Denver's eternal MVP
It is hard not to be impressed with the Broncos' Super Bowl run this season.
They didn't have a flashy team. They didn't score a ton of points. Peyton Manning was not the Peyton Manning we've grown accustom to seeing. The receiving corps didn't stand out from the crowd.
They had downs throughout the season. They won ugly. They barely squeezed by the Steelers and the Patriots in the playoffs.
That is why they headed into Super Bowl 50 against the 17-1 Panthers as significant underdogs.
Once again, they delivered. The victory was far from pretty, but that was just fine with them. They battered and bruised MVP Cam Newton, and Manning and the offense did just enough for them to take home the franchise's third Lombardi Trophy.
In their magical Super Bowl run, there were plenty of heroes, but who had the biggest contribution?
Was it sack specialist and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller? Was it cornerback Aquib Talib? Was it Manning in what may end up being his final season?
Sure, those players were vital in the Broncos' success this season, but there is a guy that has gotten lost in the shuffle when talking about the key to Denver's Super Bowl run.
I'm talking about the man responsible for having Miller, Talib, Manning and so many others don the orange jerseys: John Elway.
Elway has proven to have a definite eye for talent as their executive vice president and general manager. He built that defense that has been compared to some of the all-time greats in the wake of their dominant performance against the Panthers.
In addition to the players, he brought in Wade Phillips to lead the unit. Phillips has had his troubles as a head coach, but as a defensive coordinator, he has always been one of the best in the game.
Who was Elway's first draft pick as an executive? Miller as the second overall selection in the 2011 draft. I think it's safe to say that the pick has paid off for the Broncos over the years.
Miller had one of the best defensive performances in Super Bowl history as he sacked Newton two and a half times and forced two fumbles. Those two fumbles resulted in Denver's only two touchdowns of the game.
During the summer of 2011, Elway gave a training camp invite to an undrafted cornerback named Chris Harris, Jr. Four years later, he's a two-time Pro Bowler and considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league.
In 2012, he drafted defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. He emerged as a huge force on the line for the Broncos this season--coming away with 5.5 sacks.
And then, there are the amazing free-agent acquisitions Elway has been able to make over the last few years.
He was there to give Manning a second chance when many teams wouldn't touch him over concerns stemming from his neck surgery. Manning has led them to two Super Bowls.
Emmanuel Sanders was brought in at receiver. He has had 2,539 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns over the past two regular seasons.
To improve the secondary, he was able to sign two Pro Bowlers in Talib and safety T.J. Ward.
Talib is one of the league's best shutdown corners. In his two seasons in Denver, he has seven interceptions and has made the Pro Bowl each year. Ward has four picks and 3.5 sacks in his two seasons.
Finally, to make the pass rush even more dominant, Elway pulled the trigger on DeMarcus Ware.
I, like many other observers, thought Ware's best days were behind him. He was coming off of a ninth season with the Cowboys that was plagued with injuries and yielded a career-low of six sacks.
Elway took a chance, and it has paid dividends for the Broncos. He made the Pro Bowl both seasons in Denver and has collected a total of 20.5 sacks.
In the postseason, he had a game-clinching sack against the Steelers in the divisional round. In the Super Bowl, he brought down Newton on two separate occasions.
Prior to this season, Elway was already considered a god in Denver after leading the Broncos to their only two Super Bowl victories as a quarterback.
After leading Denver to another title as an executive, he is now Zeus--king of all gods.