Ha, ha, ha, Peyton Manning. Good one, dude.
Everyone sitting here on pins and needles wondering if we've seen the last of you on an NFL field, and you make with the Papa John's jokes. Hey, no one ever said you didn't get the concept of product placement.
But sometime soon -- by next Tuesday, to be exact -- you're going to have to decide if 18 years of stratospheric excellence is enough, or if the voices in your head telling you you've got one more good year (or two, or three) will hijack your good sense. It's an easy call if you watched his body and game break down these last two years, but not so easy because ... well, because it's Peyton Manning.
Who loves the game like food, even if it's pretty much stopped loving him back. And who is quite possibly the most bullheaded man who ever took a snap.
Best guess here, though, is Manning will walk away, because if he's bullheaded he's also obsessively analytical, and the analytics surely are screaming out loud at him. He's 40 years old. His body is an assortment of creaks and wobbles. He owns more of the NFL record book than any one man ever could have hoped to, and he just won his second Super Bowl -- which leaves him 2-2 in the Big One, an acceptable won-loss that won't tarnish his legacy in the slightest.
What will, what could, is the whole HGH thing, although it's a non-starter here on the Blob. As has been explained, if he did what hundreds have done before him -- used a legal treatment to recover from surgery/injury -- it merits a shrug. Nothing else.
The sexual assault allegations, of course, are an entirely different matter, and, even if they're 20 years old, they aren't going away as long as the Title IX lawsuit against Tennessee doesn't go away. And so, if he chooses to play one more season with what's likely to be some train wreck of a team somewhere (because what else but a train wreck would sign a beat-up 40-year-old, even if he's named Peyton Manning?), the questions about what really happened in that trainer's room will persist.
As will the questions about smearing the good name of his accuser, a nasty bit of business wholly out of character with the Mannings' carefully crafted image.
That would seem to be reason enough to walk away, over and above all the other reasons to. And that's what I think Manning will do.
Better to ride off into the sunset, after all, before the sun slips away. Better to ride off, before only darkness remains.