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Will Peyton Go Out On Top?

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The world wants to know whether Super Bowl 48 will be the final NFL game for Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images.
The world wants to know whether Super Bowl 48 will be the final NFL game for Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images.

Win or lose on Super Bowl Sunday, Peyton Manning is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, with a special space reserved for him in Canton, Ohio. Over the past several weeks, reports have been surfacing that once the season ends, Manning will meet with doctors regarding his neck surgeries and the status of his football career.

Manning’s story is a remarkable one. He has endured four neck surgeries, a lost 2011 season and a release by his longtime team, the Indianapolis Colts, in favor of up-and-coming star Andrew Luck. Manning has risen above all of this to have the single greatest quarterback season in NFL history. He didn’t need these records to be considered one of the all-time greats; and even if Manning were to have a subpar Super Bowl performance, this season would still be remembered as nothing short of legendary.

Manning was recently quoted in a local Denver interview as saying: “And so that is certainly my goal to enjoy the preparation -- not just the game -- to actually enjoy the preparation part of it, enjoy being around the guys. Because certainly, the light is at the end of the tunnel for me, no question. And so, I think you enjoy these things maybe even more than maybe you have in the past." Manning is aware his days in the league are numbered, and this could very well be his last Super Bowl or even his last football game altogether.

Let’s say Peyton keeps doing what he’s done all season and shreds this stellar Seattle defense en route to a Super Bowl MVP. Then during the offseason, he gets some bad news from the doctors: They tell him that he is risking further, potentially permanent injury if he keeps pushing himself to play despite his neck situation. Things would certainly get interesting. Could the greatest season in NFL history be followed up by retirement?

Just last season, the NFL saw one of its all-time greats, Ravens MLB Ray Lewis “go out on top.” Lewis proclaimed 2012 as his final year before the season, and was fortunate enough to pull off the Super Bowl victory behind Joe Flacco’s extremely clutch passing. The stakes are a little bit different for Manning. He has not come out and said he will retire after the Super Bowl, but rather has hinted that if he receives bad news regarding his neck in the offseason, he will consider retirement. Manning is playing at the highest level of his career, and if you ask me, I think the doctors would have to pry off his Broncos jersey and barricade him from Mile High Stadium in order to keep him away from football for another season. You can’t be as good as Manning was this season and just walk away.

It is hard for me to imagine Manning hanging up his cleats after a season this special. I truly believe he would have to receive some seriously bad news from the doctors in order to even consider walking away from the game into which he has poured every fiber of his being. But he does have absolutely nothing left to prove. And he has had four major neck surgeries. Plus, he is on the brink of a Super Bowl victory. But still, I think I speak for the entire NFL universe when I say, “Peyton, we’d love to have you back.”