An open letter to Peyton Manning: Please retire

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The curtain has closed on Peyton Manning, he just doesn't know it yet.

The 39-year-old is reportedly contemplating retirement, a move most believed was a forgone conclusion as the confetti bathed the champion on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara. It was a gift from the football gods, with Manning winning his second championship to close out a first-ballot Hall of Fame career.

For Manning, the choice is painfully simple form the outside perspective. He has battled for 18 years in the arena and won a record-five Most Valuable Player awards. He's a two-time champion, 10-time All-Pro and 14-time Pro Bowler. You could play Madden on rookie level for 20 years and would hard-pressed to come up with those credentials.

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From Manning's mind, the choice has to be painstaking. Think about the pastime you enjoy the most in your life, and then be told you can never do it again. Retirement for the former University of Tennessee star isn't about money, it's about being told you are no longer good enough. It's about accepting that you can no longer enjoy the best parts of your life outside of fatherhood.

There is a famous quote that states an athlete dies twice. For Manning, this is death staring him in the face.

PEYTON MANNING THROUGH THE YEARS:

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Peyton Manning through the years
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An open letter to Peyton Manning: Please retire
PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30: Peyton Manning attends the SuperBowl Breakfast where he received the Bart Starr award at JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa on January 30, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Super Service Challenge)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) prepares to take the field prior to an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2014, file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning passes against the Buffalo Bills during an NFL football game in Denver. A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that Manning will return for a fourth season in Denver and 18th in the NFL. Manning will reduce his salary from $19 million to $15 million in 2015, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no official announcement. However, he can make up all of the $4 million pay cut by reaching certain performance benchmarks. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) celebrates his 509th career touchdown pass with teammates during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning looks to the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: A digital display commemorates the NFL record 509th career passing touchdown by quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos in the second quarter of a game between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws as he warms up before a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on November 9, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 07: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos runs the offense against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 7, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Colts 31-24. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 17: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos stands on the sidelines during their preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on August 17, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 16: NFL quarterback Peyton Manning accepts award at The 2014 ESPYS at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images For ESPYS)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - JANUARY 26: Starting quarterback Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos addresses the media on January 26, 2014 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 19: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos in action against the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 19: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos in action against the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 19: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after they defeated the New England Patriots 26 to 16 during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 01: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos watches the scoreboard from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 15: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos calls a play during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 15, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 28: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints congratulates Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos after the Broncos defeated the Saints 34-14 at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on October 28, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
ENGLEWOOD, CO - MAY 21: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos waits to talk to the local and national media following organized team activities at Dove Valley on May 21, 2012 in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
ENGLEWOOD, CO - MARCH 20: Quarterback Peyton Manning (C) poses with majority owner, president, and CEO Pat Bowlen (L) and executive vice president of football operations John Elway (R) during a news conference announcing Manning's contract with the Denver Broncos in the team meeting room at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre on March 20, 2012 in Englewood, Colorado. Manning, entering his 15th NFL season, was released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 7, 2012, where he had played his whole career. It has been reported that Manning will sign a five-year, $96 million offer. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 3: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on from the side line during their NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills defeated the Colts 30-7. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 01: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 1, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 14: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts waits to be introduced before playing the Detroit Lions on December 14, 2008 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 04: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts calls a play to his team in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears defense on February 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts speaks during Media Day prior to Super Bowl XLI at Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Florida on January 30, 2007. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning warms up before play against the Cincinnati Bengals Dec. 18, 2006 in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. The Colts won 34 - 16. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick at a 2005 American Bowl press conference at the Tokyo Dome Hotel in Japan, Thursday August 4, 2005. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
MIAMI, : Miami Dolphins' defensive end Kenny Mixon (R) can't catch up to Indianapolis Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning (L) as he scrambles into the end zone for a touchdown during second quarter action 17 December 2000 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. AFP PHOTO/RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
18 Apr 1998: First overall pick Peyton Manning shows off his jersey after being selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York. Mandatory Credit: Ezra C. Shaw /Allsport
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 16: Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Peyton Manning looks for a received during a pre-season game with the San Diego Chargers 22 August at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo credit should read JOHN RUTHROFF/AFP/Getty Images)
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No. 18 has given the game everything he has, in some cases literally. The Louisiana native endured four neck surgeries in 2011 just to get back on the field for four more seasons with the Denver Broncos, after spending the first 14 with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning has also revealed that he will need hip replacement surgery as he grows older.

His body is breaking down, a cruel reminder that Father Time is no longer chasing Manning, but grabbing on and dragging him down. Manning was benched for the first time in his career this season, watching Brock Osweiler start the final seven games of the season. Manning got his job back, did just enough not to derail Denver's epic defense, and earned another Lombardi Trophy.

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Should he come back for a 19th season, it will be ugly. We will be reminded of Joe Namath with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977, ambling around on horrific knees. We will conjure up images of Emmitt Smith with the Arizona Cardinals and Jerry Rice wearing a Seattle Seahawks uniform. It looked wrong, and it was sad to see an all-time great struggle to the finish line.

While playing another year for the Rams or Houston Texans might seem appealing, Manning has to do what's best for both himself and the game. It's time to move on. Last year, Manning completed less than 60 percent of his throws and tossed nine touchdowns against 17 interceptions.

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At this point, he realizes going to a contender is a pipe dream. The Broncos have to move on, to both save $19 million and keep Osweiler in the fold. The National Football League is a cold business, something Manning is finding out with each passing second.

Saying goodbye is the hardest thing an athlete can do. It's time for Manning to swallow hard and take the podium.

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