<table align="right" width="315px"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <content:static src="/widgets/custom/packages/latest_debates.html"></content:static></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> Anything regarding Peyton Manning's football-playing future has to be cast in doubt. Heck, we don't know if/when he next plays a game, and if he ever goes another full season without missing a snap now has to be considered murky at best.
His legacy as one of the greatest to ever play this game, regardless of position, is secure. But there is so much medical doubt about how his body will respond to another neck surgery and how his body will continue to withstand the rigors of football. We'll all have to wait and see. The next hit could always be the last, and that's never been more true for Manning. To project he'll put up 20,000 more yards and 100-plus more touchdowns is anything but a sure thing now.
The days of penciling in Manning for 16 games, 4,500 yards and 30 TDs every year are over. And his health, both short and long term, will have to come first.
It's hard to say that Manning still can't catch Favre, though it certainly will take little longer to do so. The main issues are how Manning bounces back from surgery, how long he plays and if he remains in a pass-first system. Unlike Favre, I don't think Manning leaves for another team unless the Colts surprisingly dump him after the season and he doesn't want to end his career on an injured note.
I also don't believe that these records mean much to Manning. He's chasing Super Bowls, not numbers. If he doesn't feel he can play at an elite level, he won't force it. After enduring another neck operation, I don't believe he'll prolong the risk of serious damage.
My feeling mirrors what I think about Peyton Manning's injury on a larger scale -- I just don't know what to expect. This is a neck problem, and from all I've heard, it's extremely difficult to prognosticate what course those take. But assuming he is able to return healthy in 2012, and even get some run later this year, the touchdown record is still very much in his sights. Three 30-touchdown seasons would put Manning at 510, passing Favre's 508, and doing that at ages 36, 37 and 38 seems realistic. Manning's pursuit of the yardage record, on the other hand, is more dicey. He still needs 17,010 yards to get to Favre. That's probably four-plus years out, which puts him past the contract he just signed.
Peyton's not gonna catch Favre in either career passing yards or passing TDs. More importantly, unless Bill Polian can give Peyton the gift of a Terrell Davis-level running back (like John Elway got on the downside of his career), he's unlikely to surpass Favre's number of Super Bowl wins. As I oh-so-presciently wrote last week **in this space**, don't be surprised if the Colts are in the mix for Andrew Luck next spring.
Peyton's continuing neck issues are a major setback in his quest to pass Brett Favre. I spoke with three spine surgeons since Thursday's news and the feedback wasn't good. I asked all three what they would advise Peyton to do if he was a brother: Two said he should retire, while the third said wait at least a year. It was also clear that each successive surgery decreases the likelihood of a full recovery. Peyton really has to think about long-term health and pain issues more than potential records. Don't be surprised to see him in a TV booth doing SEC games in the years to come.
Peyton Manning will not eclipse Brett Favre. We don't know what kind of physical impact the injury will have on his skills, so it's not a given that he will return to his stellar form when he returns. The affects of the injury could alter the way that he has to throw from the pocket, impacting his efficiency, effectiveness and production over the next few seasons. The Colts also appear to be nearing the end of their title run and will have to turn over their roster soon. As Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark age, they cannot be counted on to anchor the passing game over the next 3-4 years, which makes it very likely a number of young receivers will have to play prominent roles while Manning pursues those records. It seems like too daunting a task in my mind, and it ultimately will keep him from breaking Favre's career records as a passer.
Let's forget chasing Brett Favre's records. In light of his third neck surgery in 19 months, I hope Peyton Manning has thrown his last NFL pass. He is now the proud father of twins born this year. His older brother, Cooper, gave up college football because of an issue with his spine, so Peyton can talk with him about life after playing -- Cooper has been very successful in business, not to mention is the funniest Manning. Peyton Manning has done it ALL in football. Nothing left to prove, accomplish, or give. His toughness was proven by his consecutive starts streak. Peyton, be safe, and thanks for helping make the NFL great!