There can be only one.
What a mixed blessing John Elway has been in my life. Five Super Bowl appearances, two Championships as a player. Two more and another victory as an executive. Elway has had a hand in seven of Denver’s eight championship runs.
As a child and young man, he was as important a figure in my life as anyone, in case anyone doesn’t know, the Broncos are a really big deal in Denver and Elway was and is the Broncos. His performance as an administrator has been nothing short of spectacular. If we leave out the quarterback issues, John has drafted very well, had a deft touch with free-agent signings and has maintained the standard set by Hall-of-Fame owner Pat Bowlen.
There is that quarterback thing, though and a reputation that has dogged Elway since his arrival in Denver as a not-so-nice guy. I don’t really care about his personality unless he allows it to bleed into his duties for the Broncos. Twice in recent memory that has happened. Writing a letter of recommendation for a Supreme Court nominee on Broncos letterhead was a mistake. The quarterback “thing” is real and it is a shortcoming of John’s. The thing is, he constantly redeems himself. Vance Joseph was a mistake but I just feel like Vic Fangio and his staff is a really solid hire.
One of the reasons we can trust in Elway’s stewardship of the Broncos goes all the way back to Super Bowl XXXII. We’ve covered the import of that game on Denver and the Broncos but there’s one play from the game that encapsulates Elway and his drive to bring success to the Denver Broncos.
Like the Drive and the Fumble, say Helicopter to a Broncos fan and they know precisely what you’re talking about.
Let’s reset the scene: Super Bowl 32, third quarter, Broncos ball at the Packers 12 yard line, third-and-six, score tied at 17. At this point in the game, every play was live-or-die on both sides and a stop in this situation would be huge for both the Packers and Broncos fortunes. The 13-play, 92-yard drive could not end in a field goal. Not with Favre. Not with how the Pack was playing.
A designed pass play, Elway was looking for Shannon Sharpe who was covered. John says when his protection broke down he just hit the first hole he kind of saw. John cut right, tucked the ball and dove at the 5-yard line. Three Packers defenders converged a the same time and hit Elway, causing him to spin in the air before landing on the ground inside the five.
We know how the rest plays out, we know that TD was named MVP of the game but we know in that moment that John Elway, the City of Denver and the Broncos became forever entwined. It’s the greatest moment in Broncos Super Bowl history. It’s the greatest moment in Broncos overall history. It’s been named the 13th greatest moment in NFL history.