The Denver Broncos lost to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in what could be described as a passing of the torch in the NFL. One of the all-time great quarterbacks in Peyton Manning lost to the man who replaced him in Indianapolis and appears set to be the next great quarterback in the league, Andrew Luck. But was the Divisional round loss in this year's Playoffs the final game for Manning?
Manning clearly did not look like himself during the game. He never seemed comfortable, and the Colts were just about daring a future Hall of Fame quarterback to beat them by throwing deep - and Manning could not do it. It was a bad game for Manning, but was it a sad game in that Manning's great career is coming to a close?
After the game, Manning was non-commital on returning for the 2015 season, a situation that SB Nation's Mile High Report fully covered. Part of it is unfair of course. Asking a 38-year-old player if he is coming back for the next season minutes after he loses a Playoff game and has not had a chance to rest his body after nearly seven months of football is likely to make anyone want to answer that they are not sure. It is strange, however, to hear Manning speak like that.
Add in that this year could include a lot of rehab for Manning, and it may be more than he wants to do at this point in his life. According to a report from Adam Schefter this morning, Manning has been playing with a torn quadraceps muscle in his right leg. The injury occured during the Broncos' win over the San Diego Chargers on December 14, and the Broncos did confirm the tear with an MRI.
Obviously, here on The Phinsider, our primary focus is on the Miami Dolphins. While a Manning retirement would impact the Dolphins in the sense of a great quarterback leaving the conference, the football side of seeing an all-time great potentiall end his career like Manning did in this game is bigger even than that. Remember Dan Marino's last game? A Divisional Round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game in which nothing went right. Jay Fiedler and Mark Brunell combined for four touchdown passes against Miami in route to 62-7 demolition of Marino's Dolphins. Marino was 11-for-25 for 95 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the game.
While the scoreline was nowhere near as bad as 62-7, the Broncos' Division round 24-13 loss saw Manning throw for 211 yards on 26-for-46 passing with one touchdown. He simply did not have the strength to fight back against the Colts, something which is uncharacteristic of a Manning performance.
There will be plenty of talk throughout the offseason about Manning's future, and my guess is he tries to come back at least for one last season. There is enough smoke, however, to think there might be some fire to the retirement talk surrounding one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game.