Broncos keep loss to Ravens on dashboard
DENVER—John Elway the executive is about to find out if he’s as good at bouncing back as John Elway the quarterback was.
Elway compares the heartbreak of Denver’s loss to Baltimore in the playoffs last January to Jacksonville’s upset of the well-rested Broncos 17 years earlier when they also were 13-3 and the AFC’s prohibitive Super Bowl favourite.
“And believe me, that’s what I’m praying that we’re going to do these next two, three, four years is to use last [season] and be able to get over the hump and get to the Super Bowl and be able to win it,” said Elway, now the Broncos’ executive vice-president.
As a player, Elway trudged through the tunnel at Mile High in deafening silence after a stunning 30-27 home loss to the Jaguars.
He made the same lonely walk in a suit and tie eight months ago following Denver’s 38-35 loss to the Ravens at Sports Authority Field.
The Broncos kick off the new season against the Super Bowl champion Ravens tonight at Sports Authority Field—site of Joe Flacco’s 70-yard touchdown toss to Jacoby Jones over Rahim Moore that tied the game at 35 with 30 seconds left in regulation time.
As a player, Elway used the heartbreak off the loss to the Jaguars to stoke his internal fire as he guided the Broncos to a Super Bowl win over Green Bay a year later.
“It was a great incentive for us to come back and have an even better year the following year,” he noted.
This time, Elway is using the gut-wrenching early exit from the playoffs to make sure there’s no complacency at Dove Valley again.
He added Wes Welker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Louis Vasquez as the crown jewels of a $125-million, off-season spending spree.
Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning said Elway created an “uncomfortable atmosphere” at team headquarters to keep everyone motivated this off-season.
“We still kind of have a scar from losing that playoff game and I think players need to kind of be reminded of that daily,” Manning said when the Broncos gathered for training camp.
“You’d better have a drive,” he stressed. “You’d better have a goal for every season and when you have a hunger, whatever you want to call it, a thirst, a little fire in your belly.
“So, I think certainly our team’s had that and it’s about trying to go a little further, trying to finish.”
Former Broncos such as Alfred Williams, who was a defensive end in Denver in the late 1990s and now is a radio personality in the Mile High City, said the only way to turn the pain of a playoff failure into something good is to “keep it on the dashboard, not in the rearview.”
It’s something you want to get over but never forget, he reasoned.
Hall-of-Fame tackle Gary Zimmerman put off retirement for a year so he could make amends in 1997 after the loss to the Jaguars, keeping the defeat fresh in his mind as motivation.
“That was embarrassing,” he said. “It devastated me because I thought [a win] was going to happen.
“I had gone my whole career, had never been there, I thought this was it, I could retire, be happy. And then it didn’t happen.
“We came back the following year, we went through so many obstacles, went in as a wild card, nobody gave us a chance, we fight our way to the Super Bowl,” Zimmerman added.
“So, I think they’ll be really poised for some adversity this year,” he remarked. “If some adversity hits them, it won’t be anything compared to what hit them last year.
“I think this will be a positive for them in the long run for them, as it was for us.”