Ifs, Whens, and Other Things We Love That Just Might Kill Us: Elway, Jr.


“Ifs, Whens, and Other Things We Love That Just Might Kill Us” is a new feature on Arrowhead Addict and Predominantly Orange in which Bankmeister and Old No. 7 will exchange e-mails on a particular topic. This week’s subject is Cherry Creek High School quarterback Jack Elway.

Bankmeister: I’d like to say, on behalf of Arrowhead Addict , that we’re thrilled you could take time out of your busy schedule running Predominantly Orange and chat with us. There are a number of topics I’d like to cover with you, and I’m confident I’ll get to at least half of one, and never get sidetracked. So here goes: Last week in your Tradition Tuesday post on the House of Georges (link) you talked about the recruitment and development of John Elway’s son. You also spoke about your fantasy scenario in which Jack is drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs after college. I don’t get this. Why does this fascinate you?

Old No. 7: When it comes to Young Elway, my first wish would, of course, be for him to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and have a Hall Of Fame career for the Denver Broncos. In lieu of that, my secondary wish would be to see him go to a team whose fan base loathes his dad (Cleveland, Green Bay, any AFC West franchise, etc.). I think it would be really, really funny, especially if Jack were a really good college QB and that team really needed a QB. The conflict would amuse me.

B: That’s rich. I suppose I could stomach such a twist only if it meant that Young Elway repeatedly defeated the Broncos. You guys would have no idea how to react: you can’t hate or boo the son of your god, right? The conflict there would amuse me.

7: Touche. That would suck. You’ve written in the past about players who’ve “gone to the dark side” (link), i.e. played for the Chiefs and then gone to the Broncos. Neil Smith is obviously the most prominent example here, but there are many. I agree, what with my disdain for that ass clown Eddie Kennison. Where would the child (or brother or other relative) of a hated rival fit in on that continuum of fan dislike?

B: It fits in like this: It blows. Period. I suppose it ultimately winds up sucking for the athlete in question, but, you know, screw that guy. He’s still hoarding piles of American dollars by simply playing the game he’s loved to play his whole life.

I find relatives in sports to be a fascinating topic, though, and I always seem to have mixed emotions about them. As a young Royals fan, I didn’t give two seconds of consideration to Ken Brett. He was a pitcher. In the American League, which equals no homeruns, no triples, no base-stealing, etc. Not to mention the fact that his presence on the club forced his kid brother to put that God-awful “G” on the back of his uni.

Fast forward 20 years and I found myself captivated by the Brian Griese situation in Denver. It’s strange to admit, let alone think about, but I was totally rooting for that kid. That’s some pressure. Here’s a guy that the Broncos have tagged as the guy to replace Elway, or Horse-Faced Colts Draft (HFCD) as I like to call him. Here’s a franchise that was awful for most of the first two decades it existed. They had the ’77 Super Bowl appearance, but not much after until the infamous NFL draft of ’83.

Though it took HFCD a couple of seasons to get his game on, he did take them to the big game on four occasions. Granted, those early appearances were monstrous losses, but the team was there, showing success, riding the lone draft pick holdout it so savored with every ounce of saliva in its collective mouth. Finally, they win the big one twice, and the king of Denver car sales rides off into the orange sunset of retirement. Literally.

That’s a whirlwind of a ride to be a football fan/family in Denver. I’m a firm believer that sports, to a degree, transcend generations within families. I can imagine that, say, yourself, as a child, felt frustration as a Bronco fan, basked in the glory of all those playoffs, exploded with exhiliration when your boys finally won it all, and, when it finally hit you between eyes that your franchise was on the market for a QB, you were like, “What in the world just happened?”

Along comes Griese. A good egg. A talent. The son of Hall-of-Fame pigskin slinger, the one selected to steer that franchise into the new HFCD-less millennium. I posit that one could scarcely finger a larger set of shoes to fill in sports history. Okay. Maybe NFL history.

Say you’re a Bills fan, and let’s pretend that the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills (solely because they’re in the same division — I don’t portend to know much about football beyond the AFC West) are a bitter, hated rivalry. If your pops watched Bob Griese kill your team on a semi-regular basis, you’d be like, “Man I hate that guy” or “Geez, I wish we had that caliber of talent on our team.” So when his son Brian enters the league, you, as a Bills fan, tell your kids how much his dad used to toss around your team back in the day. But you do it with respect.

The kind of respect I had for Brian as a young Bronco. Of course, his performance didn’t cut it for Bowlen/Shanahan and the secret phantoms that run the Broncos, and he’s gone. One more reason to not like that franchise.

The whole HFCD thing is clearly a massive exception. I’ll always hate him for refusing to play for the team that drafted him. I despise Eli Manning for the same reason. Then again, I’m over-idealistic; I’d like for the world to spin the way “it was meant to,” even though there’s not a formula/set of guidelines for such spinning. Throw in the fact, though, that his daddy pulls the strings for him to play for a “west coast” team (I always found that odd, but I never claimed to have aced geography) that happens to be a division rival.

And the guy really was the come-from-behind maestro. Coincidentally, a lot of those late-game victories were at the expense of my Chiefs.

