USA TODAY Sports
In 2012, the Denver Broncos made a surprise exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. Today, Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway spoke to the media about a wide range of topics, from Peyton Manning to the upcoming draft.
On the NFL potentially changing the offseason schedule.
"Well, I haven’t had a chance to really study it; I just heard it this morning. So we’ll kind of wait and see what comes out of it. But the bottom line is we’ll adjust however the league office decides to go with the schedule. No matter whether free agency is March 12 or April 12 or May 12, until we get out there and things start getting closer to that date and things get refined, it’s going to be hard to put that big picture together. So whatever that date is, whatever the league office tells us that date is, we’ll adjust to it."
On whether he expects Super Bowl wins after the playoff loss (like after the 1996 loss to Jacksonville).
"I hope so. I was just talking to someone out there, talking about [forgetting] last year. I don’t want to forget last year. I don’t want our team to forget it. I want them to realize it was a great year, but also don’t forget that feeling of what happened in the playoff game. Be able to learn from that. Hopefully we can build on it and get better from it, as we did in ’96. ’97 and ’98 were good years for us, so I’m hoping that we can learn like we did back then with this experience. I’m hopeful. We’ve got a good football team, so we think that we’ll continue to build on that and see what happens."
On whether QB Peyton Manning met or exceeded his expectations.
"I think he met the expectations. He probably exceeded them. If you look at the numbers, what he did, he had a tremendous year. In talking to different guys that have kind of been through what he’s been through when it comes to that neck, there’s a lot more to it than I think that I knew, as well as what a lot of people know, having to go through that and come back from that. In that case, I think he exceeded the expectations. Now that I know what he had to go through and the things that he had to overcome with that neck, not so much physically, but mentally, he did a tremendous job in the way he worked at it. So when I say he met, I should probably rephrase that and say he exceeded that. But I’m looking forward to next year, too. I think he’s just going to continue to get better."
On QB Brock Osweiler.
"We’re excited with Brock. He came in and even having a year with him under our roof, we’re even more excited about him and what he can do. Obviously it worked out tremendously with Peyton. Brock was a guy that I thought could come in and eventually be that guy, to be able to learn from Peyton Manning as long as Peyton still wants to play. He’ll continue to grow, because he was a young guy, he was a junior coming out. So we’re really excited about where we are at that position. Brock’s going to continue to get better and better."
On Osweiler’s development.
"To me it’s more about the techniques and how good a feel he gets with his release getting more consistent all the time. Plus, to be around a guy like Peyton Manning, to see what it takes to win in the NFL is a huge plus. He’s a smart kid and he’s taking it all in."
On whether the Broncos have a head start on the rest of the AFC West because of lack of staff turnover.
"I don’t look at it that way, that we do have a head start. I just know where we are. I feel like if we continue to get better from where we are, then we’re in good shape. I just know the guys that are in the AFC West. If you look at them now, Mike McCoy, Dennis Allen and then Andy Reid in Kansas City, you’re looking at with me really knowing two of them and then Andy Reid and his reputation and what he’s done in this league, we know we’ve got our hands full. So we have to continue to get better and hopefully stay ahead of them."
On the middle linebacker position.
"I believe where we are with Steven Johnson and Nate Irving, we’re excited about those two. I know it’s been a topic of conversation, but we drafted Nate two years ago in the third round to be the guy that took over at middle linebacker. So I’ve got a great deal of confidence in the fact that he’s going to come in, once he’s given that responsibility, that he’ll step up to it. I think if you look at where the league is and where we are, 65 percent of our snaps last year were nickel. I’m not trying to downplay the importance of that position, but nickel is so important, too. As I said, I think Nate will step in. He did a tremendous job for us on special teams, and I think he’ll step in, in the competition with Stevie Johnson, who was a CFA for us. They’re both guys very capable of handling that job."
On trusting young players.
"I think that’s a little bit of it, but you’re also looking from within to fill spots. That’s what we’re doing with two young guys that people don’t know a lot about. But we have high expectations for them to come in and compete for that job. We’ll see them in OTA's and see how they handle it."
