JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Peyton Manning saw the soft side of John Elway in March of 2012 when the Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations took a patient and empathetic approach toward landing the biggest free-agent fish in NFL history.
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That soft side was noticeably absent in August when the Seattle Seahawks — Denver’s eventual Super Bowl XLVIII foe — manhandled the Broncos in a 40-10 preseason drubbing. Elway used that opportunity to send a message to his team about effort and expectations.
“John pretty much laid it on us. He was not happy with that game,” Manning said Wednesday. “It was a butt-kicking, whether it was preseason or regular season. He was just sharing his thoughts that that won’t be accepted under his reign as kind of leader of this organization along with Pat Bowlen. I was taking notes; a lot of players were taking notes.”
The Broncos ended up capturing the AFC’s No. 1 seed and a host of offensive records. Elway knew by training camp that he had assembled a squad capable of reaching the Super Bowl, and he didn’t want to see that potential wasted while falling short of its goal for a second consecutive season.
“I think guys got the message. I think if I was reading it the right way, he might have been giving the message to the coaches as well as the players,” Manning continued. “And everybody in that room I think got the message. I thought it was important. It was really the first time John had addressed the team. He actually did not address the team the entire time last year.”
It’s easy to forget now that Elway faced skepticism as a former player with no front-office experience when he was named football czar in 2011. Since then, he’s pushed all the right buttons, the most important of which was overcoming long odds to reel in his franchise quarterback a year later.
Manning garners plenty of well-deserved accolades for leadership and extraordinary preparation. As Wednesday’s comments attest, though, he has not been alone in setting the proper tone for a Super Bowl run.
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