NFL bids farewell to ultimate field general Manning

After 18 seasons, 14 Pro Bowl nods, five MVP awards, four Super Bowl appearances and two Lombardi Trophy wins, Peyton Manning has finally called time on his NFL career.

The end of the 39-year-old's storied career was confirmed on Sunday and will bring about discussions over whether Manning is the greatest quarterback to play the game.

Manning certainly deserves to be in the conversation. He has a resume that will undoubtedly see him measured for a gold jacket and enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2021.

Regarded as the ultimate field general, with his litany of pre-snap adjustments and audibles and ability to carve up defenses at will, Manning was close to unstoppable for much of his career with the Indianapolis Colts.

And, although his powers ultimately began to wane, the fact he - prior to his dreadful individual final season in the league - was able to rack up gaudy numbers with the Denver Broncos, despite his advancing years, is testament to his intelligence and skill in reading the game.

Manning's record career 71,940 passing yards and 539 passing touchdowns certainly lend credence to the argument he should be considered the top quarterback of all time.

Yet, for all the impressive statistics and accolades, the knock against Manning is that he could achieved much more.

Indeed, Manning's 14-13 playoff record pales in comparison to those of perhaps the only two quarterbacks held in higher standing than him, Joe Montana and Tom Brady. And it is his plethora of playoff failures that will likely prevent him from being regarded as the best to throw an NFL football.

Manning actually holds a 3-2 winning playoff record against Brady. However, his struggles to overcome the New England Patriots signal-caller in the early 2000s and the Colts' inability to put together a defense good enough to support Indianapolis' high-powered offense stopped Manning from winning multiple Super Bowl titles before his duck was finally ended with victory over the Chicago Bears in 2007.

But instead of going on to become a dynasty, Manning and the Colts' postseason stumbles resumed following their title win. MVP seasons for Manning in 2008 and 2009 ended in a wild-card round loss to the San Diego Chargers and a Super Bowl defeat to the New Orleans Saints respectively, with another first-round elimination at the hands of the New York Jets serving as his final game for Indianapolis.

Neck surgery and the Colts' decision to draft his successor in Andrew Luck brought about Manning's release and switch to the Broncos.

While he continued to rack up great numbers, a humbling Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks and defeat to his former team a year later - which brought about serious questions about his declining physical talents - only furthered doubts over his ability to perform when it mattered.

His performances in 2015 made for depressing viewing given the consistently high levels he reached for the majority of his career.

However, despite his benching for Brock Osweiler midway through the season and Manning's reliance on the Broncos' defense in their playoff run, victory in last month's Super Bowl over a Carolina Panthers team led by arguably the next great NFL quarterback in Cam Newton served as a fitting end for a player who should be remembered for the remarkable way in which he remained at the top of the sport for so long instead of a final year in which he succumbed to Father Time.

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