Peyton Manning will take his time deciding his football future, but “he has not been healthy,” for the past month of the season, which ended Sunday with the Denver Broncos’ 24-13 AFC divisional-round loss to Indianapolis, a source close to the situation said Monday.
“He wants to talk to (Broncos executive vice president of football operations) John Elway and see if there are any changes in the staff,” the source said. “He just wants to analyze things.”
The big staff change came Monday when the Broncos and coach John Fox parted ways. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase, with whom Manning has a close relationship, is considered a front-runner to replace Fox, but Gase has interviewed for other jobs.
The source said whether Gase gets the top job will not affect Manning’s decision.
Regardless of how that turns out, Manning, 38, appeared to struggle physically in the loss to the Colts. Playing against the team he quarterbacked for 13 years, Manning threw for just 211 yards while completing 26 of 46 attempts. Denver’s only touchdown came on its first possession.
After the game, the New Orleans native was noncommittal about his future, saying, “I’ve always taken a pretty accurate look and fair evaluation of myself. I think I’m as honest with myself as anybody else is. Didn’t play well enough (against the Colts) and didn’t play consistently enough in the second half of the season, especially in the games we lost.”
Manning suffered a right quadriceps injury Dec. 14 against San Diego. The extent of the injury was never revealed, but the source said it was a full tear.
And even if Manning, who missed the 2011 season after having five procedures on his neck leading to his release from the Colts, decides he is physically well enough to play, it may be for a new coach — or even a new team.
Manning is due $19 million for each of the next two seasons, but because he did not receive a signing bonus from the Broncos, the cost of his leaving would be negligible to the team’s salary cap.
The source said what Elway and Broncos ownership want Manning to do is uncertain. What is certain is that Manning was not the same player late in the season, even before the quad injury.
In the Broncos’ final nine games, he threw for more than 300 yards only once, in a loss to Cincinnati. In the final six games, he had 17 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.
“I didn’t play as well consistently in the second half of the season,” he said. “I can’t give you a good reason for that.”
Against the Colts on Sunday, Manning was 2-of-12 on passes that traveled at least 15 yards and 6-of-21 on passes that traveled more than 5 yards, according to ESPN.
On Denver’s last meaningful possession Sunday, the Broncos faced fourth-and-8 at midfield. Manning threw underneath to running back C.J. Anderson, who was stopped just short of the first down.
“Not good enough; didn’t play well enough,” Manning said. “I give them a lot of credit.”
Manning has played in Denver for three seasons. Last year, he set the NFL record for passing yards in a season (5,477) and touchdowns (51) en route to his fifth MVP award.
This year, Manning broke the record for career TD passes, finishing with 530. He ranks second in career yards with 69,191.
“There’s no way of knowing how long Peyton will take to decide,” the source said. “But he will make a good decision.”