When Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning takes the field for Super Bowl XLVIII, there’s a chance he’ll be taking the field for the final time in an NFL game. Obviously, we don’t know how much of a possibility it is that Manning has just one game left in his Hall-of-Fame career, but with his upcoming doctor’s appointment that will take place after the season being widely publicized and Manning being less than three years removed form multiple neck surgeries, there’s at least a chance that Manning is about to play his final game of competitive football.
Sadly, there’s no way of knowing beforehand whether or not Manning’s health has deteriorated over the past two seasons to the point where he’ll be forced to retire. Having put together one of the best seasons from a quarterback in NFL history, and having led arguably the most prolific offense in NFL history this past season, his play on the field wouldn’t seem to indicate that his health is an issue, as he’s obviously still able to perform at high level. However, that doesn’t mean that an issue is lingering beneath the surface that will prevent Manning from continuing his career beyond this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Manning does have three years remaining on his contract with the Broncos, and when he made the decision to come to Denver before the 2012 season he wouldn’t have signed a five-year contract if he had no desire to play at least five more seasons in the NFL. But at the same time, Manning isn’t about to put his health and well being at risk just so he can play another season or two, and the Broncos, who mandated the health check up in their contract with Manning, won’t be eager to let Manning keep playing if it means putting his health at risk.
If the Super Bowl does indeed end up being the final game of Manning’s career, there’s a lot at stake, for both him and the Broncos. It would be Manning’s last chance to grab that elusive second Super Bowl title that critics and fans feel is essential to his legacy. A win and his place in the history books among the best quarterbacks of all time would be solidified, but a loss, especially in the final game of his career, would mean that criticisms would always linger about his performance in the postseason.
For the Broncos, they’ve invested so much into trying to win a Super Bowl during the short window of time that they have Manning at quarterback, and winning would be validation that it was all worth it. But a loss, especially if it’s followed by Manning’s retirement, would be seen as a failure in many respects, as well as a major set back for the entire organization, which will probably have a lot of rebuilding to do in 2014 if Manning is forced to retire, which is why this game carries so much important for both Manning and the Broncos, on the off chance that this ends up being the final game of Manning’s brilliant career.