NEWARK, N.J. — The Denver Broncos have maintained that their 40-10 preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks had limited significance in preparations for their Super Bowl Sunday rematch.
However, something happened after that game that might have set the tone for Denver’s AFC championship season. John Elway – former Broncos quarterback and current executive – spoke to the team, making clear that their effort in Seattle was unacceptable, even in an August exhibition.
"John pretty much laid it on us,” quarterback Peyton Manning said. “He was not happy with that game. It was a butt-kicking. Whether it was preseason or regular season, he was just sharing his thoughts that that won't be accepted under his reign. … I was taking notes; a lot of players were taking notes.”
Indications are the message was received.
The Broncos went on to an AFC-best 13-3 regular season and followed that with two playoff wins that delivered them to their seventh Super Bowl.
Elway was the quarterback in five of those Super Bowls. Then, after his 16-year playing career ended in 1998, he was named Broncos executive vice president of football operations in 2011. His duties include all aspect of player acquisition, making him a key architect of the team that will meet the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“It’s different,” Elway said. “Obviously, playing is a lot more physical and much tougher that way. But I think that in my position now it’s kind of trying to stay two steps ahead and make decisions on what we have to do in the future. Hopefully they’re the right ones.”
One of the very right ones brought Manning to Denver. The move gave the organization two of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks: Manning in a jersey, and Elway now in a suit.
“I think that relationship definitely helped,” Elway said. “I would (have) liked to have somebody that had been in the position running an organization when I was playing quarterback too, that had the same mindset. I have never really talked to him about exactly why he chose Denver, but I have a feeling that that was part of the decision.”
Manning is one of the few people able to interact with Elway on a legend-to-legend basis. The mere mortals in the in the organization have had to spend a little more time forging a comfortable relationship with someone of Elway’s pedigree, despite his efforts to be accessible.
“Obviously when you’ve got a Hall of Fame quarterback that’s right down the hall, you know he’s there,” offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. “The great thing about John is you’re able to walk into his office with anything … He watches our practice, and you could say ‘Hey, what did you think about some of this stuff?’ He’ll give you his opinion.”
Guard Luis Vasquez said Elway’s advice for Super Bowl week was to tune out the distractions of New York and remember that they came to win a championship.
Elway was asked what it would mean to add an executive’s Super Bowl ring to go along with the two he won as a player.
“It’d be just as important,” he said. “I think that to be a part of that and to be on that was a part of putting this whole thing together would be something that’s very important and something I’d like to do.”
Before committing fully to football, Denver receiver/returner Trindon Holliday also ran track, including winning the 2009 NCAA title in the 100-meter dash (10.0 seconds) at LSU.
“I miss that aspect of my life,” he said. “It’s something that I grew up doing, and it’s one of those things that you miss, but you can always go back and do.”
Holliday said it would take him about a month to get back into sprinting shape. But for now his NFL career seems to be working out fine.
He was named NFL special teams player of the month for September, when he returned a kick and a punt for a touchdown. He ranks sixth in Broncos history with six special-teams touchdowns: three punts, three kicks.