USA TODAY - Peyton Manning put together the greatest season by a quarterback in NFL history but has one more bit of history to achieve - becoming the second-oldest QB to win a Super Bowl.
Super Bowls are won more than ever by top-tier quarterbacks, as six of the last seven Super Bowl MVPs have been signal callers. Yet only five of 47 Super Bowls have been won by a quarterback 35 or older.
Hall of Fame and former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, the executive who persuaded Manning to join the Broncos in March 2012, was 38 years, seven months and three days old when Denver defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.
Elway retired that spring.
Could the same go for Manning? He will be 37 years, 10 months and nine days old Feb. 2, when the Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J.
"I don't think he'll walk away after this year, because Peyton has such a great perspective on the history of the game and he's in that argument for best quarterback of all time," Super Bowl XXXIV MVP and NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. Warner was 37 years, seven months and 10 days old when he and the Arizona Cardinals lost Super Bowl XLIII to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"All great players want to do something that really separates them. That is why I don't see him walking away."
Indeed there is more history to be made for Manning if he beats the Seahawks for his second Super Bowl title. Four passers (Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman and Tom Brady) have at least three Super Bowl victories.
And even Elway found it hard to walk away after winning a Super Bowl.
"I think Peyton would like to finish like John Elway, winning back-to-back Super Bowls," Warner said. "Go back to back, and he can go, 'They'll remember me for this.'"
Warner is unique in that he did retire after playing in a Super Bowl at an advanced age. Rich Gannon, the league MVP in 2002 for the Oakland Raiders, lost Super Bowl XXXVII to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 37 and played two more injury-plagued seasons.
"I imagine winning a Super Bowl would be a good way to end a career as a veteran quarterback," Gannon told USA TODAY Sports. "But I don't think many people go into the Super Bowl thinking that.
"I really can't fathom Peyton thinking about that after throwing for 55 touchdowns and almost 5,500 (5,477) yards. He enjoys the game too much, the competition and the preparation. And the Broncos are an elite team."
There is something about elite achievement in the twilight that is more rewarding.
"Peyton knows he's in the fourth quarter," Manning's father, Archie, told USA TODAY Sports. "You do cherish it more when you know it's almost over."
Gannon gets it. He reached the NFC Championship Game as a rookie on the Minnesota Vikings but didn't make the Super Bowl until 15 years later.
"I remember playing my first year in Minnesota and just thinking, 'Oh, this is how it is going to be every year,'" said Gannon, who is an analyst for CBS and SiriusXM radio. "Then, in 2000 with the Raiders, I got hurt in the AFC Championship Game. The next year, we lost the tuck rule game. Then you finally get there and realize how hard it is."
Gannon says he thinks Manning's experience will separate him from second-year counterpart Russell Wilson.
"This is Peyton's third Super Bowl, and he's all about preparation," Gannon said. "He's probably already talked to (brother) Eli (Manning) about MetLife Stadium, about the field, the wind. He'll look at common opponents the teams have played, the AFC South and the Giants.
"Because no one prepares like Peyton. He's amazing."
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