On big-play receivers like WR Demaryius Thomas.
"Obviously with the new rules and the way it is, you need guys that can make big plays. That’s where the receivers and guys that can not only make big catches, but what can they do after they catch the ball—running after the catch is huge. You’re always looking for guys that can break a game open. With where the game is going, those wide receivers are that important."
On RB Willis McGahee’s status.
"We’re going through that process right now. Willis is under contract, so we’re thrilled that he’ll be back. We’ll see how he comes off that knee. He’s been a tremendous asset for us the last two years that he’s been there. We’re still going through that evaluation process and we’ll see how he comes off the knee."
On his influence on the new aptitude testing at the combine.
"I talked to them. They just kind of felt me out as far as asking me different questions about what we’d want to see and try to be able to when you test somebody to be able to get something out about how competitive they are, what football means to them so we can better evaluate these kids because there is so much to that with the money that is in the league. To be able to know what kind of people we’re getting, that’s the thing that I brought up. No. 1 for me is competitiveness in these guys. How competitive are they? How do you ask those questions in this test that can draw that attitude that they have about that out? I enjoyed being a part of that. I haven’t seen the questions yet, so I’m anxious to see what the test looks like."
On how to find out about a player’s competitiveness on a written test.
"That’s the big question. That’s why the psychologists and the guys that are making that test—when they were asking me what I would want out of it, that’s what I told them. It’s up to them to tell me how they get that out."
On drafting quarterbacks.
"I think quarterbacks are getting better. I think that’s what makes—not only the evaluation process, but the kids that are working at that position now in the NFL are so much farther ahead than where they were because of the exposure they’re getting not only in high school and in college. The exposure they’re getting so when they get here, they’re more game ready. As we saw last year with [Andrew] Luck and [Robert] Griffin [III] and even [Russell] Wilson in Seattle—the training they’re getting is getting better and better each year. We’re getting guys that are much more prepared at that position when they get to the NFL to play it."
On whether the roster needs a lot of improving.
"I would say this: I feel much better standing here now than I did two years ago about where we are as a football team. I think that the way I look at it is that we have to continue to get better because everyone else in this league is going to get better. Thirteen-and-three is not good enough. It was nice, we won the division and had home field [advantage], but when you lose in the first round in the playoffs, you know you have to get better, whether it be better playing not only in the regular season, but we have to learn how to play in the postseason. Learning how to play in the postseason is huge. That’s why the experience that we went through this year is so important. If we have the opportunity to have ourselves in the same position or get back in the playoffs and how we approach that is huge. That’s what makes a difference. You can be good in the regular season. I said it during the year last year, we make our money in the regular season, you make your legacy in the postseason as a player. That’s why what we went through and what we experienced in the first round is so important."
On learning how to play in the postseason.
"I believe you have to be tougher. You have to go through it. The expectations rise. Each game is so much—you don’t have next week. In the regular season, you have a bye week or you have next week, but the postseason you have to be able to learn to play with a little bit of sudden death, which is that there is no next week. That’s why great teams flourish in the playoffs. If you look at the Ravens this year and what they did in the playoffs, it was impressive. Joe Flacco stepped up and played great and they really came together as a team. To me, it was very impressive what they did."
On what he’d like to see from Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o at combine.
"I just want to talk to him. Personally, I don’t get caught up in everything that is swirling around him. I’m looking forward to sitting down and talking to him. I know him as a football player. He’s a very good football player. He’s going to have a successful career in the NFL. I’m looking forward to sitting down and talking to him."
On safety Rahim Moore rebounding from last play of 2012 season.
"Rahim had a great year. The strides he made from his rookie year to this year were tremendous. We expect him to make those same strides and I think the bottom line is for him—I haven’t seen him since the last game, but once he gets back and around his teammates—there are a lot of things in that game that caused it to end up the way it ended up. It wasn’t one play that caused us to lose. I’m happy with him and I think—I was really impressed with him and how he handled it after the game. He stood up and he took it, which to me showed a great amount of maturation on his part. I’m looking forward to him coming back and even having a better year next year."