Jeff Legwold | ESPN.com
NEWARK, N.J. — Looking back, John Elway said “tirade” might be too strong of a word to describe his appearance at an August team meeting.
But it was critical, honest, unflinching and a push toward the Denver Broncos‘ appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII.
And with the buzz of Super Bowl media swirling behind him, Elway acknowledged that something needed to be said to the players during the meeting.
“[It] was just one of those things where you think something needs to be said at that time,” said Elway, the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations. “We want this team to have a mindset that want to be world champions.”
Sunday will be the second time the Broncos have faced the Seattle Seahawks this season. The first time was in the second game of the preseason, when an obviously cranked up Seahawks team manhandled a turnover-prone Broncos team in a 40-10 victory at CenturyLink Field.
In the days that followed, Elway appeared in a team meeting to hit the reset button.
“What I said was if you want to win a world championship, you don’t go anywhere and lose 40-10,” Elway said. “To me, it seemed like some people thought it was OK, so I made sure to say it wasn’t OK. At least I didn’t think it was OK.”
There were moments in the August game when Denver’s offense was sharp, and Peyton Manning finished his two quarters of work 11-of-16 passing for 163 yards and a touchdown.
But tight end Julius Thomas lost a fumble to end a potential scoring drive for the Broncos and running back Ronnie Hillman fumbled into the Seahawks’ end zone, and Brandon Browner scooped the ball up and returned it 106 yards for a touchdown.
Rookie Montee Ball missed a blitz pick-up that led to Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner delivering the biggest hit Manning has received in his time with Denver. The Seahawks also scored on four of their five possessions in the opening half, in addition to Browner’s return.
It all bubbled over for Elway.
“To me it’s just that if you want to be a world champion, and you have that mindset, you don’t go anywhere, any time and lose 40-10 the way we lost that game,” Elway said. “If you get beat sometimes, you get beat, but you don’t go out and get embarrassed, not the way we did in that game.
“I just didn’t want it to sit there and have people believe it was OK, because it wasn’t OK.”
All season long, the Broncos players have talked about Elway’s presence at the team’s practice complex.
Elway doesn’t often speak to the team (he also addressed a team meeting before the Broncos left for the Super Bowl to talk about his experiences in the title game as a player) but pictures of his playing career, including those taken after two Super Bowl wins, adorn the walls of the complex.
“He’s John Elway. You can’t live here or work here and not know what he means to this team and this city,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “Whenever he talks, of course you’re going to listen.”
- Covered Broncos for nine years for Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News
- Previously covered Steelers, Bills and Titans
- Member of Pro Football Hall of Fame Board
of Selectors since 1999