Peyton Manning won a record fifth NFL MVP award last season after throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, leading the Denver Broncos to a 13-3 season and a spot in the Super Bowl. No quarterback over the age of 35 ever had a better passer rating than Peyton’s 115.1, and only Rich Gannon (Oakland 2000) and Randall Cunningham (Minnesota 1998) had better overall seasons under center at age 35 or older, according to Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value metric.
The campaign was so good Mike Klis of the Denver Post expects Peyton to play through the 2016 season, when Manning’s five-year contract with the Broncos expires. Manning turned 38 in March, so he’ll be 40 if Klis’s prediction comes true.
Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only three quarterbacks have played 40 or more games from ages 38 to 40: Earl Morrall (1972-74, played 42 games but only started 11 of them), Brad Johnson (2006-2008, started 17 of 47 games) and Brett Favre (started all 48 games from 2007 to 2009).
There is no doubt Peyton is still an effective quarterback, even if he doesn’t feel he can sling the ball like he used to.
“Am I throwing 60-yard passes downfield throughout the game?” Manning said. “No. But I like to kid that I can throw a really accurate 10-yard pass. A pretty good 20-yard pass. And if I get really crazy, maybe the occasional 47-yard pass.”
According to Profootballfocus.com, Peyton did okay with the long ball. On throws longer than 20 yards he had a 99 passer rating down the middle, 113.3 outside the numbers to his right but just a 58.5 rating outside the numbers to the left.
By comparison, during his first season in Denver in 2012 those numbers were 79.7, 97.2 and 140.9, respectively, and in his last full season for the Indianapolis Colts (2010) he put up 86.6, 80.1 and 74.5.
To get to the end of his contract, Peyton is going to have to stay healthy, which may prove difficult after four neck surgeries and having the fastest average time from the snap of the ball to when he was sacked last season.
“I never had a set number of years I wanted to play,” Manning said. “I did set a goal to play for one team. I think that should be a goal for any player. I’ve considered this the second chapter of my career. I’ve felt better than I thought I would.”