As a player reaches the twilight years of his career, it’s sometimes hard to know when to stop. Just look at the last years of Brett Favre’s career. When an older player starts to struggle, rumours of retirement start to fly. So which elder statesmen should hang up their cleats?
The quintessential example of a struggling elder player this season. Manning is having a hard time adjusting to new head coach Gary Kubiak and a run-first offense. The offensive line isn’t able to protect the immobile Manning and a supporting running game hasn’t yet materialised. Sure, the Broncos are still winning games, but only because of the defense. Manning seems to be struggling with arm strength and timing as he reverts to his old ways to make up for a poor run game. Manning has had several attempts so far where he has over or underthrown wide-open receivers. Manning’s old shotgun-heavy offenses were great in his prime, but he struggled to cope physically last season. If he fails to win that elusive second Super Bowl ring this year, it could be time for the old master to finally hang up the helmet.
Brees is struggling with a similar situation to Manning’s; a new run-based offense that isn’t working to nurse an aging star quarterback. Except that Brees has even less weapons to compensate with than Manning does after Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seahawks. Brees had a rotator cuff injury earlier in the year that caused him to miss Week 3‘s game against Carolina. He hasn’t lost strength so much as speed, with his passes being notably slower than in his prime. With the Saints struggling across the board, more pressure will be on the aging Brees to push himself to the limit and carry the team on his back. But how much does he have left?
Once one of the league’s premier pass rushers, Jared Allen has been declining in recent seasons. He was traded to Carolina by the Chicago Bears earlier this off-season, just a year after moving from Minnesota to the Windy City. Allen managed just 5.5 sacks for the Bears last year after notching 11.5 with Minnesota in 2013. Allen’s career high was 22 sacks in 2011 with the Vikings. So far this season, Allen has had just six tackles and no sacks.
After a messy divorce from the Houston Texans during the offseason, Johnson joined divisional rivals Indianapolis with a view to winning a Super Bowl ring before the end of his career. But aside from a decent game against his former team last week, Johnson has failed to make much of an impact so far. Before the game against Houston, Johnson had managed just seven receptions for 51 yards and no touchdowns. Against Tennessee and Jacksonville, Johnson didn’t catch any passes. The Texans can’t be feeling too bad about losing their franchise record holder as his decline continues in Indy.
Jettisoned by Philadelphia during Chip Kelly’s radical offseason overhaul, Cole was picked up by the Colts to help solidify their defensive line. But so far, Cole has struggled to make an impact. After a 6.5 sack season last year for Philly, Cole has just seven tackles and no sacks so far in Indianapolis. At least one of Kelly’s moves worked out for the best.