Thus, to continue not answering your question, the continuum of fan dislike, is an abyss of a black hole for Young Elway. The thought of those five letters on the back of a red and gold jersey literally makes me want to vomit. And of course, there are very few retired numbers in the Chiefs franchise. Seven is not one of them.

7: Man, that was a mouthful. It almost seems as though you’d thought of some of that stuff ahead of hand. I have to vehemently disagree with you when it comes to the end of Griese’s Denver career. You said: “…his performance didn’t cut it for Bowlen/Shanahan and the secret phantoms that run the Broncos, and he’s gone. One more reason to not like that franchise.”

Griese’s performance did not cut it in general. This is a team with an owner and a coach that will settle for nothing less than Super Bowl championships, and Griese proved not to be the QB to lead the team back to the Big Game. The remainder of his career has validated the decision, as he’s never been back to the Pro Bowl, never won a playoff game and never even held on to a starting job for a full season. I think Brian Griese is a good backup NFL QB, and I would have loved for him to stick around in that capacity when they brought Plummer in. The egos and attitudes involved would not allow that, however, and he had to go.

It’s a rough business. I was pulling for Griese too, but he didn’t have the temperament, the leadership attributes, or the top-level tools he needed to succeed in Denver. That’s not because Bowlen and Shanahan are assholes, they merely wield the ax. Griese had the chance, and Griese failed.

I am totally on the same page with you with that initial, though. I always hate it when a player–especially a longtime favorite–has to take on the initial on his nameplate because his dumb brother (or, even worse, someone who coincidentally has the same name) signs up. What I’ve never understood is why you even need it. George Brett, number 5 in your programs and number 1 in your hearts, did not need an initial. Hell, he didn’t need anything on the back of his jersey. No one was going to mix him up with his brother, so just put “Brett” on the back of both of their jerseys and be done with it. I don’t understand why this is so hard.

Anyway, back to the kid Elway. Let me ask you this: how much is your view of the relatives of athletes is affected by the fact that almost all of them grew up rich, privileged and with an automatic edge? Part of what we respect about athletes is the incredible amount of work it takes to be good at this stuff, as well as the fact that many of these kids come from broken homes and/or crappy schools. Imagine it’s not Elway, but someone you like and respect: how do you feel about his kid as an adult athlete, knowing that he had every advantage, went to the best camps and schools, can network with anyone and oh by the way had a Hall of Famer as a backyard coach since birth?

B: Okay. Points on the Griese topic well-illustrated and intelligent. I think there’s a part of me, though, that will always toss a smattering of blame upon the organization/fan base with regard to HFCD’s successor solely because of the way things went down with his acquisition, career, and championship status/retirement. I don’t mention this to indicate any level of shrewdness or accuracy. I’m simply sayin’.

Kudos on the initials bit as well. It’s not that freaking hard. If you know your team, you know your team. You recognize stature, position, tendency, etc. I even found myself annoyed with recent Bronco uniforms. I can’t remember who, but in the past four or five years, Denver acquired someone with the same last name as a long-standing member, the end result being initial adage. And it disturbed me to see the uniform of whomever that guy was modified. Same goes for Larry and Derrick Johnson on the current Chiefs roster. I’d never buy either of those guys jerseys because I can’t roll through Englewood, or wherever Bronco fans tailgate and have it recognized for the sheer #56. Granted, now that I think about it, several Denver fans would probably be like, “Yo, I thought LJ wore #27.”

Anyway. Regarding Kid Elway, I can’t really say. That is, I’ve never considered the background of a son of a former professional athlete. I’m usually having a good day if I know where a kid attended college, so knowing how it was financed would be a giant stretch.

That said, I don’t know that I could formulate a quality opinion if I just knew a few details. On the one hand, you’d tend to hate the punk for having the good gear/camps/schools and thus the advantage over the less privileged. The other side to that, though, is that said father worked his butt off to provide these things for his son, and you’d have to acknowledge his entitlement to do so.

Where I’d want to lend extra scrutiny would be whether or not the father made the son earn every bit of the privilege/advantage. Like, “You can have a different pair of Reeboks for each day of the week, but you’ve got to earn some of the money for them via chores around the house.” Or, perhaps you reward the kid with good grades as the incentive: “You can go to John Elway’s quarterback camp if you get straight As; come home with less than a 3.0, you’re marching to camp Bubby Brister.” Something like that.

As far as the backyard coach, I’m all for it. That’s what America is all about. With Father’s Day weekend here, there’ve been a lot of Royals commercials on suggesting that you take dad to the game, etc. These ads feature blips with players talking about how their dads taught them how to hit, field and slide. They also acknowledge that their dad was the first to see them hit a AA homerun, or get his first strikeout in the bigs. That junk gives me goose bumps just typing it. I guess that makes me a romantic old sap, but, for my money, the gifts of genetic talent and knowledge of the game that a father gives his son is pure bliss, even if these gushers of moments take place between John and Jack. What about you, though? This exchange has become a bit one-sided. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the whole relative of a rival conundrum. I’d also be interested in hearing your thoughts on the son of an HOFer having all of the goods lined up for him.

