NFL talking points: John Elway always gets his way, so Denver Broncos fans can rest easy

Kevin Jeffers looks at the main talking points head of Thursday's first game of the season – a rematch of the Super Bowl between Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.
Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway. John Leyba / Getty Images
Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway. John Leyba / Getty Images

If there is one man in Denver who deserves the benefit of the doubt, it is John Elway.

And there is plenty of reason to doubt the thinking in Denver this NFL offseason.

After Peyton Manning, 39, retired a Super Bowl champion – thanks, of course, to a historically ferocious defence – and allowing free-agent backup Brock Osweiler to leave for Houston, the team did little-to-nothing to address the most important position.

They signed journeyman Mark Sanchez, but he has already been cut, and the team is starting somebody named Trevor Siemian in Thursday night’s NFL opener against Carolina Panthers (starts 4.30am, Friday UAE time), the team they incidentally beat for the title.

Expecting the second-year Siemian – a former seventh-round pick with zero NFL pass attempts to his credit – to match even what little Manning produced last year is foolhardy.

Behind him is late first-round pick Paxton Lynch, who in limited pre-season action has looked capable of playing at this level, but is not ready to start.

With either Siemian or Lynch, Denver are not expected to contend for a second straight championship.

• More NFL: Arizona Cardinals top preseason Power Rankings | Week 1 schedule

NFL windows for contending do not stay open long.

Just look at the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers, who played each other in the Super Bowl just four years ago and are now among the league bottom-feeders.

With that in mind, how could Elway and his staff not do more to bring in an established quarterback, or at least keep Osweiller around to maintain stability and ride this incredible defence to another shot at a title?

The answer: Trust in Elway. He is the Broncos.

When Denver drafted him No 1 out of Stanford in 1983 as one of the strongest-armed quarterbacks anyone had ever seen, he changed the fortunes of one of the league’s worst franchises.

In 16 seasons he led them to five Super Bowl appearances, including two championships in his final two seasons to ostensibly retire on top.

It was the move of an ultimate winner. When Manning retired as a champion in February, people said he was “pulling an Elway”.

Two decades since his playing days ended, Elway is still a winner.

He has turned around the Broncos’ fortunes again, this time, since 2010, from the front office, where he has final say over all football matters and has resided over building the league’s pre-eminent defence.

He just helped deliver Denver’s third Super Bowl trophy, all of them with his fingerprints on them.

If this is a middling or even a poor title defence for Denver, faith should be kept in the man in charge who does not stand for mediocrity.

Even if they lose to Carolina on Thursday, Elway always wins in the end.

Believe the hype

Carolina quarterback and defending MVP Cam Newton was cagey enough this week to say his team’s opener against Denver is “not a rematch”, insisting it is just one game of 16.

Do not buy it.

If Carolina do not smell blood, they should. Going out in Week 1 and beating the team that embarrassed them in the biggest game of the year is a definitive statement that second place is not good enough, and that this year will be different.

While true that a cross-conference match in September is not as important as a late-season division rivalry game, Newton is savvy enough to know how important national perception is.

Right now the perception of Carolina is that of a team that perhaps overachieved last season. A revenge win over a Denver team in transition helps sway that perception, and a loss helps prove the critics right.

This is no ordinary Week 1 match, regardless of how Newton spins it.

Big early test

In The National’s pre-season Power Rankings, I picked the Arizona Cardinals for the No 1 spot.

They will test that vote of confidence early with a marquee match-up at home against the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots.

It is a test between one of the league’s most historically inept franchises looking to shed such history versus the modern standard of franchise-building.

That game, the opening Super Bowl rematch and an always-entertaining tilt between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys are the heavyweight bouts of 16 Week 1 games.

If like me you have missed late-night American football on Sundays and Mondays and then spent the following days at work tired, you’re in luck. The NFL is back in our lives.

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Published: September 7, 2016 04:00 AM

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