In the end, the pundits were right about Peyton Manning. After winning Super Bowl 50, Manning, many people said, achieved his storybook ending and would now walk off into the sunset as a two-time champion. Given his advanced age and failing health – at least from an NFL standpoint – it was a no-brainer.
If only the decision were that easy from Manning’s perspective.
Yes, the soon-to-be 40-year-old waffled in recent weeks about his future but ultimately decided to retire – perhaps because seemingly everyone around him told him it was time. But while the storybook ending is nice, many athletes are less concerned about legacy and more concerned about continuing to do something they love.
“I think guys might talk about (the perfect ending and walking off into the sunset), but you still have that burning passion to just play,” former NFL wide receiver and current Ravens radio analyst Qadry Ismail said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “You think, ‘Well, if I won one, I can win another.’ You just want to keep on going until you can’t go anymore. That’s why it’s so difficult for guys to walk way from the game. A lot goes into it when it comes to retiring. Did I (achieve) my dreams? Did I have any regrets? Those are all thoughts that just kind of race through your mind as you transition from doing something that you’ve been doing all your life to doing something different. It’s like, well, welcome to the real world.”
For Manning, the “real world” will almost certainly involve football at some point to some degree. Whether it’s as an analyst, a coach, an executive or something else entirely, Manning still has a lot to offer football – even though he’s already given it so much.
“I think he brought in the ability to do a hurry-up offense, to have multiple plays at your fingertips, and no matter what the defense does, you have an answer for it,” Ismail said. “He definitely has done things to defenses as far as just recognizing what the defense is. Obviously he’s done a tremendous job as as far as throwing TDs, but I think the red zone – the way in which he was able to just slice and dice a defense no matter what you did (was incredible). Play-action passes inside the 5-yard line (worked) to perfection with him. I think the little details like that, just the way he was able to define and redefine the quarterback position, really spoke volumes of just who he was as a talented athlete.”