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Should Peyton Manning give it one more shot?

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A 39-year-old quarterback aiming for a championship - or even to just play another NFL season - is not unprecedented but very rare, and if Peyton Manning announces he will return for another season, he will be among the oldest quarterbacks to start in the NFL. That decision could possibly come this week or more likely by the end of the month.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I'm a sucker for a good ending.

You know, where the guy gets the girl, mounts the white horse and rides off into the sunset?

Or better yet, he gets the trophy, mounts the white horse and grabs a gold jacket on the way.

Oh, and of course he also gets the girl.

Because when you are one of the Greatest Of All Time, you deserve the storybook ending. I want Manning to come back just so he can fight for the ending he deserves.

And why shouldn't that be the ending Broncos Country and its five-time NFL MVP quarterback get?

When you are one of the Greatest Of All Time, you deserve the storybook ending.

It is the one we desire after all.  As one of the few NFL franchises to have our best player leave the game in such triumphant fashion - and with flair to boot - it's not surprising we want, hope and even expect that ending for all our GOATs.

So call me naive, call me ridiculous, call me a homer - I don't care.I want Peyton Manning to come back next season purely so he can fight for the glory he deserves.

Manning has given so much to the Broncos organization, his teammates here and across the league, the NFL in general - not to mention the game of football itself - that he deserves the opportunity to give it his best shot one more season.

But I wouldn't want it if I didn't believe Manning's "best shot" can be great. At least great enough.

So, in the words of Drew Brees:

In case that's not enough, the ever-hilarious Brandon Perna compiled five reasons Manning should stay, not the least of which is that the team is better with him than without.

Though, for the record, my favorite reason is that he can't possibly retire just after Tom Brady won a Super Bowl - "if you retire now you are forcing all Broncos and Colts fans to live with the worst ending to a football story in NFL history."

Excellent point. Did I mention I like stories with good endings?

It would be worth it just to spite Chiefs fans all over again.

But for every supporter, there's been an equal and opposite detractor calling for Manning to hang it up.

I know all of the arguments - he's too old; his arm is too weak; his ego won't let him give in to true a running game; he's too predictable for defenses - but I'm not buying.

Even a majority in our MHR poll last month wanted the 2007 Super Bowl MVP to move on:

But this poll, which went a little viral, was asked mere hours after the Broncos' playoff loss to the Colts. Were some 'No' votes more the product of the sting of that playoff loss than a true desire for Manning to move on?

We suspect so. It's why we're here, asking again.

Sure, all the reasons Manning shouldn't play next year have some merit, a few even some truth. But all can be overcome.

Manning didn't start off the season shaky and then tank; he started off great and went downhill. A performance decline like that doesn't happen overnight because of old age, a weak arm and sudden predictability.

It happens because of a jumbled O-line, poor game preparation and injury (and I get it, getting older doesn't help those - but it's still not enough reason by itself to assume Manning can't be good, really good, or even great again).

How much of those problems can be pinned on Manning would only be speculation, though it is fair to blame the cerebral quarterback for several of his poor decisions this season.

But a healthy Manning, a fortified and consistent offensive line, a new head coach with a game plan tailored to Manning's strengths and his weaknesses, will make for an entirely different outcome in 2015 - and one that has a shot at a trophy.

And if Manning does announce he is coming back, we can be sure he is healthy.

"I've always wanted to be part of the solution to helping and never a problem. Never a limiting factor for the team," Manning told the media last week in Phoenix. "I want to be able to look Coach Kubiak and John Elway and Joe Ellis in the eye and say physically I honestly feel I can contribute and help. It's one thing to play and have a uniform and be on the roster. It's another thing to truly be able to contribute and help. That's the only way I've ever known to play football."

We don't actually need - or even want - Manning to throw 55+ touchdowns on the way to his most glorious individual season ever.

In John Elway's final two (championship) seasons, the Hall of Fame quarterback threw 27 and 22 touchdowns respectively. He was only 12 of 22 with zero touchdowns and one interception in Super Bowl XXXII, arguably the Broncos' greatest win ever. And his stats weren't much greater in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Manning is not Elway, but the lesson should be applied - a great quarterback does not have to be magnificent to win a title; the coach and team do.

