NEW YORK -- Peyton Manning turns 38 years old next month, an age that seems more ancient than it did just a few days ago.
Manning accomplished something the past two seasons that, with one more step Sunday, could have forever stamped him as the greatest quarterback.
Instead, when Manning took that step at MetLife Stadium, he and his Denver Broncos fell flat on their faces in Super Bowl XLVIII, getting creamed by the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8.
It left Manning's record 1-2 in Super Bowls and 11-12 in the postseason, and that, according to a reputation expert, will not help his legacy.
"He's challenged historically in the postseason with an 11-12 record now," said Eric Schiffer of Reputation Management Consultants in Irvine, Calif. "In the regular season, he's one of the best of all time, certainly top five. The facts speak louder than everything for reputations in sports. He can still control the facts if he is in shoulder pads and a helmet."
Manning has said he is not ready to retire from football so, barring injury, he will play again next season. But his opportunities to win a second Super Bowl are diminished by his age.
For a quarterback operating on a five-year, $96 million contract that will have paid him close to $60 million guaranteed through next season, losing a few million by losing the Super Bowl likely hurts far less than missing out on another ring. But he might have reaped a bonanza.
"You're talking in excess of [$5 million to $10 million] because of how well he performed this season," said Schiffer, whose company represents many sports celebrities. "Had he won that game Sunday, it probably would have set records. It just would have been a flawless, perfect season."
Manning missed the 2011 season with the Indianapolis Colts -- where he was 1-1 in Super Bowls -- after four neck surgeries, then moved on to revive the Denver Broncos as a viable Super Bowl team in 2012 and 2013.
He threw for more touchdowns (55) this season than anyone has and led a team into his third Super Bowl in the publicity mecca of the world, metropolitan New York.
But then Manning and the Broncos were swallowed up by Seattle's Legion of Boom defense, and the script changed. He still is not seen as a big-game quarterback like Tom Brady. And when it comes to Super Bowl rings, he also takes a back seat to Brady, his longtime antagonist who has three rings, and his little brother Eli Manning, who has two.
"He is not going to win the best [postseason] quarterback when he has to go visit his family for Thanksgiving, that's for sure," Schiffer said.
The hit to Manning's postseason reputation might have been deflected had he performed well in, say, a 37-34 Denver loss. But, while he did set a Super Bowl record by completing 34 passes, he threw two interceptions -- one returned for a 69-yard touchdown -- and lost a fumble. He threw one touchdown pass in the fourth quarter with Seattle ahead, 36-0.
Denver's coach, John Fox, turned a tad angry when he was asked after the game if Manning's greatness was tarnished by his performance Sunday night.
"I can't really say it out loud right here, I'd get in trouble," Fox answered. "Ludicrous would be proper English."
There is no denying that Manning has been one great NFL quarterback and that did not change Sunday night. What also did not change -- and what he would have changed -- is the perception that he is not a big-game quarterback.
"I don't know if you ever really get over it," Manning said of losing in the Super Bowl. "It's a difficult pill to swallow. I think you have to find a way to deal with it and process it."
As for the 35-point loss ...
"It's not embarrassing at all," Manning said. "I never use that word. There are a lot of professional football players in that locker room who put a lot of hard work and effort into being here and playing in that game. The word 'embarrassing' is an insulting word, to tell you the truth."
That word, though, will pop up time and again in Denver and around football to describe the lopsided defeat. Seattle is rightly claiming it has one of the great defenses ever, and the Legion of Boom put on one of the great Super Bowl showings by any defense. It's just that more was expected from one of the game's best quarterbacks than eight points.
"He went up against a tremendous defense that I think any quarterback would have struggled with," Schiffer said. "They were just phenomenal; they remind me of the Ravens and Chicago's defense in the Super Bowl."
Even the great Chicago Bears defense that crushed New England, 46-10, in Super Bowl XX only had to face Tony Eason and Steve Grogan at quarterback for the Patriots. Few have shut down a great quarterback in a championship game the way the Seahawks quieted Manning and the NFL's No. 1 offense Sunday.
They made Manning look older than his soon-to-be 38 years, but Schiffer says it's not too late for him to prove he can still get it done in championships. John Elway won his only two in his final two years with the same Broncos when he was 37 and 38.
"Peyton is not done," Schiffer said. "He still has a team that can come back and next year avenge this performance. This is what he must do to rectify his legacy and to repair his reputation for what is this postseason curse."
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.