Peyton Manning & Company Say Goodbye to NFL
The NFL will be missing a few very familiar faces when the season kicks off in 2016. Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, and Jared Allen have all decided to walk away from the game they love. None of these came with much surprise, with the exception of Megatron. Manning, Woodson, Lynch, and Allen all had long, Hall of Fame worthy careers that will place them as some of the greats. However, with Johnson being just 30 years old, still dominating the league, we can only wonder what made him make this decision. Nonetheless, he, as well as all of these players, will forever be remembered.
At 29 years old, Beast Mode was approaching the dreaded age of 30 for NFL running backs. More so, taking his running style in consideration, it is obvious to understand the toll his body has taken over 10 NFL seasons. Opting to simply run through NFL defenses than away from them, Lynch left us mesmerized on more than one occasion. The run known now as “Beast Quake” was hands down one of the greatest runs I have ever witnessed in NFL history. I can only assume the Saints defensive backs are still having nightmares to this day. He ends his career with 2,144 carries for 9,112 yards and 74 touchdowns for an average of 4.2 yards per carry. He was also picked to five Pro Bowls in his career. While that does not place him the top of 10 of any major categories, few have covered over 9,000 yards rushing like Lynch did playing for the Bills and Seahawks. His runs, as well as his overwhelming charismatic interviews, will always be remembered.
Calvin Johnson Jr.
Lions fans can’t do anything but shake their heads in disbelief and think, “Not again..” The great Barry Sanders retired from the Lions in the prime of his career just as Megatron has done. At 30 years old, Johnson clearly had some very productive years still to come in his career. Unlike running backs, receivers do not take as many as continuous hits and therefore can play much longer than them. The game has not seen an athlete quite like Megatron. Standing 6’5″, there wasn’t a DB in the NFL that could match up with his size. Not to mention a 4.35 40-yard dash to pair with that frame. How in the world do you stop someone so big and so fast? Well, the answer is pretty simple. You can’t. To this day, I’m not sure we have ever seen a receiver play like a punt-gunner in the red zone. Inside the 20 yard line, defenses knew, as well as everyone watching, that a Calvin fade route was coming and for 10 straight seasons, few were able to prevent it. After 10 seasons, Megatron ends his career with 731 receptions for 11, 619 yards and being selected to six Pro Bowls. He still holds the record for most receiving yards in a single season with 1,964 in 2012, and is currently second to Julio Jones averaging 86.1 yards receiving per game in his career. Unfortunately, we can only dream of what heights Calvin Johnson would’ve reached with a longer career.
The 33 year old cowboy decided to ride off into the sunset, literally, after a disappointing loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Allen is one of the best pass rushers the game has seen to this day. He ends his career with 136 sacks, good for ninth all time. His 22 sacks in 2011 are also tied for second-most in a single season in NFL history. He missed only 4 games in his career leading up to this past season where he battled injuries sidelining him for the most of the 2015 season. The game has rarely seen a defensive player with such a high motor and knack for getting to the quaterback. Using a plethora of moves, Allen could get past any teams’ top tackle — with ease. Earning 4 All-Pro Selections to pair with five Pro Bowls while playing for the Chiefs, Vikings, Bears and Panthers, puts him in Hall of Fame talks for sure.
At 39 years old, it seems like Woodson has been picking off quarterbacks his entire life. Starting his career at corner and eventually making the transition to safety, he has roamed the defensive backfield of the Raiders and Packers for a whopping 19 seasons. To this date, he is the last player to win the Hesiman not being a running back or quarterback. That was just a preview of a Hall of Fame Career. There are a few players you have to account for at all times in an NFL game, Woodson was most definitely one of them. His 65 career interceptions are good for fifth all time, and his 11 interceptions returned for touchdowns are good for second to the great Rod Woodson. With 19 seasons under his belt, it is tough to highlight any single moment in his career, but it is tough to leave out the tuck rule. Woodson looked to have stripped Tom Brady in a 2002 AFC playoff game to seal the win. However, the call was overturned and the rest is, well, history. Woodson retires as a Super Bowl Champion, nine-time Pro Bowler, four-time First-team All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year, and a Defensive Rookie of the Year. Canton is simply just a matter of time for him.
Finally, we come to arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. After 18 amazing seasons, Manning has decided to hang up the cleats. It only seems right that he end his career after another Super Bowl win. If you can think of an NFL passing record, chances are the sheriff owns it. He possesses 21 major records as he retires, highlighted by Career Passing Touchdowns (539), Career Passing Yards (71,940), Single-Season Passing Touchdowns (55), Wins (Including Playoffs) (200), Game Winning Drives (56), MVPs (5), and being one of the two quarterbacks (Brett Favre) to defeat every NFL Franchise. The list goes on and on, but these are the biggest. He also adds two Super Bowl wins, 14 Pro Bowl selections, and seven First-Team All-Pro Selections. Peyton Manning basically owns the book of NFL quarterbacks. There was no one to ever do it like he did, and we may never see anyone else to. The cat and mouse games he played with opposing linebackers and safeties was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. He knew coverages before the defense called it in their huddle. His hard count would make fans watching on TV jump offside. The way he floated in fade routes was basically unfair. His total command of games was unreal. Not only were Colt and Bronco fans blessed to cheer him on for 18 seasons, but I think I speak for NFL fans everywhere when I say it was one hell of a ride to be a part of. Much like Charles Woodson, we can now just wait until he is inducted to the Hall of Fame.
The game will not be the same with the loss of these legends. With a combination of 38 Pro Bowls and four Super Bowls, this group has set the bar on their positions respectively. So here’s to Beast Mode running through defenses everywhere, Megatron catching fade routes over three defensive backs, Jared Allen fighting through triple teams to hog tie quarterbacks, Charles Woodson picking off anything in sight and taking it to the house, and in the end, Peyton Manning hoisting the Lombardy Trophy one last time to put a stamp on his ever lasting legacy.