As much as many hated Manning when he was in the league, you have to appreciate what he did for the sport, and what he did in it.
He broke records, won Super Bowls, knocked talented teams out of the playoffs, and was one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. He was a great player, and a great man, and the hate I had for him was out of respect. I knew how good he was, as did everyone else, and people love to hate success (see Tom Brady, Cam Newton, the Seahawks, etc.).
He loved the game of football, as is evident by the emotion he showed in his retirement speech, and he put more into the game than almost anyone in league history. Mentally and physically, Manning gave football his all over the last 18 years in the NFL, and his time playing the sport in college, high school, etc. All that commitment turned into success, as he became a 5-time NFL MVP, and the league’s all-time passing touchdown and passing yards leader. He brought out the best in himself, and his success brought out the best in other great NFL players.
Looking back, it’s a shame that Manning didn’t win more Super Bowls than he did, but as a Patriots fan, I’m not too upset about that. However, I will say Manning made the league as a whole better. He helped inspire everyone, including guys like Brady, his brother Eli, Andrew Luck, and tons of other quarterbacks in the league. I truly think he made Brady the man and quarterback he is today, and inspired Brady’s current work ethic, which has translate into huge amounts of success. He is a legend, and has helped create other future legends in the process.
So, after everything, all I want to say to Peyton Manning is thank you. Thank you for all you did for the league, and congratulations on all of the success you had. Also, thank you for helping out the Patriots with all the losses, and I guess it’s okay that you knocked them out of the playoffs in your last hurrah after everything you’ve had to endure.