One of the sadder things in life has to be when you realize superstars are in fact mortal after all. Father time takes no prisoners, and right now he is coming after two of the best athletes of our generation. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, 37, and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, 39, have had a rough go around recently to say the least. Bryant can barely stay on the court, and when he is out there, he's been abysmal. Manning has not been himself either, throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and in the process, being benched for Brock Osweiler. But which one is further past their prime?
Matt: I have to say Kobe. He was so dominant for such a long time, and to see him like this is almost unfathomable. Air balling shots, missing easy buckets. He was once the most feared scorer in the league. He can't even play on a consistent basis anymore due to "soreness.” He's just too battered at this point in his career to contribute anything positive to the Lakers anymore. Manning has been fine more or less; the Broncos are 7-2 and in first place in the AFC West.
Shahan: I think if you look at both guys, it’s clear that they need to retire. I honestly think Peyton is in a worse spot than Kobe. Many consider him to be the greatest of all time, and he’s playing awfully. The problem with Manning that people overlook is how negatively he has impacted the Broncos. They have had arguably the best defense in the National Football League this year, and yet they’ve struggled to win games. Heck, they needed overtime to beat the Browns and failed to score a touchdown against the Ravens, who have one of the worst defenses in the league. On top of that, it seems like he gets hurt on almost every play. As a Broncos fan, I wince every time a defender touches him, knowing that they won’t go easy on him just because he’s made of glass. Even in his good games, he’s been bad, and it’s led to a league-leading 17 interceptions with just nine touchdowns. Kobe’s performances haven’t shown a huge drop-off from the last two years though.
Matt: Unfortunately, Bryant has been snake bitten the previous two seasons, playing in 35 games in 2014-15, and only six in the 2013-14 season, which perhaps is why his decline seems so stark. But the numbers tell the true story with Kobe. He is only averaging 16.9 points per game, his worst clip since his second season in the NBA. His field goal percentage is a horrid .336, by far the worst of his career. His three-point percentage is .233, the second worst in his career behind only the six-game 2013 season. His shooting-efficiency percentage is .389, the first time in his career it's been below .4. His PER, Player-Efficiency-Rating, is 12.6, down from a career average of 23.2. It is so apparent that the game has passed him by, but he keeps trying to play it the same way. It's making him and the Lakers look awful. For someone who is allegedly so fragile, Manning has done a great job of hanging in there, and while physically he may have declined, he is still an excellent game manager on the field, making him an asset for the Broncos. The Broncos are still winning and I would say it’s tough to make the case they are 7-2 with Osweiler under center.
Shahan: The numbers don’t lie about Kobe, but in Peyton’s case, I disagree with Peyton being an excellent game manager. I would go as far as to say that he is below average at best, and I’ve often thought that this team would be better with a true game manager like Alex Smith or even Mark Sanchez. John Elway brought in Gary Kubiak this offseason to be the Broncos new head coach and Kubiak has always ran a form of offense that Joe Flacco ran last year, which was a focused on stretch runs, bootleg plays and the play-action passing game. A coincidence here is that many have compared Osweiler to Joe Flacco, which begs the question: Were the Broncos thinking Peyton would retire before the season began and preparing for Osweiler and the future? It seems likely, and given that they thought he was no longer good enough to run the offense he wants, they told him to play it safe and focus on the easy aspects of the system. Not only did Manning fail to adhere to the “safety” portion of the offense, he made Kubiak alter the offense to suit his style. Even then, Manning has consistently struggled. His quarterback rating (QBR) is at a career low, he was on pace for 30 interceptions on the season prior to the benching and has the lowest completion percentage in his career. The most critical point that pushes me to say that Manning is more “over the hill” than Bryant is their supporting casts. Kobe has Meta World Peace, Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell, who seems to be a bust so far. Peyton Manning has Pro-Bowlers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Vernon Davis, C.J. Anderson and Evan Mathis on his team, among other great players. Kobe can blame his team for the poor play around him, but Peyton has no excuses left.