“I must retire now to my couch of perpetual indulgence.” – Lovelace, Happy Feet

Peyton Manning raising the Lombardi Trophy on the Super Bowl 50 podium is the last time we’ll ever see him on a football field. The Denver Broncos quarterback announced his retirement on Monday.

Godspeed, Mr. Manning.

Manning and the Broncos were pitted against the Carolina Panthers, who are led by 26-year-old quarterback sensation Cam Newton. The old adage about the old lion facing the young cub was obvious, but let’s not make it about that. Let’s instead celebrate The Sheriff, as Newton called him, as he saddled up for the last time.

Manning’s season had been beset by injuries and old age. The 39-year-old was limited to nine starts this season thanks to a foot injury, and in those nine games his rocket right arm fizzled out as he threw nine touchdowns to 17 interceptions. It was difficult to watch one of the all-time greats look like a shell of himself, but when nature calls, it doesn’t leave a voicemail. Instead it gives you an hour-long lecture, the type your mom would give you, telling you to face reality.

The old gunslinger is the NFL’s all-time leader in career touchdown passes and passing yards and holds numerous career and single-season records. His name is all over the Broncos and Indianapolis Colts’ record books. Manning has won the NFL MVP award a record five times, but those accolades haven’t translated to postseason success. Manning was 1-2 in Super Bowls and had been eliminated from the playoffs after one game nine times in his career. He had been the butt of people’s jokes comparing him to Tom Brady, who has four Super Bowl rings, and younger brother Eli Manning, who has two rings. It was easy for us to laugh at him while he was still around, while we took his brilliance for granted. Will we still be laughing now that he’s gone?

Manning brought a certain genius to the quarterback position. For all the ‘Omaha’s and pre-snap antics that drove defenders insane, there was no other quarterback who could organize an offense the way he could. Quick Draw McGraw had nothing on Manning, who would reach into his holster and empty the clip with fireballs that had just the right touch and precision. His connections with Colts receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne were legendary, and he carried that over to Denver for a prolific aerial attack with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Manning was up against a young and explosive Carolina defense in Super Bowl 50. He was staring down the barrel the entire time as the Panthers boasted the sixth in the league in sacks and first in defensive takeaways in the regular-season. Not one to shy away from a firefight, Manning was the first one to point, aim and shoot. And his band of buckaroos was right there with him as the Broncos boasted the best defense in the league. It was that defense that helped Manning win his second Super Bowl ring.

“Work here is done. I’m needed elsewhere now. I’m needed wherever outlaws rule the West, wherever innocent women and children are afraid to walk the streets, wherever a man cannot live in simple dignity, wherever a people cry out for justice.” –Sheriff Bart, Blazing Saddles

With Super Bowl 50 as his last ride, Manning’s legacy is set in stone. He has nothing left to prove and he will forever be carved into the NFL’s Mt. Rushmore of quarterbacks.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Manning. It’s time to saddle up and ride off, the sunset awaits.

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