ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There will be discussions, meetings, some data and plenty of video involved, but in the end, the decision about who plays quarterback for the Denver Broncos when the team opens its postseason on Jan. 17 will come down to one foot.
As in Peyton Manning’s left foot. Sure, there is plenty -- as in nonstop, round-the-clock -- discussion among the team’s faithful about whether Manning or Brock Osweiler should be the Broncos' starting quarterback in their playoff opener. But coach Gary Kubiak has consistently framed the decision from the start as one about Manning’s health.
And it’s the way Kubiak framed the decision again this week. Start with what Kubiak said on Nov. 15, the day Manning was removed from the Broncos’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the day Manning played on a torn plantar fascia in his left foot and was 5-of-20 passing for 35 yards and four interceptions.
"Peyton's our quarterback," Kubiak said following that game. "If he's healthy and ready to go, Peyton's our quarterback."
Kubiak’s decision to turn to Manning in Sunday’s win over the San Diego Chargers with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter was rooted in the same logic. Kubiak said he had gotten more "comfortable" with the idea that Manning, who had missed six consecutive games, was again ready to play and put him in after the team's fifth turnover.
And Monday Kubiak said the decisions made at quarterback were made like the decisions at other positions where players were injured.
"Those things have happened because of physical situations," Kubiak said. " … But our players believe in everybody on our roster, and that’s a good thing for our team."
So after Manning's 29 plays against the Chargers, the Broncos were going to evaluate how he bounced back from the work as they decide whom to start in the playoff opener. While the Broncos' players were given until Thursday off, players receiving treatment, like Manning, will be at the team’s facility every day this week.
On Monday, Kubiak said he thought "everything was OK" with Manning’s foot.
"[Manning] played under center, played in the gun, played both, but he’s been doing that the last couple weeks," Kubiak said. " … I wouldn’t say we went in saying, 'Let’s sit in the gun.' It was, 'We’re ready to go. I think he’s OK.'"
Kubiak said he had no time frame to make a decision, but several Broncos players said following Sunday’s game that they hoped, and expected, Kubiak to tell the team who the starting quarterback would be this week, possibly as soon as Thursday.
"I knew he still had it," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said of Manning. "It was a matter of giving him an opportunity to get healthy."
"I’ve just never been through anything like that before," Manning said. " … I’ve played every single game that I’ve been in football except for four years ago. I don’t really know what can prepare you for something like this. It felt like I hadn’t played in a little bit."
The Broncos are expected to practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week before they have their usual game week schedule next week.
"I would say it’s enjoyable because of where we’re at," Kubiak said of the impending decision. " … In this business, you work really, really hard to get into the position that we’re in right now. … There’s always going to be tough decisions to make. … I’m excited for the organization, the football team, the players -- they worked really hard to get here. … I’m going to always go with what’s best for the football team."