7: I’m pretty sure the numbers/initials combo on the Broncos you’re referring to would be the Williams situation. When Darrent Williams was drafted, D.J. Williams put his initials on his shirt. I actually thought this was fine, because it was his first name. The travesty was when Darrent put his entire first name on, loading his jersey up with more letters than Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. As annoying as the initial thing is, it’s ten times worse when two guys have the same last name and same first initial, resulting in spelling out both names. Bunk.

Sadly, we’re back to only one Williams on the roster. I don’t know what D.J. is going to wear on his nameplate, but it’s going to remind us of the Williams that’s not there, and that sucks.

Also, the Broncos often have had random Smiths on the team, resulting in Rod Smith adding the initial–which pisses me off.

If there’s a player that I don’t like, either as an individual athlete or from a rival team, there is a certain amount of dislike built in for me automatically. Eli Manning is the first example that comes to mind for me. I’ve always despised his brother (although I may be coming around on him, much to my shock and dismay), and so I initially transferred that feeling to Eli. Then about a year ago I consciously decided to give Eli a chance and even felt sorry for him a little bit. That was all until I drafted him for my fantasy league last season and he single handedly destroyed my title chances. So now I hate Eli completely on his own merit.

If the son of a rival—like, I don’t know, Marcus Allen’s kid or something—ended up going to Colorado State or signing with the Broncos, I would accept him but hold him to a way different standard than other players. I would be almost predisposed to jump on his ass after a mistake. He could earn my appreciation, but the bar would initially be set a lot higher. It’s a tough call, because players move around so much these days it’s hard to really associate players with one franchise (and thus hate them as much as you hate the rival team).

I don’t know how to measure the amount of good parenting or discipline any kid receives, so I will ask you this: All kidding about Jack Elway aside, do you honestly think that Brodie Croyle is the long-term answer for the Chiefs? What have you seen in the kid to make you believe one way or another? What’s your best case scenario for play at the quarterback position, and how do you think Jay Cutler will do this year?

B: Great questions, each one of them. Regarding Croyle, I can’t say. In a Chiefs uniform, I’ve only seen him come in for mop-up duty in the infamous Pittsburgh “Passion Party” catastrophe at Three Rivers last year. I know in the small amount of tosses he chucked up, two were picks, one for a touchdown return. So that’s not good, but that team didn’t have its head on straight that day. Prior to being drafted, I saw only snippets of his collegiate play, as well as a decent amount of those quarterback competition things they televise. He seemed to do well.

The one thing I’m staunch about is this: Give him a chance. I don’t care about his pre-NFL injuries, and I don’t care when he gets his chance. I just don’t think you write him off before he’s given a shot similar to what Cutler got last year. My best-case scenario is a fair competition for the starting job, an orchestration that, in my mind, is only winnable (at this point) by Damon Huard. Anyone that thinks otherwise confuses me.

Finally, I think Cutler will do great. I really do. I predict he’ll progress and make good things happen at a rate much quicker than Philip Rivers displayed last year. Of course, some of that is system-related, but Cutler will do real well. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes in the top three of AFC QB rating. Some folks aren’t fans of that statistic, but it really is a good yardstick. What do you think about Croyle/Huard? And, are you as optimistic as I am — or more — on how Cutler will do?

7: Ah, the Passion Party. Easily my favorite NFL story of last season, eclipsing even Making It Rain. Here’s my read on Croyle and Huard: If Herm Edwards is serious about winning this year, with this team, he’ll play the veteran. Huard is clearly more ready to win games right now. You were in the playoffs last year and you bring most of the team back. If you feel as though you’re playing for the future, then no question you go with the kid, especially since career backup Huard can not raise any kind of a stink about going back to the clipboard.

And by “playing for the future,” I don’t mean giving up on the season. If the two QBs are close in ability, and you’ve seen Huard’s ceiling, then let the young man show his stuff. Besides, if Elway Junior’s going to suit up in KC you need to shake things out sooner rather than later. But it takes a commitment, without waffling. I actually respect the way Shanahan handled the QB transition last year, even if it cost us a playoff spot. The people that were calling for Cutler in Week One made me want to load and fire. In that spot you absolutely had to get what you could out of Plummer. And when Jake’s ineffectiveness was crippling the team, you had to go to the first-round pick, even if he wasn’t ready to take a team to the postseason. It was a frustrating season but necessary for the future of the team.

And I think that future is positive with Cutler. He still has a rather large unknown quality, and I’m a little weirded out by the Vanderbilt thing. All of that college footage could have been fabricated (like the moon landing) and no one would know about it. He still feels like a stranger in our house because we didn’t know him in college. Hell, even Roethlisberger played (and destroyed) CSU when he was at Miami of Ohio. I do think Cutler has the tools and the temperament to be hugely successful. I don’t know about that top-three prediction, because he’d have to beat out a lot of good arms to get there, but eventually he will be a major star and win a lot of games.

Old No. 7 is the lead writer for Predominantly Orange, and can be contacted at thelasvegasjerk@yahoo.com. Bankmeister writes infrequent features for Arrowhead Addict, and can be contacted at guestoftheopera@yahoo.com. Both authors are writers and co-founders of House of Georges.