Let's get this out of the way right now: I am a completely irrational Peyton Manning fan. The cerebral way he picks apart defenses, the precision, the way his study altered the way a large portion of what quarterbacking means: I'm a fanboy. Tom Brady has the better record, but also has the better coach. Brady also has a much more standard relationship: he might have the authority to audible, but for the most part his coordinators give him a play, and some options out of it, and use one-word schematic changes if necessary.
Not so with Manning. The Sheriff has been an Offensive Coordinator for himself for years; he had complete authority to do whatever he wanted, and 97% of the time that selection was correct. He is not the greatest passer ever--his arm strength has always been less than many. Both Rodgers and Brady have better arguments for that title.
But actual quarterbacking? The field-general part? That is Peyton Manning, through and through.
And he should walk away.
Anyone who watches can see he can barely move laterally in the pocket. Going outside the pocket is unquestionable. Only two-thirds of his throws get where they're going. Several times his receivers looked shocked the ball got there, and dropped it anyway. Watch closely: Manning sees plays clearly, and goes to try to execute as he has for his entire storied career.
And he just can't get the ball there much of the time. Every part of Peyton Manning's body, from his now-noodle of an arm to his feet which can't plant without winces of pain to his hips which don't rotate all the way to the neck which he can't turn fully to the fingers with which he cannot feel is telling Peyton Manning to hang up his cleats.
Tom Brady, who we all love to hate, has one more thing we can hate him for: he apparently stopped aging around 2011. Maybe it's Giselle; maybe it's the freezing cold in Boston, keeping him refrigerated and preserved. Maybe the Bill Belichek, the evil emperor, has cast black magic on Brady to keep him upright. But whatever his dark secret is, Brady did not share it with Peyton Manning, long time friend and foe.
Manning's body is done.
I hope Demarcus Ware and Company drag Manning through the Superbowl, I really do. Because that's the only way Manning will leave this league on top. His own body can't get him there.