Of all the things John Elway said this week about what became of the Broncos' 2012 season, of all the things people wished Elway would have said about what became of the season — like, "A knee? are you out of your %$&*# mind?" — there was an important sentence or two about the Broncos' future tucked in the middle of it all.
Those were when Elway the football executive talked about how he approached his first two years on the job and how he will approach it in future years.
On examining what happened Saturday night and dealing with the collective disappointment inside and outside of the Broncos' Dove Valley complex, Elway said: "It's how we look at it. As people, as players, as coaches, as personnel people, how we look at it — if we get defensive as individuals and don't listen to the ideas of what happened and how we can learn from those, then, to me, we don't get better. But if we listen to it, evaluate them and then correct them, then we have a chance to get better."
Those who knew Elway in his first postplaying career often talked of his measured approach in business. That he first examined things, asked questions, familiarized himself with the situation, the people and then made the moves he believed were necessary, with almost unfailing objectivity to do what he believed was right.
He showed similar traits in his first two seasons as the Broncos executive vice president of football operations. Elway opened his tenure with the statement, "I know what I don't know" and went about the business of settling into the new job. He watched, he listened, he asked questions and sought counsel from those more experienced than he was. He didn't streamline and re-organize the team's personnel structure, until he had gone through the second offseason with the team.
And now Elway has said it's important for the Broncos not to be defensive, to look, to learn.
So, while people want Elway to go bananas and say he would have body-slammed any coach who would have asked him to take a knee with 31 seconds to go in a tied playoff game, what he said could be more important in the big picture.
More than one team has watched the Super Bowl train leave the station and never come back because it believed only in their way, no changes, no exceptions.
This past offseason for the Broncos was about moving from emotional roller-coaster, from the unpredictable wild ride to Super Bowl contender. The Broncos did that.
This offseason is about going from Super Bowl contender to Super Bowl contender that put itself under the microscope. Not because of panic, but because they found answers.
"I'm saying the goal has not changed, the goal is still to be world champions," Elway said. "Obviously, with what we did this regular season, we gave ourselves an opportunity in the playoffs. We put ourselves in the best situation you could possibly put yourself in going into the playoffs. But the bottom line is the situation doesn't win the game for you. You still have to go out in the playoffs, and you still have to play well. You can't make the mistakes we made to be able to beat good football teams.
"We just didn't play well enough to win."
The Broncos said for most of the 2012 season their success was built on accountability, that the players-only "debriefing" sessions were key to first acknowledge what went wrong, then to make the move to fix it.
And, as the Broncos begin the offseason, the front office will have to do the same.