What we need is Manning's football mind, competitive drive and indomitable spirit commanding the game on the field.

Maybe Manning doesn't leave this sport with another Super Bowl victory notched on his resumé.

But maybe he does.

Either is fine with me as long as we give it - and him - our best shot.

Like I said, I'm a sucker for a good ending.


MHR staff on Manning: "Peyton, please come back and play"

Tim Lynch: Peyton Manning is one of the G.O.A.T. and no other quarterback on this roster is even close to his current abilities. I unable to understand how this is even a debate right now. Some people apparently can't help but think Madden is just like how it works in the real world of the NFL.

Jon Heath: I know what you're talking about, Tim. Over Christmas break, I played a season in Madden. I traded Peyton Manning to the Cowboys for a second round pick and went with Brock Osweiler. We ran a read option all season (Brock was fourth in the NFL in rushing) and won the AFC West. We met - and defeated - Dallas in the Super Bowl. It probably wouldn't happen quite like that in real life, though. I am excited about seeing Brock run bootlegs in Gary Kubiak's offense, but I think Peyton will - and should - come back for one final season.

Scotty Payne: Do I want Peyton Manning back with the Broncos in 2015? It would be absurd to say no, right? He's one of the greatest quarterbacks to play this game. He holds just about every record a quarterback can hold. Of course, I would want him under center for the Broncos right?

Not so fast my friend. Yes, Manning played with one or two (depending who you believe) torn quads in the playoff game against the Colts. But he looked downright awful against them.. Manning made a few Tebow-like throws that day. He looked old, injured and not the same Manning who lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl a year prior.

That performance right there was an eye opener for me. I know many still believe he can return to form, but I think their orange and blue-shaded glasses are blinding them from the truth. Father Time has finally caught up to Peyton, and he has declined in front of our eyes.

My gut tells me he should hang up his cleats. My heart tells me he will return to form, prove everyone wrong and win a Super Bowl.   -Scotty Payne

My biggest concern with Manning is his health. I do not believe Manning will make it through an entire 16-game schedule without suffering an injury that will limit his play like it did in the final month of this past season.

Back to the question asked here. Do I want Peyton Manning back?

My gut tells me he should hang up his cleats, and avoid an embarrassing end to his career. My heart tells me that he will return to form, prove everyone wrong, and win a Super Bowl.

So my answer is I don't know.

Kelly Fleming: Manning didn't finish the season looking like he should or would come back. Which is exactly why he needs to. Manning looked like he was on pace for another record-setting season up until the Rams game. After that terrible game, the Broncos simultaneously realized they have a multitude of other weapons to lean on that complement Manning's most prized asset - his brain.

Having the brains of Manning and Kubiak together along with C.J. AndersonMontee Ball, He-Manuel Sanders, and Demaryius Thomas (hopefully) is an offensive opportunity that may never be seen again. He has to come back and go out better than that poorly coached Colts game with a torn quad. That said, when he does decide to call it quits, I'm so excited for the aBROCKalypse to begin!

Ian Henson: There is a scene in the movie Super Fly where the character Eddie says, "You know, you've got this fantasy in your head about getting out of the life and setting the corporate world on its ear. What the ---- [are] you going to do except hustle?"

Peyton Manning is good at one thing - football. He's going to do what he does and that is continue to be one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game.   -Ian Henson

What is Peyton Manning going to do? He's good at one thing, that's football. He's going to do what he does and that is continue to be one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game.

As far as what Manning needs? He needs to stay healthy, whether that means going the John Elway route of Bubby Bristering a few games this season, improving the run game even further or one more season with these receivers to get his timing perfected. He also needs a defense that's going to be OK holding a team under 20 points per game, every game.

I see the Broncos improving their run game via Gary Kubiak; Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer and whoever else remains will be a year more advanced, and Wade Phillips' defense is certainly capable of holding an offense to 20 points or less every week.

