Denver, CO. Very few people really know the inner workings of how the Denver Broncos enticed Peyton Manning to sign on the dotted line this past March. The three finalists in the “Manning Derby” came down to the 49ers, Titans, and Broncos, and Peyton kept everything close to the vest before he eventually made his decision. It was anyone’s guess as to what he was looking for from an organization. The money being offered from each team was roughly the same, and they all had their specific advantages as to why he would want to sign on to play for them. Some have ventured to guess that he wanted to stay in the AFC, so he wouldn’t have to face his brother Eli in the playoffs. Some have pondered that he wanted to play in a dome or a warm weather city, because the cold can wreak havoc on a QB’s passing game. Whatever the reasoning ended up being, we all know what happened. The Denver Broncos struck gold and were the winners, landing the 4-time NFL MVP for the next 5 seasons. It would be naive to think that one man was not the difference during the whole process of trying to acquire the former Colt . Much like he did as a player, in the 4th quarter of a game that could have gone either way, John Elway found a way to come out on top and did what it took to bring Peyton Manning to Denver.
Broncos fans are extremely lucky. Denver has always been a Broncos town, and the passion for the football team is something that is rarely matched from other cities around the country. It was a rough beginning for this organization back in the 1960′s, as wins were hard to come by for the most part. The late 70′s brought Denver fans something they hadn’t seen before, a trip to the Super Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys. The Broncos would lose that game, but during that time was the birth of the “Orange Crush” defense, and some teams that were very good. Then came 1983, and the draft day trade that would change the future of the Broncos forever. Because the star QB from Stanford did not want to play for Baltimore, they were forced to deal the #1 pick for the best offer they could get. Denver then swooped in, met Baltimore’s demands, and the rest is history. As we all know, after 5 trips to the Super Bowl, thirty-five 4th quarter comeback wins, and countless heart stopping moments, John Elway cemented himself as the greatest athlete in Colorado sports history. After retirement, he mentioned several times that he wanted to be in the front office for an NFL team one day, hopefully in Denver. That day came true, and on January 5, 2011, Elway was named executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos. When news broke about #7 coming back to lead the Broncos once again, it definitely had die-hard fans excited about what the future would hold.
One thing we have always known about John Elway as a person….whatever he does, he is in it to win. As a player, his desire to come out on top was always a huge reason for his success. That has already translated to his front office role with the Broncos. Some would say last year was his time to get his feet wet, and evaluate what needed to happen within the organization. After a rough start to 2011, followed up by “Tebow-mania” and the wild ride that led Denver into the playoffs, Elway always seemed to see the bigger picture. He wouldn’t fall victim to being a prisoner of the moment, and never promised that Tebow would be the QB of the future in Denver. Instead, he left his options open, which paid off big-time almost five months ago. Once the Colts decided to let their future Hall of Fame QB go, this had to spark that competitive desire within #7, and Elway had to feel like he had the ball again in a very tight game. Peyton Manning’s options were endless when he was cut loose by Indianapolis. At one point or another, more than ten teams were linked to having interest in signing him. As a few weeks went by, and news cameras were tracking every private jet he was on, Peyton seemed to narrow his choices down to San Francisco, Tennessee, and Denver. The 49ers argument was that they made the NFC championship game, and were just a stud QB from winning a Super Bowl. The Titans angle was that Peyton could come back to where he played college ball, and where his wife was from. But the Broncos obviously had what Peyton wanted in an organization, as he ultimately chose the Mile High City to be his home to end his career. Make no mistake, the guy who led the Broncos to so many come from behind wins and two Super Bowl trophies did it again. John Elway saw a chance to win, pulled out all the stops, and IS the reason that Manning is a Denver Bronco today.
It’s been almost 30 years that #7 has been the main man on the sports scene in Denver. Broncos fans should feel extremely lucky that he decided to remain a Coloradoan after retirement, and didn’t return to the west coast, which is where he is from. So many NFL teams just don’t seem to have that all-out desire to win, and win it all. They just simply do what is necessary to stay profitable, and if winning comes along with that, then great. Not here in Denver. It has become obvious that John Elway is not here to ride into the sunset as an NFL front office figurehead, and rest on his laurels as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He is back as a Bronco, where he should be, doing all he can to lead Denver to the promised land.