By WOODY PAIGE
In a quirk of providence, the Denver Broncos and John Elway came to life a week apart 56 years ago.
Elway was born in Port Antonio, Wash., on June 28, 1960, and the Broncos opened their first training camp in Golden on July 4, 1960.
Fluke or fate?
Now, Elway has spent exactly half his life in important roles with Denver professional football teams.
Related: Elway exudes confidence about another Super Bowl run
He was the Broncos’ quarterback for 16 seasons, and is in his sixth year as the NFL franchise’s exec VP in control of football operations.
In between, for six years (2003-2008), Elway was co-owner/CEO of the Arena Football League’s Colorado Crush.
His teams have won 287 regular-season and postseason games. They have reached the playoffs 20 times (15 for the Broncos), and they have played in eight championship games – and won four titles (three by the Broncos).
The two Elway Eras Broncos have finished below .500 only twice in 21 seasons. One more victory in 2016, and he will be 20 for 22 – an astonishing accomplishment.
John Elway is definitely and dutifully, The Duke of Denver.
A week ago, after the Broncos’ implausible, impracticable, incredible victory over the Saints, I saw John in the hallway, and, as always, we exchanged grits-eating grins.
He and I knew that New Orleans hasn’t been kind to John, but he’d finally won there.
In February 2013, as I was covering Super Bowl week at the Superdome, I called John in Hawaii and asked: “Why aren’t you here?”
“I don’t like New Orleans,” he said succinctly. “But we should be there.”
That was the season the Broncos were ahead of Baltimore in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter of the playoff game, and the Ravens tied it on a play that forever should be remembered in Denver as “Hell, Mary!” The Ravens won in overtime and would win the Super Bowl – the game the Broncos should have played in and won.
Elway can’t be blamed for missing the event. He played in the Superdome only twice – in the 1988 regular season against the Saints and in the Super Bowl the following season against the 49ers. The Broncos lost 42-0 and 55-10.
Last Sunday’s victory wasn’t enough to make up for The Debacles of De Levee, but it was a small measure of revenge for Elway (and Gary Kubiak, who took over at quarterback for Elway in both defeats).
During the Broncos’ bye week, Elway said he was pleased with the team’s 7-3 record.
He must be. The Broncos would be 5-5 except for a couple of kicks – the errant field goal in the opener with Carolina, and the blocked extra point and return for two points against the Saints.
This team is grinding, not crushing. It is grating, not serenading.
Yet, it is hanging in there with six games to go. The defense has been unhealthy; the offense has been unimposing. The bye week is a time to get healthy defensively and inspiring offensively.
The Broncos have the most difficult remaining NFL schedule, based on opponents’ record (35-20, counting Kansas City twice). Assuming the Chiefs, the Raiders and the Patriots win Sunday, make it 38 victories. The Titans are .500, and the Jaguars are awful.
But, consider this: An NFL team with a 7-3 record historically (1990-2015) has a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs.
If the Broncos can take care of business and beat the Chiefs at home and the Titans and the Jags on the road, the percentage increases to 97 percent, no matter what happens against New England, Kansas City and Oakland in the December gantlet.
So, when Elway says that before the season, he would have taken a 7-3 record at this intermezzo, there’s a valid reason why.
During Elway’s previous four seasons, all four teams were 7-3 or better, and advanced to the playoffs. Even the 2011 Tebow Team made it with a mediocre record.
In franchise history and since Elway’s birth, when the Broncos have lost three or fewer games in their first 10, the team has reach the postseason 20 times, and failed only in ’62 (losing six of its last seven), 1981 (10-6) and 1992 (when Elway was injured for a month).
It’s grand that the lives of the Broncos and Elway intertwined.
Thank you, Colts.