John Elway Q&A

8 10 2010

The NFL has made great strides in its effort to globalize football, including holding regular season games in England. The league will host a game at London’s Wembley Stadium for the fourth consecutive year Oct. 31 when the Denver Broncos take on the San Francisco 49ers.

In order to capitalize on the Broncos’ inclusion in the game, Pepsi Max is staging an Ultimate NFL fan contest in which the winner and three friends get to hang with John Elway in London. As part of the contest, fans have to submit a photo expressing their passion for the NFL by October 10 to NFL.com/PepsiMax. I spoke with Elway via phone last week to discuss a quarterback’s responsibility to his team, what he thought of his throwing mechanics and the ramifications of an 18-game NFL regular season schedule:

How much football — college and NFL — do you watch?
I still love to watch it. I watch quite a bit. Sundays are not built around it but as the weather cools…I like to watch the Broncos. I watch all the Broncos games. If a football game is on, I’m gonna watch it.

You’re a Pac-10 guy. What do you think of Colorado and Utah joining the conference?
You know, I think it’s good. Obviously for the Pac-10 they’re picking up those markets. You get the Utah market as well as the Colorado market. I think it’s a big step for the Pac-12. Obviously Utah has got a good program and been successful. They get a step up. I think it’s going to be another level from where they’re playing now but they’re a good football team that can compete in the Pac-10. I think Colorado has a way’s to go. They had some good teams back in the ’90s and they’ve kind of fallen off as a program. So I think for them to be competitive they’re going to have to make some strides. In the athletic department, they’re going to have to make a commitment to the football team to where they can be competitive in the Pac-10.

With a team struggling as the New York Giants are, looking for someone to take a leadership role, is it the quarterback’s responsibility to do that?
I think it’s part of it. That’s part of the quarterback’s job, is to be a leader and to be that guy. When you’re going through what the Giants are going through now, the morale is low. As a quarterback, not only are you asked to complete passes and to get guys in the right spot and score touchdowns, but I think it’s also part of your job of being the strong one within the group; strong mentally, keeping that morale up, think positive and get everybody’s noggin’ up. It’s part of it to change that morale. No question that’s part of the job of the quarterback.

Say a quarterback is leading in the locker room but isn’t doing so publicly. Are his teammates usually okay with that or do they prefer to see the quarterback also step up with reassuring comments to the media?
No, I think it would be good to be positive in the press, too. A lot of times when you’re struggling as a team, I’m sure they’re getting hammered in the press. So, I think it’s important to be the front guy. I think that’s one of the jobs of a quarterback. You gotta be the front guy for the media. The way I always looked at it is as a quarterback you be that front guy media-wise, when things are going well you gotta give credit to the other guys in the locker room, whether it be the offensive line or the defense or the running backs. When things are going tough, you’re kind of alone. Things stop with you and you gotta be the guy that’s taking the blame and saving those guys in the locker room.

You have to be protective of those guys in the locker room. When you’re protective of them, that’s when they’ll follow you. That was my philosophy. When things were good, things went to the players. When things were tough, the buck stopped with you as the quarterback. It was your job to protect those other guys and to keep their heads up.

Did you consider yourself to have perfect throwing mechanics?
No. I didn’t. I had a strong arm. My release was not nearly as quick as [Dan] Marino or [Joe] Montana. Dan’s arm was probably a little stronger than Joe’s, but they both did a great job with timing and getting the ball on target and throwing with accuracy. My advantage was I had a stronger arm. My release was a little bit longer than theirs. When you talk about a release, it’s not necessarily how long it is; it’s more close to how quick you can get rid of the ball. If it’s longer but it’s still quick and you can get rid of the football, I don’t think there’s not an issue with a longer release.

Do NFL coaches place too much importance on a “perfect” throwing motion?
No, I think they realize the bottom line is if you can make all the throws and make them with accuracy and you have good timing, I don’t think coaches care what the release looks like. It comes down to being able to getting rid of it in a hurry, as I said. So it’s not necessarily the length of the release; it’s the quickness of the release. Probably the most important thing is the accuracy. Getting in those guys’ hands where when they’re on the move they don’t have to break stride. That gives them an opportunity to do something with the ball after they catch it.

Is there a team rivalry from your playing days which you feel doesn’t exist today?
I think there was always a big rivalry with the Raiders. The Raiders were, especially back in the ’70s and ’80s when they had real good teams, that team people enjoyed going to games and playing against. Especially within the AFC West when you talk about Denver, Kansas City, San Diego. And I think because they’ve been down for so long, the Raiders don’t have that mystique they used to have. People don’t root against them. It’s more fun when the Raiders are a better football team because it brings more passion to the game. People love to hate the Raiders.

There’s a lot of controversy with the proposed 18-game season. Would your career have been shortened had you played 18 games per year?
It’s hard to say. When you add two more games to a year, there’s that much more opportunity to get hurt. It might have had an effect. The thing I look at with that 18-game schedule is that it’s really going to hurt the younger players. They’re not going to get a chance to show themselves in preseason. It’s going to make decisions tougher for coaches because they’re not going to have had a chance to see those young guys perform in game situations. Which is what preseason is all about. So I think less on the shortening of careers, it’s going to hurt the NFL more in those development of young guys. A lot of guys are late bloomers who come into the NFL and get a chance to show themselves in preseason. They’re going to lose that opportunity now and the NFL is going to miss on some of those guys that have been late bloomers.

I use Karl Mecklenberg as an example of a guy who was a 12th or 11th round draft pick who got an opportunity to show what he could do in preseason. Now with only one or two preseason games those are going to be more about getting veteran players ready to start the regular season.

You’re familiar with passionate NFL fans having played in Denver for so many years. This Pepsi Max competition has to be up your alley.
It really is. I think it’s great for Pepsi Max to give back to fans because as an NFL player, we know we’re not anything without the fans. It’s funny how so many people are so passionate about the NFL. Number one, football is a great, great game. Plus, the NFL has put out such a great product. So it’s nice to be able to include the fans and have the fans show their passion for the NFL. And for London. I think it’ll be a great trip for whoever wins this to be able to go to London, take three friends with them and get a chance to see London and watch a football game. Plus, we get to go to dinner and talk a little football.

You think football in London will be a successful venture for the NFL?
I think it’s important for the NFL to spread football to other fans. Obviously, outside the United States, Canada has football. But football’s not close to soccer [in world popularity]. We’ll see if the NFL can introduce people to football. The world is a huge market, so I think it’s advantageous for the NFL.

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One response

9 10 2010
Matt

Great interview.

The Raiders rivalry has cooled off quite a bit. When I was younger, it was a very intense rivalry… Especially in Shanahan first couple years as coach. To me, that was the piqué of it.

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