The idea of Manning, who at 39 is set to become the oldest
quarterback to start a Super Bowl, winning a title in what could be
the last game of his career remains intact with the symmetry of his
boss and former Denver quarterback John Elway.
Manning broke into the NFL in 1998 as the first overall pick of the
Indianapolis Colts, the same season Elway, who for the moment is the
oldest quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, penned the perfect
ending to his Hall of Fame career by leading Denver to a second
consecutive NFL championship.
Thousands of media members will descend on San Francisco seeking a
definitive answer from Manning about his career plans but he will no
doubt dance around his interrogators easier than he can expect to
avoid the Carolina Panthers pass rush in the Feb. 7 Super Bowl.
Not even younger brother and two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning
knows what Peyton's plans are but conceded signing off as a Super
Bowl winner is not a bad way to end a career.
"When you get to year 19 and kind of deal with some injuries and
things going on, it'd be a good way to go out," said Eli. "I don't
know if it is, but because of that possibility, I hope that he can
win this game and if he decides to hang it up, go out on top."
With five NFL Most Valuable Player awards, a Super Bowl win in which
he was named the game's MVP and a slew of passing records, the elder
Manning has ticked just about every box off his NFL to-do list.
But if Manning has anything left to prove in his Hall of Fame
career, it is that he can win when it matters most.
For all his greatness the one knock against Manning is that he has
not always been at his best when the spotlight shines its brightest.
He owns the NFL record for most playoff losses with 13, including
two Super Bowl defeats, and the mark for one-and-done postseason
appearances with nine.
A win in Super Bowl 50 will not define his career but will certainly
provide Manning supporters more ammunition in the ongoing debate
about where he ranks among the all-time greats.
Off the field Manning comes across as a laid back southern boy but
on the gridiron he is a clinical, ruthless competitor with an
off-the-charts football IQ who has revolutionized the game with his
ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
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Manning was also durable, starting every game his first 13 seasons,
but playing nearly two decades in a bone-jarring, brain rattling
profession have taken a toll.
His streak of consecutive starts came to an end in 2011 when he
missed the entire season after undergoing neck surgery.
Manning would eventually sign with the Broncos and took his team to
the Super Bowl twice in his four seasons.
The current campaign has been far from a vintage year for Manning,
who temporarily lost his starting job due to injuries that limited
his throwing ability during what proved to be the worst statistical
regular season of his career.
But like every great drama there are twists and in Denver's regular
season finale they were trailing in the third quarter with a
division title and playoff bye hanging in the balance.
But then Manning, who had not played in seven weeks, entered the
game in front of a roaring crowd and gave Denver the spark they
needed by leading them on four scoring drives en route to a victory
and top seed in the American Football Conference.
He then helped steer Denver to playoff victories over the Pittsburgh
Steelers and New England Patriots that have set the table for a
Hollywood ending to a season if not his career.
"I'd be lying if I said I'm not thinking about that," Manning told
the Denver Post.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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