Manning was noncommittal regarding his future plans in a post-game interview with CBS' Tracy Wolfson.
"I'll take some time to reflect. I got a couple priorities first," Manning said. "I'm going to go kiss my wife and kids. I want to hug my family. I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that. I'm going to take care of those things first. Definitely got to say a little prayer to thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity. I'm just very grateful."
Manning later told CBS' Jim Nantz that is heeding the advice of former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who cautioned against making an emotional decision in the heat of the moment.
Few Hall of Fame quarterbacks are fortunate enough to go out on top. Manning has an opportunity to join Broncos general manager John Elway as the only members of that exclusive club after a unique 2015 season which saw the 39-year-old quarterback transition from perennial MVP candidate to fading liability to injured backup and, finally, to postseason game manager.
The Super Bowl 50 victory gives Manning a winning postseason record (14-13) and a pair of Lombardi Trophies. He joined Norm Van Brocklin as the only quarterbacks to win NFL championships with two different organizations. Van Brocklin was the original Elway, retiring after his 1960 title with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"It's just awesome because he was on a team that could help him get a win," coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. "He didn't have to go out there and do it all on his own and he knew that. I told him that I watched John Elway win a championship with 120-something yards passing, and he got one today with about a 100 and something yards, too. I'm just so proud of him."
Few qualities trump perseverance in professional football.
Only one of 32 teams can win the Super Bowl, which means each year ends in disappointment for 97 percent of the NFL's players, coaches and front office executives. The game itself batters and bloodies its combatants, shortening their seasons as well as their careers.
Two months ago, all signs pointed to an ignominious end for Manning. Instead, he persevered in the face of a nagging plantar fascia tear and the embarrassment of being unceremoniously demoted for the first time in his legendary career.
Manning knows it took a fluky C.J. Anderson fumble to unseat Brock Osweiler in the regular-season finale. He understands the Broncos' 194 yards of offense on Sunday were easily the fewest ever by a Super Bowl winner. He might be holding out faint hope for the fountain of youth, but he still realizes his battle-worn body was a liability in converting just one of 13 third downs versus the Panthers.
Through all of that adversity, he can find satisfaction in avoiding back-breaking mistakes while watching two of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks implode in the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.
Manning famously carried a team with one of the worst defenses in football to a Super Bowl XLI Colts victory. Surely he can relish the fairytale ending of hitching his wagon to a star-studded defense in the final act of a storied career.