After nearly two decades of rewriting NFL passing records and blossoming into the No. 1 marketed product in the NFL player inventory, can you believe Peyton Manning’s last hurrah is an afterthought in Super Bowl 50 coverage?
Cam Newton, the race card and the evolving blackness of the QB position has stolen the headlines from everyone, including the NFL’s all-time leading passer, who many thought had played his last downs of meaningful football when Brock Osweiler assumed his starting position on Nov. 22 and led Denver to a 17-15 win over the Chicago Bears.
This season, the football god who threw a record 55 TD passes in 2013 and is the first quarterback in NFL history to take two different teams to the Super Bowl, didn’t toss the rock with the same zest and accuracy.
Age was finally starting to show. He couldn’t stay healthy and rumors of HGH use reported by Al Jazeera, which the NFL is now investigating, seemed to be the icing on the cake of a personally miserable season. Not the kind of ending we all envisioned for Manning.
However, strange things happen along the way of a Hall of Fame career. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than great.
Denver’s defense is dynamite, but few expected the Broncos to be able to defeat Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game with an aging Manning at the helm. Despite the doubters, the future Hall of Famer continues to do his part and for the first time in his life he gets to “quietly” go about his business as the “other” QB playing in the Super Bowl.
This is probably the least pressure Manning has ever faced entering a Super Bowl. Nobody’s expecting him to throw for 300 yards and four TDs. Most fans are hoping he can manage the game, make some key throws and help Denver win a low scoring, grind-it-out game.
The unfair expectations that once terrorized Manning in every big game he played, are now gone. He is in the perfect position to conserve nothing, put it all on the line and go out on top. He hasn’t confirmed retirement, but his brother Eli hinted at it on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
"He has not said anything to me about it," Eli Manning said. "But I think I kind of may think like everybody else, where you see this as possibly being the last game. I don't know if he knows himself or if he's thought about it. But when you get to Year 19 and you deal with some injuries and things going on ... it would be a good way to go out."
Vegas is big on Carolina as is half the known football world. The hype leading up to this Super Bowl has been typical of the two weeks of boredom in leading up to most Super Bowls. Media is looking for a controversy or narrative to run with and make layers of stories out of.
Cam’s unapologetic blackness became the chosen lightning-rod topic and made the first week of no football go pretty smoothly. Peyton Manning must feel like MC Shan when KRS-1 dropped The Bridge is Over.
In any other season, Manning reaching the Super Bowl at age 39 would be the hot topic. It’s an incredible feat for a guy that had several career-threatening neck surgeries four years ago. It’s the perfect fairy tale ending to what has been an iconic career.
Legends like Peyton Manning come around once in a lifetime. Sometimes they also overstay their welcome at the top of the food chain
Most of NFL Nation is anticipating (or dreading) a new breed to assume the mantle from the Godfather of QBs. ESPN Insider Mike Sando has Peyton disrespectfully ranked as the 22nd best baller in a ranking of the 106 players comprising both Super Bowl squads. In comparison, Cam is ranked No. 3.
However, knowing the competitive spirit, intelligence and overall pedigree of Manning, the task won’t be as easy as people think. Manning is playing for all the marbles, but it's like whatever.
The pressure is really all on confident Cam and Carolina. Manning has been there and done this. He’s been that dude. He's been the talk of the town and the center of conversation and controversy. When has he ever been able to kind of blend into the scene? We've never seen him be able to play in a game of this magnitude and not be expected to will his team to victory.
It couldn’t be set up any better for "The Sheriff" to make his final bust (this time the perp is the bubble of the Carolina Panthers) and ride off into the sunset, respected and immersed in the adulation, reflection and appreciation for what he has meant to the game for the past 18 seasons.