Peyton Manning is, almost unarguably, the best player in the NFL. And coincidentally, he’s also the oldest position player still starting in this league. But Mike Klis of the Denver Post thinks Manning actually has three years left in him, predicting that he’ll play out the entire five-year deal he originally signed with the Broncos in 2012.
Is that realistic? Well, his neck was better this year than it was the prior season and he certainly hasn’t faded as a player coming off his fifth MVP season. But the 38-year-old would be 40 during that third season. History and time aren’t on his side.
Precedents do exist for 40-year-old starting quarterbacks. At that age in 2009, Brett Favre was an MVP candidate with the Vikings, posting an insane 107.2 passer rating. Although Favre was still more than half a year younger that season than Manning would be in 2016. And he was in his 18th season as a starter, whereas Manning would be in his 19th. So maybe a little less tread on those tires.
A 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde started 15 games for the 2004 Cowboys, but he had spent three of the previous five seasons as a backup with the Jets. Testaverde was never a regular starter beyond that year, and he retired still having thrown 1,751 fewer passes than Manning has to this point.
Warren Moon put up some stellar numbers as a 41-year-old in 1997 and even as a 42-year-old the next season. However, Moon got his NFL start at the age of 28 and was merely a 13-year-old veteran when he turned 40. For some perspective there, Moon threw 6,823 in his career, which is 1,629 fewer than Manning has thrown right now.
Only Favre has thrown more passes than Manning, who surpassed Dan Marino to move into the second spot on that list in 2013.
So Manning can’t just pull a Moon. He has to pull a Favre, plus some. If he makes it through that season successfully as a starter, he’ll have done something nobody has done in NFL history.
But for Peyton Manning, that’s par for the course.