Peyton Manning and 7 NFL Stars Who Will Decline During the 2011 Season
The average NFL career lands between two and three years. Many players don't even last a single season before they show they don't have the tools to be successful in the NFL.
Other players have long successful careers. Some become superstars, make millions of dollars, have many endorsement deals and go on to successful careers after they leave the gridiron.
Today, we are not going to talk about the players who don't survive the first year, but those who have had the long careers and are now nearing the end of the road.
It happens to EVERYONE. No player can escape it—no matter how hard Brett Favre has tried.
If you look at the list of the greatest players ever,—Marino, Rice, Taylor, Lambert—all of them eventually slowed down, became a shell of their former selves and had no choice but to walk away from the game.
Here are 10 players in the NFL who I believe are about to (or recently have started) show us their decline is closer than people would like to believe.
Also, just for fun, I am going to tell you what I believe these guys will be doing after they retire.
James Farrior, Pittsburgh Steelers
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As a Steelers fan, I felt I needed to start this list with a player from my Steelers so everyone didn't say I was looking at my team through rosy-colored glasses. I did not put Hines Ward on the list because he has already stated he is nearing the end of his career.
James Farrior was drafted with the eighth pick in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft. After a few seasons as a disappointment for the Jets, Farrior signed on with the Steelers and has had a more than average career.
Farrior has become a liability against the pass for the Steelers though and has shown he no longer has the speed to play the position on every down.
For me, I would be surprised if Farrior doesn't retire after the 2011 season. His play has already began to decline.
Post-NFL Career: I believe Farrior is going to become a coach in the NFL. I think about five years after we hear of his retirement, he will be up for a defensive coordinator position in the NFL.
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
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There is no player in the NFL who has had the effect on the league like Peyton Manning.
When he was drafted with the first pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, he set the record for the largest rookie contract ever. His first post-rookie contract was then the largest contract ever in the NFL.
Manning then signed his third contract and it was the largest ever per year deal, and now, as the franchise player for the Colts, many expect (rightfully so) for the next contract to again be the largest ever in the NFL.
As great of a player as Manning has been, the 2010 season saw a sharp decline in play. Though some people believe he was simply having a bad year due to injuries of his teammates, I really believe we saw the beginning of the end for Manning.
Yes, Manning could have another great year in 2011, but he is still 35 years old. As many pass attempts as he has had, eventually the shoulder is going to break down, and when that starts, the Peyton Manning fans know and love is going to look more like Ryan Leaf.
My biggest issue is that with the new contract and the probable $30 million in guaranteed money that comes with it, how bad is this going to hurt the Colts going into the future?
Only time will tell, but Indianapolis should start to brace themselves to return to the top of the draft the day Manning realizes what most people already know.
Post-NFL Career: I originally thought Manning would go into coaching when he leaves the game. But after thinking about it, I think that he would be a better analyst than a coach. I think there will be a battle between the networks on who is going to sign him when he does retire, and it will be just like the NFL when he signs the richest rookie broadcast contract ever.
Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens
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Ray Lewis has been an animal for the Baltimore Ravens since they drafted him with the 26th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. He has been selected to 12 Pro Bowls, has been Defensive Player of the Year twice, Super Bowl MVP and the list goes on and on of the awards Lewis has won.
Lewis is also 36 years old and plays a position that requires him to not only be fast and strong, but to keep up with guys 15 years younger than him.
Though Lewis still plays at an amazing level, especially for his age, how much longer can that last? There is no question Lewis is the emotional leader of the Ravens, and when he does retire, he will retire as the greatest Raven ever and one of the best to ever play the game.
Post-NFL Career: I don't think there is a chance Lewis is going to do anything but coach. He may have a year or two in the broadcast booth, and I think he would be excellent at it. But his fire and passion for the game is going to be too much to keep him from the sidelines.
Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens
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The youngest guy on the list is Ed Reed.
At 32 years old, Reed should have a few decent years of playing left, but with the injuries he has had over the last few years and comments he has made concerning injuries (he would retire if he had the surgeries Peyton Manning has had), I would not be shocked to see Reed walk away from the game soon.
Again, I am not questioning Reed's ability, nor his performance on the field; he currently is one of the best defensive backs in the league. He would still be for probably a few more years, but I think he is more likely to walk away than risk permanent injury.
Post-NFL Career: I think Reed is going to go into coaching. Like Ray Lewis, Reed will be a fantastic coach in the NFL, but may return to the college ranks at the U.
Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals
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Though some would say Ocho has already reached the declining stages of his career, I believe he could still have a season or two left before his career is over.
He has had horrible players around him who have brought down his ability to be one of the top players in the game. Between Carson Palmer being injured, playing alongside T.O. and being on a Bengals team that simply has not been good, Ocho has had his talents muffled.
I believe Ocho will be released when the new league starts and will find a home on another team. I also think he will show he still has skills for the NFL level. He will have to accept that he is simply a role-player and will never be the No. 1 for any team again. But retirement could still be a year away.
Post-NFL Career: Chad Johnson (he will eventually return to his original name) will become a stand-up comedian.
I think Ocho will become some type of TV star. If he were to get serious, he could be a great analyst, but if not, he will be somewhere in the media.
Brian Dawkins, Denver Broncos
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Dawkins was the better option because I believe Bailey still has a few years left, and I believe Dawkins has already started slowing down.
Again, I believe he was a great signing by the Broncos, but Dawkins is no longer the player who spent so many years in Philadelphia.
Post-NFL Career: I believe Dawkins is going to be an amazing coach and will be able to become a defensive coordinator in the NFL within just a few years.
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets
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Many people thought once LT left the San Diego Chargers his career would take a nosedive, and he would be out of the NFL within a year.
Tomlinson has done an amazing job at going from featured back to role-player, and that is the only reason LT is still playing in the NFL—he has learned his new role.
Make no mistake though, Tomlinson is nowhere near the player he was in San Diego, and retirement, regardless of how small the role, is nearing.
It will be a miracle if Tomlinson lasts beyond the 2011 season.
Post-NFL Career: I don't think we are going to see much of Tomlinson once he retires. Not saying he can't coach, but I simply don't think he is going to. We will probably see him as an analyst, but again, I don't think he is going to be the next Dan Marino.