Peyton Manning isn't just football's most endorsed player. To millions of fans, he is football. Approximately 200 million Americans watched the sport this season, and much to the horror of Dallas Cowboys fans, recent polls suggest the Denver Broncos are now the country's favorite team.
Still, if you haven't seen the memes, Manning is getting up there in age. He'll turn 38 next month, making him the NFL's oldest starting quarterback for yet another season, assuming he returns next year. According to ESPN, Manning will be back in Mile High as long as his neck passes an offseason exam, but if I were a betting man, I'd put a lot of money on him hanging up his cleats by 40.
With Manning's retirement at most a few years away, it's worth asking: What will he do after, and how much can he make?
Since being drafted in 1998, Manning has accumulated a little over $190 million in salary earnings, and conservatively, he's made at least another $100 million from endorsements.
Forbes estimates he earned $12 million from sponsors like DirecTV (DTV.DL), Papa John's (PZZA -4.47%), and Gatorade last year, in addition to nearly $18 million to be the Broncos' quarterback. While he can't replace this level of income post-NFL, a few avenues can get him closer than you might think.
Peyton the broadcaster
For some, TV is an obvious option. Sports Illustrated has called Manning a "can't-miss broadcasting prospect," a sentiment echoed by ESPN's talent guru Seth Markman. Last September, he told SI that "all the networks would be tripping over each other if Peyton Manning wanted to do this," adding:
He's smart, with a great personality. You see his commercials and SNL appearances. The only question I'd have, much like anyone else, is whether he'd be comfortable criticizing other players and coaches. My instincts tell me he would be OK.
The major networks' top NFL analysts -- Cris Collinsworth, Phil Simms, Troy Aikman, and Jon Gruden -- make an average of about $1.5 million per year, and the highest paid personalities like Jim Nantz and Joe Buck earn around $5 million.
At the very best, Manning could recapture about 25% of his annual salary this way, and the exposure may keep some sponsors like Papa John's and Gatorade on board. His father, Archie, did tell Indianapolis reporters a few years ago that he was "not sure [his son's] heart is into" broadcasting, but it's tough to deny the potential.
Peyton the coach
If not, Manning could also naturally become a coach. Many have speculated on his abilities as an offensive coordinator or a QB coach, though it's not insane to think a college head coaching gig is a possibility. This is the same guy who's amazed former Tennessee video operators with a near photographic memory of his old playbook, and D-1 could pay well.
The 10 highest paid college coaches made an average of $4.2 million in 2013, though their average age was 55. This group's youngest member is Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy at 45, so even on the low side, it's reasonable to think Manning would need a few years at a smaller position before becoming the head honcho anywhere. According to USA Today, a typical college assistant coach makes $200,000.
In the NFL, these figures are about 65% to 75% higher, though there are significantly fewer vacancies.
Like the first scenario, this one has its critics too, most notably Tony Dungy. The former coach told the Dan Patrick Show a little over a year ago that the QB "doesn't realize, everybody's not Peyton Manning," adding that lesser focused players "would frustrate him to death."
Another alternative? Look no further than the man who brought him to Denver: John Elway.
Peyton the front office exec
As the Broncos' executive VP of football operations, it took Elway 12 years to move into the front office of his former team. It's possible Manning could become an executive much sooner than that.
Only two general managers have experience playing in the NFL, but a handful of retirees hold lower level leadership roles. Positions like assistant general manager and director of player personnel are obvious possibilities, and the money is decent. Bleacher Report estimates a GM's average salary of at least $1 million, and teams typically pay VPs between $180,000 and $400,000, with scouting directors making about $100,000 to $275,000.
Manning would likely make less as a front office exec than on TV or the sideline, but the role would allow him to live a football-centric lifestyle that's more under the radar than most other avenues.
Of course, all of this assumes Manning won't retire to a tropical island in the South Pacific somewhere, an option that's justifiable given his enormous net worth.
His dad also owns a restaurant in New Orleans, and his Peyton Manning Children's Hospital in Indianapolis could always use more fundraising.
Even if he throws for 100 touchdown passes next season, Denver's star quarterback will retire eventually, and unlike his essentially guaranteed spot in the Hall of Fame, it's not a lock he'll work in football after retirement.
If he does, though, Manning can make about 25% of his annual NFL salary as a TV broadcaster, 20% as a top-tier head coach, 1% as an assistant, and a bit more in an NFL front office.
None of these amounts will come close to the millions he made last year, but we shouldn't worry too much about him. Considering Manning's intelligence, he's probably made plenty of smart investments over the years and has plenty of money in the bank.