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Wednesday, 09 January 2013 12:28

Ladies and Gentleman, John Elway by Luke Binder

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“Winning is nice if you don’t lose your integrity in the process.”   – Arnold Horshak

One of the biggest questions today in professional athletics is “can you win while being a nice guy?” And the majority of fans and journalists out there almost instantly and emphatically respond  “no.” However, I will counter the answer of the masses with an emphatic, “yes, you can.”

My example: John Elway.

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When he took over the Denver Broncos, John Elway inherited a public relations nightmare named Tim Tebow. The drama surrounding Tebow had less to do with with QB himself than it did the massive cult following known as “Tebow Nation”. It makes having Tebow on your roster a headache. That’s not Tim’s fault. Tebow is a great teammate who always redirects praise back to his teammates.

When the Broncos made the switch to Tebow last season, it was a move that was received with mixed reviews around the NFL. What followed was a magical run in which the Broncos won seven of eight games to catapult them from last to first in the AFC West. Looking back, Elway couldn’t have handled the situation better. Tebow’s unconventional talents caused the Broncos to resemble Tebow’s Florida teams. The Broncos were the only team in the NFL running the read-option offense.

Tebow Nation labeled Elway as a hater for his refusal to commit to the youngster long-term. Tebow had changed the culture of the Broncos. They stumbled into the playoffs losing their final three games. However, the run Tebow led earlier in the season gave the Broncos enough of a cushion to land them the AFC West Championship with an 8-8 record. In typical Tebow fashion, he led the Broncos to a dramatic 29-23 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL Playoffs. After the game, cameras showed Elway finding Tebow and hugging him repeatedly. The following week the Broncos lost to New England in a blowout, ending their magical season. Tebow Time was over.

At the Broncos end-of-season press conference, John Elway told the media that he believed Tebow had earned the right to go into training camp as the team’s starter. Myself and the rest of Tebow Nation went wild with excitement. However, we forgot to listen to the next part of Elway’s comments: “During the off-season  if we have a chance to improve any position on the roster we will do so.” In short, it was an endorsement unless something better came along. Welcome to the real world, kids. And what came along? Peyton Manning.

Elway launched a full-blown pursuit of Manning. Elway believed that signing him, despite his coming off four neck surgeries, was worth the risk. Manning chose the Broncos because of John Elway. Elway now had to confront with what to do with Tim Tebow.

He could not have handled the situation better. During the introductory press conference for Peyton Manning, Elway fielded the Tebow questions with poise and clarity. He didn’t say anything negative. He went as far as to say that he would pick Tebow to marry his daughter. Two days later, number 15 was traded to the New York Jets. Elway had allowed Tebow to choose where he wanted to. No one in professional sports lets a player pick where he wants to go. Again, Elway was handed a public relations nightmare and he handled it perfectly.

I thought John Elway was the biggest idiot in professional football for dumping the promising young Tebow for a quarterback who seemed to be in the twilight of his career. However, nothing in life is really as simple it seems. Looking back, it was clear that Peyton Manning gave the Broncos the best chance to win a Super Bowl.

Elway brought in Manning without once criticizing or demeaning Tim Tebow. What followed was a shock to the entire sports world, Manning led the Broncos to the best record in football while the Jets never gave Tebow a chance. Looking back, John Elway had some balls when he allowed John Fox to give Tebow and the spread option offense a chance. Apparently, John Elway was the only executive nice enough. And, he was right to take roll the dice on an old quarterback named Peyton. It’s a no brainer that John Elway should win the executive of the year award.

I’m going on record to say that I was wrong about John Elway. He wasn’t a jerk for getting rid of Tim Tebow. He wasn’t an idiot for signing Peyton Manning. In fact, Elway has shown the NFL that it’s possible to win while being a nice guy. There’s a twist that we didn’t see coming, huh?

This weekend the Broncos will host the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the Playoffs. Denver is three wins away from the franchise’s third Lombardi Trophy. In two years, Elway has transformed the Broncos from cellar dwellers to the best team in football. This has led me to believe that maybe it’s not “Tebow Magic” or “Manning Magic” that’s responsible for the Broncos transformation.

It’s always been “Elway Magic” and it’s no coincidence that the Broncos started winning again when #7 stepped back inside Dove Valley. Thus, I submit to you that John Elway has pulled off another comeback – perhaps his greatest yet – by pulling the Broncos out of obscurity and getting them back to contending for Super Bowls in two short years. And he’s done it all while being a nice guy. Who woulda thunk. Bronco up!

 

 

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