ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway doesn’t see Peyton Manning riding off into that orange Rocky Mountain sunset the way Elway did 15 years ago if the Denver Broncos’ quarterback caps his record-setting season with a second Super Bowl ring.
Elway’s body was breaking down, having been sacked 516 times – 244 more than Manning has been in about the same number of games.
“I still think he’s young and he’s playing well,” Elway, now the Broncos’ executive vice president, said Thursday of his quarterback, who’s coming off his best statistical season just two years removed from neck problems that weakened his throwing arm. “That’s going to come down to Peyton. It’s going to come down to what he wants to do.”
Manning has given no indication that he’s anywhere near calling it quits at age 37, although he has dropped phrases lately like “light at the end of the tunnel” when talking about his career.
Elway takes that to mean Manning knows that whenever he does walk away, these are the days he’ll look back on.
Manning is preparing to lead the Broncos (14-3) against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (13-4) in the AFC championship game Sunday.
Elway said he’ll meet with Manning after the season to talk about his future. But the four-time MVP who will likely have No. 5 soon certainly doesn’t seem to be wringing the last Sundays out of his battered body like Elway was doing back in 1998. After all, Manning has thrown for 97 touchdowns in his two seasons in Denver, including an NFL-record 55 this season.
“When you leave this game, you want to leave it on your last leg and try not to leave anything on the table. … I was just fortunate to be able to be on two great football teams and be able to win world championships when my ‘last leg’ broke,” said Elway, who retired after leading the Broncos to their second straight Super Bowl title on Jan. 31, 1999.
RAIDERS: Speaking to reporters for the first time in more than two months, General Manager Reggie McKenzie said he purposely kept a low profile while rumors swirled about Coach Dennis Allen’s job status during the final month of the regular season in hopes the chatter would go away.
Oakland ended the season on a six-game losing streak and dropped eight of its last nine. McKenzie still gave Allen a vote of confidence and pointed out the team’s dearth of talent on the roster.
BILLS: Buffalo hired Jeff Hafley as a defensive assistant coach.
Hafley spent the past two seasons with Tampa Bay and coached the team’s safeties last year. He previously had 11 years of experience as a college assistant, including stints at Pittsburgh and Rutgers.
JETS: New York signed Coach Rex Ryan to a contract extension, removing the lame duck label and keeping him with the franchise for at least the next two years.
Ryan, who had one year remaining on his contract, was retained by the owner, Woody Johnson, for next season after his job appeared in jeopardy. Expectations were extremely low outside the team entering this season, but Ryan led the Jets to a surprising 8-8 finish that had players and fans clamoring for Johnson and General Manager John Idzik to keep the coach.
BENGALS: Cincinnati promoted linebackers coach Paul Guenther to defensive coordinator, keeping continuity for a unit that finished No. 3 in the NFL last season.
Guenther was promoted a day after Minnesota hired Mike Zimmer, the former defensive coordinator, as their head coach.
REDSKINS: Kirk Olivadotti is returning as inside linebackers coach, and new coach Jay Gruden is retaining Raheem Morris as defensive backs coach and Jacob Burney as defensive line coach. Olivadotti spent 11 seasons with the Redskins from 2000-10 and worked the last three years as inside linebacker coach at the University of Georgia.
SEAHAWKS: Receiver Percy Harvin is still going through concussion testing and hasn’t been cleared for Sunday’s NFC championship game.
BROWNS: Receiver Davone Bess posted a photo on his Twitter account of a small package containing what appears to be marijuana. Some of the green-and-brown colored substance is out of the bag and on a table. The photo has been deleted.