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Recent Columns
  • Mar 6:
  • Todd Helton on Peyton Manning: "He represents pinnacle of excellence"
  • Broncos fans on Peyton Manning's retirement: "I'm going to miss him"
  • Peyton Manning retirement brings difficult
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  • Mar 2:
  • Kiszla: Why Peyton Manning's retirement decision can be made for him
  • Feb 29:
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  • Feb 24:
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With a football in his hands, Peyton Manning made the correct read and perfect call more often than any quarterback in NFL history. It was all preparation for his toughest call of all: After 18 pro seasons, Manning has decided to take his ball and go home, retiring from the sport he loves.

John Elway is the greatest player in Broncos history.

But Manning is the best quarterback to wear a Denver uniform.

On the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks, Manning joins Joe Montana, Otto Graham and Johnny Unitas. You have a different idea? Cool. Grab a chisel and carve your own mountain.

Mark Kiszla:Peyton Manning ends his career as a Super Bowl winner

Anybody can look up the numbers — from the 539 touchdown passes to his five Most Valuable Player awards — and make the case for Manning as a quarterback who changed the way football is played.

Manning knew it was time to go. In recent months, the game he loves dropped hints as unmistakable as the chronic pain in his foot to head-scratching interceptions Manning never used to throw. From the eve of his final playoff run with the Broncos, when I asked the 39-year-old quarterback if this was his Last Rodeo, and Manning admitted he was thinking about retirement, it seemed obvious to me feelings deep in his gut already had made up his mind.

That doesn't mean saying goodbye was easy for Manning.


Yes, winning Super Bowl 50 with an upset victory against the Carolina Panthers seemed like the perfect ending. But nobody likes to leave the party when it's fun. Although Manning had one year remaining on his contract, the Broncos were not-so-subtly pushing him out the door, which had to chafe the pride of an athlete with Hall-of-Fame credentials. He could have waited, let Denver release him, and when training camps opened later this year, there almost certainly would have been one desperate NFL team begging for Manning to grab his helmet.

Manning, however, made the smart choice. He checked his ego, his heart and made the smart play, which, when you think about it, was the perfect testimony to a quarterback always known more for his brain power than arm strength.

In 2012, after an intense courtship, Manning came to Denver and made “Omaha!” famous. With the Broncos, a veteran quarterback unceremoniously dumped by Indianapolis taught everybody in Colorado how much it meant to have an elite NFL team again.

Here's a small snippet of life with Manning I won't forget: Broncos president Joe Ellis, leaning against a wall in the hallway, and sincerely thanking No. 18 for “raising all boats” with his professionalism and obsessive attention to detail, establishing a gold standard that had a real, big impact from the equipment room to the board room at the team's Dove Valley headquarters.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning waves to the crowd after the team beat the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on Jan. 24, 2016.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning waves to the crowd after the team beat the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on Jan. 24, 2016. (Joe Amon, DENVER COLORADO NEWS)

No, it wasn't always perfect. Even the best in the game are not perfect, especially when the end is near. With an edge to his voice, Manning told the NFL to bring on an investigation into suggestions his recovery from multiple neck surgeries might be linked to human growth hormone. He quietly endured the regurgitation of a 20-year-old story in which a female trainer at the University of Tennessee accused him of sexual harassment, with the court of public opinion divided into camps that will love Manning forever and skeptics who doubt the down-home image portrayed when the quarterback sings about chicken parm on television.

And could any Broncomaniac have asked for a wilder ride during the four seasons Manning worked in Colorado?

From his first game wearing a Denver uniform, when he threw a touchdown pass against Pittsburgh, it was a pleasure to watch a master at work. His first TD with the Broncos resulted from a halftime adjustment made when Manning detected a presnap tip-off for a Steelers blitz during the second quarter. As Demaryius Thomas raced to the end zone on a 71-yard score, there was Manning glancing toward the Broncos sideline with a shrug of his shoulders and palms upturned, silently informing Denver coaches: Told you it would work! Manning saw a different game than everybody else in the NFL, and nobody saw it with greater clarity.

Manning shattered league records with “Star Wars” numbers and got beat in the playoffs in embarrassing fashion that challenged his legacy as a clutch performer. Then, in his Last Rodeo, at Super Bowl 50, when there was almost nothing left in his throwing arm, Manning won a championship because he refused to surrender to the decline every man faces as he stares at birthday No. 40. It was defiance that defined the greatest trait of Manning: mental toughness.

The book of Manning is an encyclopedia of how preparation often is the true inspiration of football genius. Here's the entry I would like to add: In November 2014, Champ Bailey, one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time, stood before a standing-room only crowd at Broncos headquarters and announced his retirement. Off to the side, out of the spotlight, sat Manning. He was there out of deep respect for Bailey. But Manning was also there, taking mental reps, realizing it wasn't too early to begin preparing for his own retirement speech.

No quarterback in history has controlled the chaos of football more skillfully.

No. 18 has prepared 18 pro seasons to say goodbye.

America's quarterback will stand up Monday and bid the game he loves farewell.

Bring a hankie.

There will be a tear of joy for every one of the 539 touchdown passes Manning has thrown.

Mark Kiszla: or @markkiszla

Recent Columns Mar 6:Todd Helton on Peyton Manning: 'He represents pinnacle of excellence'Broncos fans on Peyton Manning's retirement: 'I'm going to

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