels better than he thought it would at this point. As long as Manning is enjoying the game and the preparation, he will keep playing and winning a Super Bowl won’t change that one way or the other.
There are two primary reasons that football players walk away; one is injuries and the other is because they just get tired of the preparation. They still love the games on Sundays but they can no longer tolerate the monotony of the meetings, the weight lifting, the meetings, the practices and the meetings. Even Elway said if he could avoid all of that stuff and just play the games, then he would have kept playing.
This is what makes Manning different and is the primary reason why I firmly believe he will at least play out the three years remaining on his contract. He loves the preparation; he may love the preparation more than the games. Manning enjoys going to meetings and looking at film. He will talk football and how to score more points forever if you let him. He’s so obsessed that offensive coordinator Adam Gase eventually had to instill a rule just for Manning. The quarterback is not allowed to text or contact Gase once they leave the facility on Friday’s. Gase said that’s “family time.”
In addition to the meetings, Manning enjoys the offseason workouts and being with the guys. He still enjoys all of the little things that drive most 38 year old players into the broadcast booth. If anyone has been to a training camp practice, then you’ve seen Manning start every practice with simple footwork fundamentals. Those are the types of details that many veterans ignore after so many years in the league.
Not only does Manning continue to work on those details, he relishes in it and expects his teammates to do the same. There’s not one practice that ends without Manning taking someone aside and working with them on something specific. I still have vivid images of Manning working for close to an hour after a practice with rookie running back, Montee Ball. They were working on pass routes and Manning was even running the routes to show Ball exactly where he wanted him to break off his route. That workout may have been more intense than the actual practice.
We could go on forever with stories like that but all you need to remember is this, Manning’s work ethic is second to none and he loves it. Because he enjoys the preparation so much, that aspect is unlikely to drive him out of the game anytime soon.
Lastly, there’s no question that Manning is driven to win another Super Bowl or two. He’s never going to admit it publically, but he wants to be a multiple Super Bowl champion and he knows he has the team around him to contend.
When you combine Manning’s good health, his love for the game and his desire to win more championships then it is easy to see why he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
It’s ironic that it’s very likely that Manning will be with the Broncos longer than his projected successor, Brock Osweiler who is a free agent after next season. Strange how things work out sometimes.