A career is a compilation of moments, most of them pretty normal and a few that, if you are lucky, stand out as incredible, remarkable, even extraordinary events.
Those are the kinds of moments that have you remembering where you were when the event took place.
I have been fortunate enough to be part of the two greatest single player acquisition press conferences in Denver Broncos history, almost 30 years removed from each other.
The other Bronco who was present at both is John Elway.
At the first one, back in 1983, he was the guest of honor as he joined the team by trade from the Baltimore Colts.
Since then a lot has happened, including the move of the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
And now, here we are in 2012, somewhat of a surreal moment as we watched Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway introduce his enormous and astonishing quarterback free agent signing—Peyton Manning, certain future Hall of Famer recently released by the Indianapolis franchise.
It can easily be argued that the four greatest moments in Broncos history are, in order: 1) the acquisition of John Elway, which set the stage for enormous success; 2) the win in Super Bowl XXXII; 3) the win in Super Bowl XXXIII; and 4) the acquisition of Peyton Manning, which again sets the stage for success.
At least, those four event would lead my list as the four greatest moments in the Broncos universe, and if one wonders why two of the greatest are player acquisitions rather than games, my response is that first you have to have a team. You have to have players, then you play. And when you have guys like Elway and Manning, you go into every game with a fighting chance, which is all you can ever hope for.
As the two stood there for pictures, with Manning holding his familiar number 18 jersey—in orange, as the Broncos return to orange as our primary home jersey color this year—it struck me that the two men represent 699 combined career regular-season touchdown passes. Elway retired with an even 300 and Manning comes into this season with 399.
John would be way to modest to acknowledge this, but in terms of accomplishment and celebrity at each end, the football executive and the football player, this might just stand as the biggest “get” of the greatest player by the greatest former player. I certainly cannot think of an NFL free agent acquisition ever, previously, made by someone who himself had the playing credentials of John Elway.
Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome signed Shannon Sharpe, and both were Hall of Famers — but both were tight ends. I would submit that quarterback trumps tight end. As great as those players were, the Elway-Manning signing wins out.
In fact, we believe there has never been a signed contract with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks on it, as this one has.
Many years ago Broncos owner Pat Bowlen told me, “I want to be number one in everything.” The statement was so strong to me that I used it to lead his bio, and never took it out of his bio in all the years I produced it.
The statement is just as true today, and it was shown once again in the hiring of Elway to run football operations—has Denver sports ever had two more competitive guys leading a franchise? Certainly, none that has produced back-to-back world championships, as they did in 1997 and 1998.
With Elway in place, could any other executive representing the Broncos have attracted Peyton Manning here?
And is there a more popular players’ coach than John Fox?
And a rhetorical question if ever there was one—is there a more livable city in America than Denver for a young family?
And standing above all is that Denver wants to win—it starts with Mr. B. and permeates like a laser throughout the organization.
It was the creation of a perfect storm of positive feeling in Denver, an atmosphere that proved just right to attract the quarterback who unquestionably is the greatest free agent in NFL history
This was a move with cosmic scope, and one that will alter the careers of individuals and the directions of franchises, as adjustments now must be made to the dynamic Denver move.
That day back in 1983 was different, because there just was not the technological media that exists now. But it was still big, and we did not try to hold it. We did the press conference at 10:30 p.m., and everybody came. The Denver Nuggets were playing a game that night, and the next day their PR director told me when the info starting filtering in about 8:30, the evacuation of press row was immediate and almost complete.
It was a different time and a different day for Peyton Manning, with 25 television camera, local and national, 21 local radio talk shows present in one way or another, along with Peter King of Sports Illustrated, the NFL Network, ESPN, and the largest and most successful football web site in the Rocky Mountain time zone, DenverBroncos.com.
It was streamed live, televised live, and produced hundreds of thousands of words, virtually instantaneously. Back in 1983, the Elway press conference literally happened just after the local TV news signed off, and considering the time change from east coast to mountain, there were people waking up the next day in New York unaware of the Elway signing and press conference.
But for all the differences created by technology and the passage of time that three decade inevitably bring, there is one thing about them that is absolutely the same—these were two of the greatest days in Broncos history.
Welcome to Denver, Peyton Manning.