Early retirement

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

In "The Dark Knight," Harvey Dent put it quite perfectly when he said, "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

Peyton Manning might not be turning into a villain any time soon but after a subpar end to 2014, he has many fans looking to give him a nudge out the door.

If you didn't know by now, things change so quickly in today's sports world. With the increase in immediacy due to the inception of the Internet and social media, things have gotten a shot in the arm.

Stories travel fast and so do opinions. Those change like the wind.

I could remember just last year when Manning had the greatest regular season a quarterback has ever had in NFL history. I remember him winning league MVP and leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

I remember him getting off to another ridiculous start in 2014 and having people wonder how in the world he could be shredding defenses so easily at 38 years old.

Things changed. Manning had his share of struggles at the end of the season and by the time the playoffs came around, the struggles intensified.

He had one of the worst performances of his career against the Colts in a second-round home playoff loss.

As soon as the final seconds rolled off of the clock, the grumblings started. We started to hear that Manning was over the hill; he had lost it.

Of course, that led to many asking if he should just go ahead and hang it up and by now, those that were asking themselves that question, they have the answer. They, along with many sports fans, think Manning should officially retire.

It all seems a little funny to me. I knew people had short memories these days but so short they can't even remember back to the half-way mark of 2014? That's Drew Barrymore in "50 First Dates" short.

Look, I'm not blind. Manning is no spring chicken. At 38, he's in the twilight of his career.

He does have the bad neck. His arm is obviously not as strong as it was five years ago.

If he does in fact decide to retire, it makes total sense. He has accomplished so many things. He has records, he has a Super Bowl ring and also five MVP trophies. He doesn't really have anything left to prove.

With all that said, the decision is his and not one of the fans. The man can actually still play. Even at 38 years old and in the latter stages of his career, his best is still better than the best efforts of over 90 percent of the quarterbacks in the league.

Less than two years ago, Manning had the greatest statistical year in NFL history as he broke two single-season passing records. He threw for a record 55 touchdowns and a record 5,477 yards.

He easily won his fifth MVP award. Oh yeah, he led the Broncos to a 13-3 record, No. 1 seed in the playoffs and a trip to the Super Bowl.

As we know, that game didn't go so well, but all of the 43-8 beatdown cannot be placed squarely on Manning's shoulders.

To start 2014, Manning was off to a hot start once again as he threw for at least 250 yards in five of Denver's first seven games. They were 6-1 and looking like the best team in the AFC.

All the while, many were saying he was superhuman and that he hadn't lost a step. As usual, his name was at the top of the MVP discussion as he threw 22 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

But after that point, the Broncos began to show some chinks in the armor, and Manning threw just 17 touchdowns opposed to 12 interception during Denver's last nine regular-season games.

Even with the struggles, Denver went 12-4, locked up the No. 2 seed in the AFC and had a first-round bye.

That's when they lost an ugly 24-13 contest to the underdog Colts. Manning missed throws throughout the game and could only muster 211 yards total.

In came the "over the hill" comments. In came the "he should retire" discussion.

As it turns out, Manning played the final month of the season with a torn quad. That goes a long way in explaining his diminished play during the home stretch of the year.

If Manning is healthy, he should do whatever he wants to do. Whether he chooses to retire or spend another season as the Denver starting quarterback, it's his call.

He has earned that right, and he still has the ability level to lead the Broncos to a deep playoff run.

Manning is a football junkie. He lives and breathes the game. His study and preparation are legendary.

The man's film study puts Ron Jaworski to shame, and that's saying something. Manning probably watches film of his opponents watching film.

As long as he has that burning desire to play, he should do it. He should retire on his own terms. He should retire because he doesn't want to do it anymore--not because some fans think he fell over the hill in a month's time.