Don’t we all learn a big gulp of the important stuff from our parents?
Yes, John Elway’s story is a bit different because he was in the family business. His father was a college football coach and Elway was a superstar NFL quarterback. The difference between him and many other talents was Elway’s dad taught him the game on a more global level.
“I think a lot of it can go to my dad – been around football my whole life,” he said, referring to Jack Elway, who coached at Stanford and San Jose State. “Understanding him as a coach and learning about the game, not only from a player side of it, but also from a coach’s side of it, I think that’s helped me tremendously.”
Serving as the Denver Broncos’ general manager, Elway took a bold step after last season, parting ways with former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox, who moved on to the Chicago Bears. He hired his former backup at quarterback, Gary Kubiak, as coach, and Kubiak went on to hire veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
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This proved to be a coup. Phillips converted the defense into a 3-4 scheme that features pass-rushing linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. They combined for 22 1/2 sacks this season and Denver’s defense enters the Super Bowl against the Panthers statistically best in the NFL.
An appreciation for defense
Elway is remembered for touchdown passes, but he appreciates the value of sack dances. When the Broncos won consecutive Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, Elway’s arm was complemented by a ferocious “Orange Crush” defense.
Elway was in charge two seasons ago when the Broncos reached their seventh Super Bowl. But that team was crushed by the Seattle Seahawks, and Elway saw that as a cue to have a more balanced team.
“I think that we had the No. 1 offense (two years ago), had a tremendous year. We broke all of those records that year,” Elway recalled Monday night.
“We had the opportunity that offseason to get better on the defensive side with DeMarcus coming available, (Safety) T.J. Ward was out there, (cornerback) Aqib (Talib), and then (safety) Darian Stewart this year to be able to add to that side of the ball. Plus, we’ve drafted on the defensive side of the ball, and I think it’s all come together. It’s allowed us, offensively, to try and run the ball a little bit more and take some pressure off the quarterback.”
Manning’s last game?
The quarterback is 39-year-old Peyton Manning. He chooses not to address the future publicly, but there is widespread speculation this could be Manning’s last game, particularly if the Broncos win Super Bowl 50.
The situation is similar to how Elway’s career played out; he retired after the second of those Super Bowl victories in the ’90s, going out on top.
Elway gets why Manning is such a topic of conversation, but he doesn’t believe that should become the Broncos’ cause this week.
“I think that’s our goal not only for Peyton but this whole football team to try and get a world championship,” Elway said.
“For Peyton to get a (second) championship at this point in time, I think, would be tremendous. He’s had a tremendous career. Obviously, that’s a goal to be able to do that but also to get one for everyone else. There have been 53 other guys that have been spending a lot of time this year, and they deserve a championship also.”