Is this the last ride for Peyton Manning?

Peyton Manning

Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos during the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“I must retire now to my couch of perpetual indulgence.” – Lovelace, Happy Feet

Though it has yet to be confirmed, all signs point to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning retiring after Super Bowl 50. “This might be my last rodeo, so, it sure has been a pleasure,” he told Patriots coach Bill Belichick after winning the AFC Championship.

If this is it, and this is the last chance we get to see him play, then Godspeed, Mr. Manning.

Manning and the Broncos are pitted against the Carolina Panthers, who are led by 26-year-old quarterback sensation Cam Newton. The old adage about the old lion facing the young cub is obvious, but let’s not make it about that. Let’s instead celebrate The Sheriff, as Newton called him, as he saddles up for (possibly) the last time.

Manning’s season has been beset by injuries and old age. The 39-year-old was limited to nine starts this season thanks to a foot injury, and in those nine games his rocket right arm fizzled out as he threw nine touchdowns to 17 interceptions. It was difficult to watch one of the all-time greats look like a shell of himself, but when nature calls, it doesn’t leave a voicemail. Instead it gives you an hour-long lecture, the type your mom would give you, telling you it’s time to hang it up.

The old gunslinger is the NFL’s all-time leader in career touchdown passes and passing yards and holds numerous career and single-season records. His name is all over the Broncos and Indianapolis Colts’ record books. Manning has won the NFL MVP award a record five times, but those accolades haven’t translated to postseason success. Manning is 1-2 in Super Bowls and has been eliminated from the playoffs after one game nine times in his career. He has been the butt of people’s jokes comparing him to Tom Brady, who has four Super Bowl rings, and younger brother Eli Manning, who has two rings. It was easy for us to laugh at him while he was still around, while we took his brilliance for granted. Will we still be laughing when he’s gone?

Manning brought a certain genius to the quarterback position. For all the ‘Omaha’s and pre-snap antics that drove defenders insane, there was no other quarterback who could organize an offense the way he could. Quick Draw McGraw had nothing on Peyton Manning, who would reach into his holster and empty the clip with fireballs that had just the right touch and precision. His connections with Colts receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne were legendary, and he carried that over to Denver for a prolific aerial attack with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Peyton Manning will be up against a young and explosive Carolina defense in Super Bowl 50. He’ll likely be staring down the barrel the entire time as the Panthers ranked sixth in the league in sacks and first in defensive takeaways in the regular-season. Not one to shy away from a firefight, Manning will be the first one to point, aim and shoot. And his band of buckaroos will be right there with him as the Broncos boast the best defense in the league.

“Work here is done. I’m needed elsewhere now. I’m needed wherever outlaws rule the West, wherever innocent women and children are afraid to walk the streets, wherever a man cannot live in simple dignity, wherever a people cry out for justice.” –Sheriff Bart, Blazing Saddles

If Super Bowl 50 is in fact his last ride, then Peyton Manning’s legacy is set in stone. Win or lose, he has nothing left to prove and he will forever be carved into the NFL’s Mt. Rushmore of quarterbacks.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Manning. It’s time to saddle up and ride off, the sunset awaits.

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