Monday was a life-changing day for Peyton Manning, and not simply because he announced his retirement as an NFL player. It was the start of his shift to a new professional identity -- an emotional and often difficult transition that has tripped up countless athletes.
Manning didn't have much to say about his future during his farewell news conference in Englewood, Colorado. He provided no indication as to whether he'll pursue work as a television analyst, a front-office executive, a commercial pitchman or -- based on his well-honed sense of humor -- a comedian. But Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, speaking Monday on ESPN, said the next step will be challenging, even for a player as well-rounded as Manning.
"Today," Young said, "Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game. Today, he is one of the world's greatest experts in quarterbacking. Tomorrow, with that gone, he's not great at anything -- or even good at anything. That's the realization that we all have. That's that next step into life, where you start to decide, 'OK, I'm not great at the next thing, but I'm going to start.' Knowing Peyton Manning, he'll begin that humble trail of becoming great at something else."
Where will that trail take him in 2016? The truth is that no one knows for sure. On Monday, Manning said, simply, "I don't know."
He added: "I haven't ruled anything out. I have made no decisions. I'm going to go on vacation again after this. I'm going to go play a little golf pretty soon with my two brothers. ... I'm going to enjoy this and think about those things another time."
Television work is a popular initial path for retired players who want to stay near the game and are willing to remain in the public eye. ESPN hired Charles Woodson, one of Manning's 1998 draft classmates, earlier this year. But let's run through a broader list of possibilities, even while acknowledging that it's likely that Manning -- as thorough a man as you'll find -- will look beyond them as well.
As Manning said Monday: "I'm totally convinced that the end of my football career is just the beginning of something I haven't even discovered yet. Life is not shrinking for me. It's morphing into a whole new world of possibilities."
Pro: As a former quarterback, Manning views games from the same vantage point as most football fans. His mastery of scheme makes it likely he could share insight that most retired players could not, and his sense of humor -- not to mention a folksy personality -- means he could do it in an entertaining way.
Con: To do the job well, an analyst must criticize players and coaches while also dropping the instinct to protect them. A few years removed from the game would reduce Manning's personal relationships and perhaps make it easier to voice objective judgments.
Pro: Manning wouldn't simply make a fortune devoting his career to selling products on television; he would expand his brand further and open doors to a full-time business career. NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has provided the paradigm for how to turn a likeable personality into a business monolith. If Manning hopes one day to own an NFL team -- a goal that requires billions, not millions, of dollars -- this would be a good start.
Con: Hawking products on television isn't exactly a salve for the competitive itch.
Pro: Manning saw first-hand what Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway did in building the Broncos during the past four years, and there is an assumption -- based possibly on nothing but the Elway connection -- that Manning is better suited to becoming a general manager than a coach. If that is indeed his preference, there will be plenty of teams interested in his services.
Con: It can take some time to find the right fit, and that's even after he's (presumably) accomplished some interim steps to get experience. Remember, Elway worked for 13 years as a businessman and in the Arena League before taking over the Broncos at age 51. But most important, Manning would have to find an owner he trusts and then time his interest to when that team has an opening.
Pro: Manning is built to follow the same path as baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who has spent much of his 15 years out of the game teaching youngsters via Ripken Baseball. Manning expressed a deep love Monday for football, calling it his "reverence" for the game, and already has helped establish the Manning Passing Academy with his father, Archie, and brother Eli.
Con: There really isn't anything negative about devoting a professional life to children. From a personal standpoint, though, it would distance Manning from NFL circles if that's important to him.