Jess Place: Manning is going to come back. As we all learned with the Brett Favre saga, these guys don't want to leave the game before it's glaringly apparent that it's time. Right now there's $20 million guaranteed by the team and untold millions in endorsements just sitting there for the taking. Taking millions of dollars to pad record setting stats makes all the sense in the world. I have no expectations for him next season. I'm just going to enjoy the ride.

Sadaraine: That's a very conflicted question for me. I love Peyton Manning. It was an atrocity that his former team sent him out to pasture, and I'm proud he chose our team to continue his career. For the sake of his legacy, I absolutely want to be cheering for him this year. But what we really need to look at is this: what is the best for the Denver Broncos overall?

We have a new coaching staff and they absolutely have to establish themselves as the leading force of our locker room. There can be no ego wars with Manning about play calls or practice time. If that can happen, then yeah I want him back.

We need to build the new offensive scheme that Kubiak is going to run and teach it to our players as the foundation for our future in this coaching regime. If that can happen with Peyton as a part of it, then yeah I want him back.

What I want most is what is best for the Denver Broncos. I want John Elway and Gary Kubiak to make the best decision for the team. I will be excited as a fan either way.  -Sadaraine

We need Brock to see not only practice time but game time this year so we can know what we have in him. Some Broncos fans think he's marvelous, some think he's trash. I have no idea honestly how good he is because I've only seen him practicing with back-ups and nobodies. If we can get him on the field and Peyton can be a part of that process, then yeah I want him back.

But what I want the most is what is best for the Denver Broncos. I want John Elway and Gary Kubiak to make the best decision for the team. Elway especially has earned an enormous amount of trust from me with his body of work so far. I look forward to seeing how this shakes out, and I will be excited as a fan either way.

BroncoMike: Yes Manning should come back. This team goes from playoff and Super Bowl contender with him to .500 if they are lucky. You want to contend in 2015? Build a defense like Seattle or keep Manning around...or do both and contend for the Super Bowl.

Pete Baron: I'm completely conflicted with this question. Can I say "Take what Kelly, Ian, and Scotty said and sprinkle in my flair?" haha.

First of all, I think Peyton is coming back. But that isn't the question. Do I want him back? Yes and No.

I've said for months now that the only way Peyton should come back is if they rest him throughout the season. Maybe give him two weeks instead of one week for the bye (so he'd only miss one game, either before or after the bye depending on the opponent we think Brock can beat). Then maybe bench him the final few weeks of the season.

T.J. Ward said that bye week was huge for getting their bodies and minds right. When asked if it had a negative impact on their flat performance, he darn near called the interviewers idiots for even suggesting such a moronic and archaic notion. He said they were so beat up that they needed that rest. They had chemistry and thousands of practice reps. They flat out needed rest. Well, a 39-year-old fragile QB needed more rest.

Manning is the best quarterback the NFL has ever seen. But Father Time is undefeated. Yes, Manning gives the Broncos the best chance at the playoffs. But that's his limit right now.   -Pete Baron

Do I think Peyton will be "Peyton" next season? Yes and no. I think he'll start out like the old Peyton, but if they don't rest him throughout the year, he'll end like an old Peyton, and an old Peyton does the Broncos no good. An old Peyton is arguably worse than a young Brock. This is why I'm so torn. I'm torn because Peyton will flat out refuse to leave the game. It's absurd that with all the blowout victories and the rare defeats that the Broncos have had the last three seasons, that Brock has a whopping 30 passing attempts.

That my friends, is straight non-team-player greed by Peyton. So we need the coaches and Elway himself to lay it on the table and tell Peyton that Bubby spelled Elway, and it worked beautifully, so Brock will spell Peyton much the same way, even if it causes Peyton to miss some games (Elway missed six - two partial starts and four full games).

If the Broncos can do that, I want Peyton Manning back. If they don't, then I honestly want to move on. Yes, Peyton gives the Broncos the best chance to reach the playoffs, but that's his limit right now. He doesn't have what it takes anymore to get his old body up in January and play effectively. I don't believe he can last 16 full games without injury. That's why I'm yelling so loudly for him to take weeks off during the season.

