John Elway gets it.
From refusing to play in Indianapolis and forcing a trade to the Denver Broncos as a rookie, to selling his car dealership empire at just the right moment, to cementing his legacy as an NFL icon by retiring after winning back-to-back Super Bowls, Elway absolutely has a business sense and savvy that guys on Wall Street would kill for.
That has carried over into his new role as general manager of the Broncos, as Elway has completely revived a proud franchise that was down-and-out, going 37-17 in his three seasons as the team’s shot caller.
So the fact that the Broncos spent money this free agency season like a teenage girl with daddy’s credit card should tell you that Elway is on to something.
Denver pulled out all of the stops to try and fill in the 43-8 gap that was the final score of their Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks by signing three Pro Bowl defensive players totaling over $110 million in contracts.
Why the sudden splurge? Last season the Broncos played the 2013 season roughly $7 million under the salary cap. Was there a player they didn’t sign with that money last season with that money that could have put them over the top?
Cliff Avril, a Seahawks pass-rushing specialist, was a luxury addition (two years/$12 million) that an already stout Seattle team added prior to the 2013 season.
Avril went on to perhaps be the single most impactful player for the Seahawks in their Super Bowl win over Denver.
Not only did the Broncos go cheap by not adding Avril, but the freaky-talented bulldozer terrorized Denver’s offensive the entire Super Bowl. And now looking back, Elway might have let one get away.
However, this season could be dramatically different for Denver and Elway knows it. Will the team have the same bill of health, friendly-schedule and high level of play led by a now 38-year-old quarterback?
Fortunes can change in the NFL quicker than the Colorado weather. Teams can go from 13-3 Super Bowl contenders to a 3-13 bottom feeder in the blink of an eye (see 2013 Houston Texans).
So does Elway believe that 2014 is Denver’s last legitimate run at a Super Bowl led by Peyton Manning? It’s hard to believe otherwise.
Though the Broncos won a Super Bowl when Elway was 38-years-old, his body was breaking down in the process. And if anyone knows what a team on the cusp looks like it is old No. 7.
If Elway senses that now if the right time to pull out all of the stops - as well as Pat Bowlen’s checkbook — while Denver’s championship window is still slightly cracked open, it would be hard to not believe he doesn’t know what he is doing.
Or in other words: In John we trust.