Whether as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time or as an executive in the front office, John Elway knows how to help the Denver Broncos get to the Super Bowl…
They call him “The Duke” for a reason. John Elway is one of the best football people ever, be it as a player or executive. Heck, he might be one of the smartest guys in all of professional sports.
When you know how to constantly push the right buttons, it looks something like John Elway’s career — both on the field and off — as a Denver Bronco.
Elway isn’t undefeated in Super Bowls, but he does know how to get there, and I want to look at two moves in specific that helped the Broncos get there this offseason, one on each side of the football. On defense, I want to look at Darian Stewart, and offensively, I want to look at Owen Daniels.
Both players were considered ‘backups’ more or less on the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, at least at the start of the season that was the case. Daniels wound up having a nice year of production, while Stewart came in when his teammates got injured and sort of stole the spotlight, putting out some great tape in the process and getting the attention of the front office personnel in Denver.
When free agency began, John Elway and Gary Kubiak set out with one top priority: sign Owen Daniels.
With a limited budget, that was a pretty lame plan on paper, but the Broncos knew what kind of dividends it would pay in the long run. Daniels has proven to be more than worth it, making some humongous catches in clutch situations all throughout the season.
We’re not going to toot our own horn too much, simply because we weren’t the only ones who saw this coming, but when the Broncos were already out of the playoffs at this time a year ago, we were writing about what kind of fit Owen Daniels would be in the Gary Kubiak offense, the only one he’s ever known in his 10-year NFL career.
Five minutes into free agency, the deal to bring Daniels to Denver had already been announced and reported.
“A replacement (for Julius Thomas) has been found in Owen Daniels and if the Lombardi Trophy is to find its way back to Denver, the Broncos will need the veteran to be at the top of his game come next season.”
In the pre-season, we wrote about why Daniels would have a ‘huge impact’ on the team in 2015.
At this point, I don’t think there’s any question about it. Daniels has been a tremendous addition to the Broncos, and there was no clearer evidence of that than on Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots when he caught his second and third postseason touchdowns of his long NFL career from Peyton Manning.
On the season, those were his fourth and fifth touchdown catches of the year, and they could not have come at a better time. Daniels also had some huge touchdown receptions early this season against the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, as well as a number of big third down catches, fourth quarter grabs, and plays that contributed to the success of the AFC Champion Denver Broncos.
All on a three-year, $12 million deal that now looks like a pretty nice bargain for the Broncos, especially at just $3 million guaranteed.
And then you have his former Baltimore Ravens teammate, starting free safety Darian Stewart. Stewart did all the right things in Denver this season in his first real year as a starter, from the very first game of the year when he picked off Joe Flacco to seal the Broncos’ first win.
Stewart signed with the Broncos for two-years at $4.25 million. Can you say, ‘the steal of free agency’?
All Stewart has done since coming over to Denver and starting alongside a combination of T.J. Ward and David Bruton is rack up 63 tackles — his most since he played for the St. Louis Rams — an interception and 10 pass breakups. He also delivered big time against the New England Patriots with an interception off of Tom Brady.
Stewart has been making big plays all year long, but one of my favorite things about him is his ability to deliver punishment to opposing receivers. Here’s exhibit A:
Here’s exhibit B:
Stewart has brought the pain all year for the Broncos, and it has paid off tremendously for Wade Phillips and his staff. There’s no reason to believe these guys won’t continue to play a huge role as the Broncos compete for a Super Bowl championship, proving once and for all how phenomenal John Elway and the scouting department are at discovering diamonds in the rough.