He's the best QB the NFL has ever seen, but again, Father Time is undefeated. Resting him throughout the season is a way to delay Father Time from slaying Peyton and helps cut down the opportunities of injury because let's face it Broncos Country, Brock would have been a better QB in the playoffs than Peyton, and that's hard to wrap my head around.
Peyton will win the AFC West simply by lacing up his cleats, but unless the Broncos treat him like a 39-year-old playing a 29-year-old's game, they are looking at another "one and done" in the playoffs, and that is never fun!

Brian Shrout: Do I want Manning to come back? Absolutely. He has mastered the mental part of the game better than anyone else I've ever seen. He also, more often than not, is able to raise the play of his teammates. His work ethic and game preparation are second to none and can serve as a standard for his teammates. Finally, I would hate to see the Indy game be Manning's swan song.

That said, a better question is "should" he return? Unfortunately, the answer to the question of whether he should return is dependent upon factors that are, largely, outside Manning's control:

  • can the Broncos keep the receiving corp intact?
  • can Anderson, Ball & Hillman produce a high-octane running attack?
  • will the Broncos go all in on creating an offense line that can not only keep Manning upright (I believe Denver led the league in fewest sacks in 2014) but also master Kubiak's run-blocking scheme to bring a Top-5 running attack back to Denver?
  • can Kubiak be strong-willed enough to make Manning stand down when he's ailing and/or struggling?

If the answer to questions like those is yes, then Manning should most definitely return. If not, then perhaps he should consider hanging up the cleats.

Amy Richau:

I would take Manning in a box.

I would take Manning with a fox.

I would take Manning in a house.

I would take Manning with a mouse.

I would take Manning in the rain, on a train, on a boat, with a goat, in a tree, I think you see.

I like my Manning, yes I do.

And I think he can still help the Broncos win a Super Bowl too.

In short I'll take someone I know has greatness in him (even though there are several question marks around him) over someone who is still a giant question mark.

Joe Mahoney: John Elway only played in 13 of the 16 regular season games in his final season (starting 12). We need Manning back to have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl next season. The one question that needs answered but that may never be answered is this: "If Manning was hurting that badly (and it was obvious in his play in the playoff game), why was Brock not playing?" There are a bunch of possible answers here:

  • An injured Manning is still better than a Healthy Oz.
  • Fox/Gase had no confidence in Oz, so they pushed Manning back out there even though he was hobbled.
  • Manning was too proud to take himself out despite his injury or injuries.
  • Brock did not feel ready so he lobbied for Manning to continue playing despite the injury or injuries.
  • Manning really wasn't hurt, his skills were just rapidly declining and the injury talk was/is a smokescreen.

Which answer (or answers) you think is/are the reality, says a lot about your current take on the QB situation of the Broncos. I'm tending to to believe that answer No. 2 is the closest to reality. Would we have been more competitive against the Colts if Brock were playing? Maybe, maybe not, but Manning was not his usual accurate self against that Colts defense that gave up 40+ the following week to the Pats.

Does Brock hit the throws that Manning missed? Again maybe, maybe not, but if he had played we would at least have an idea of how Brock fares under playoff pressure. Right now we have almost nothing to go on for our educated guesses about whether Oz is the next Aaron Rodgers, the next Joe Flacco, the next Bubby Brister, the next Frank Reich or the next Dan McGwire.

I know your legacy is secure, but your Broncos legacy is not, and that's what I care about. I'm selfish. Come back, Peyton Manning.  -Kyle Montgomery

So let's run a thought experiment under the premise that Manning was too hurt to play against the Colts and Oz played the whole game. There are six potential outcomes here:

  • Oz plays well and we win
  • Oz plays well and we lose
  • Oz plays ok and we win
  • Oz plays ok and we lose
  • Oz plays poorly and we win
  • Oz plays poorly and we lost

Regardless of the outcome, we would know something more about what Oz can or can't do in real games at this point than we currently do. All this was a really long way of saying that I want Manning to come back, but I want him to know when he is too hurt to play well next year.

Kyle Montgomery: Come back, Peyton Manning. I know your legacy is secure, but your Broncos legacy is not. I'm selfish and that's what I care more about. Give it another go. Or two!