What Reason Does Peyton Manning Have to Return in 2015?

Published: Feb 11, 2015 00:11am EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Feb 11, 2015 @ 12:11am EST


Denver Broncos, and future Hall of Fame, quarterback Peyton Manning is currently deciding whether he will return for the 2015 season. According to sources close to Manning, as long as his physical checks out then he is fully committed.

Manning is coming off a decidedly disappointing season; one in which he experienced a late-season collapse that was partly due to a quad injury suffered against the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 14, and partly due to him being counted on to do far more than a 38-year-old professional football player should be expected to do.

One thing that was obvious, even before the Chargers game, was that Manning was coming up short on a handful of throws each game. During the first eight games of the season Manning was averaging 8.3 yards per passing attempt, and 12.4 yards per completion. Compare that to the 7.5 Y/A and 11.5 Y/CMP during the final eight games of the season and it’s easy to conclude way too much was being asked of a 38-year-old NFL quarterback, regardless of whether he is the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL or not.

While sources close to Manning and the Broncos say he will be back for his 18th season, the real question needing to be asked is whether he should, regardless of his being physically and mentally able to.

First things first, though. The 2015 Denver Broncos will be better off with a soon-to-be 39-year-old Peyton Manning under center than they are without him. Even if Manning’s arm doesn’t allow him to air it out as much as he, or new head coach Gary Kubiak, would like doesn’t matter. Manning’s intelligence, presence on the field, and his ability to elevate the play of every single player on that roster is worth a slightly above league average Manning than not having him at all.

Looking around the league, it’s easy to identify the teams with terrible quarterback situations. Whether those teams are trying to groom rookies or second- or third-year signal callers, or simply lack a capable backup quarterback that can step in at a moment’s notice if need be.

Peyton Manning playing at just 60 percent of his true talent level is better than two-thirds of quarterbacks starting for NFL teams today. Period. There is absolutely no debating that.

But what exactly does Manning have to gain by returning for another season, another season which carries the potential to permanently disable him, due to the constant concern regarding the previous restructuring of sorts to his neck?

What does Manning have to gain returning for another season, under a new head coach, possibly only having one of his two biggest weapons on offense in Demaryius and Julius Thomas, and a division, and conference, which will only get tougher?

The answer is absolutely nothing.

Some may point out that Manning will completely own the statistical record books if he plays in 2015. He is, after all, just 2,148 passing yards shy of breaking Brett Favre’s NFL mark for most career passing yards. He passed Favre’s NFL record of 508 career touchdown passes in Week 7 of the 2014 season and currently sits on top with 522.

But Manning himself has said in any interview, when asked about those personal accomplishments, the only thing that matters to him is getting back to the Super Bowl and winning another championship.

Some have blatantly pointed out that Manning has $19 million reasons to play in 2015. That line of thinking is shortsighted, at best, because Manning has earned over $200 million throughout his playing career, not including the estimated $10 million or so he earns from endorsement deals. With an estimated net worth of $125 million, Manning isn’t doing this for the money.

Manning will turn 39-years-old on March 24, is already the oldest starting quarterback in the NFL, and history is not on his side. The last quarterback to have a truly great season, not just above average either, was Brett Favre.

Favre essentially set the bar for what constitutes a great season for a quarterback 39-years-old or older. He put up a ridiculous 107.2 passer rating, and 71.9 QBR, with the Minnesota Vikings in 2009. It was arguably one of the greatest seasons, statistically speaking, of his career.

According to data provided by pro-football-reference.com, Warren Moon was 39-years-old in 1995 and had the second greatest season ever at that age with a 91.5 quarterback rating. No other quarterback in their age 39, or beyond, season had a rating above 83.7 and the vast majority didn’t even have 200 attempts in a season.

The Broncos have asked Manning to let them know whether he intends to play by March 9, which happens to be the day before teams must exercise their rights on veteran players under contract.

The NFL’s only five-time MVP may have struggled during the second half of last season, and the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts just adds to the mental anguish felt by Manning, but only Manning can decide if he feels physically capable of going through the grind of another NFL season.

While the money and statistical records aren’t going to sway Manning’s decision one way or the other, there is one thing that will.


Manning doesn’t want to end his career with his final game being against his former team, in yet another tragic playoff disappointment in a long line of them throughout his career.

The fairy tale ending for Manning, as it would be for any professional athlete, would be to go out on top hoisting that championship trophy above your shoulders. Whether Manning gets that ending or not is unknown, but the real motivation for him to come back for one more season is to prove to all his critics that he is more than a regular season quarterback.

As unfair as it is for some fans and pundits to criticize Manning for winning just one Super Bowl championship, if he were able to end his career on a high note and win a second one – well, that would give Peyton Manning, the man, the most satisfying feeling in the world. 


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