SAN FRANCISCO — John Elway is one of the few people in the world who can understand what Peyton Manning is experiencing this week.
You know, that whole ride off into the sunset scenario? Elway lived it after the 1998 season when he — then the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history, a mark that will be surpassed by Manning on Sunday — won a second championship and walked away from the game as a player.
So what advice does Elway, now the president of the Broncos and the man who helped lure Manning to Denver, have for the new old man running the offense for Denver?
“Stay in the moment,” Elway said on Monday night.
Manning has yet to actually say he’ll retire after Sunday’s game, but it’s not far-reaching speculation to suggest that he will.
“He doesn’t need to worry or think about retirement now,” Elway said. “He’s worked too hard to get where he is now, there’s no sense in talking about whether he’s going to end it now or not. He has plenty of time in the offseason to reminisce and look back. His key thing is to concentrate and stay in the moment and this is what he worked for.”
That’s Super Bowl 50.
Just like Elway did, Manning has a legacy that is already pretty well carved in granite. He’s won a Super Bowl ring, just as Elway had going into his final game. He’s been to a few others and lost. Ditto for Elway. In some ways, Manning is playing with house money. He’s probably already on borrowed time in terms of overcoming his injuries and the career-expectancy of an NFL quarterback.
“I think his legacy is already set,” Elway said. “All it does is add to it, you know? This is not a make-or-break game for Peyton. His legacy is already set. He’s already going to go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game so if anything, this will do is just add to that legacy.”
Despite all of the similarities, Elway said Manning has not sought him out for advice.
“Obviously, he’s got his brother [Giants quarterback Eli Manning] and his dad [former NFL quarterback Archie Manning],” Elway said. “We’ve had conversations before, but if he has questions, we’ll sit down and chat. Up to this point this year, he’s been a little quiet. He’s been dealing with a lot of injuries and coming back off the injury.”
If he did approach Elway on the matter, though, what might those conversations be about?
“I don’t think he is thinking that way,” Elway said of the retirement buzz. “The bottom line is that he’s trying to concentrate on winning a world championship because that’s what it’s all about. That’s what he’s worked for this whole season and throughout his career and he’s getting another opportunity with his fourth appearance here. Anytime we get a chance to compete for a world championship, you want your full concentration on that. Peyton has been through it enough, so that’s what he’s thinking about is trying to win this game. He’ll have plenty of time this offseason to figure out what he wants to do. He doesn’t need to be thinking about that now.”