John Elway turns another year older today, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'm hoping for a little more Mile High Magic from No. 7 as he blows out his 54 candles and hopefully casts at least one wish toward February 2015.
Then again, John Elway is the definition of Mile High Magic, and if anyone can make special things happen for the Denver Broncos - even after retiring from pro football - it's Elway.
We're all familiar with so many of Elway's remarkable fourth downs, comebacks, record-setting stats, and of course, wins. And just because it will make you feel awesome, go read Jon Heath's excellent post highlighting Elway's "7 greatest moments in football" again now.
But here are my seven reasons why Elway is still setting the bar at spectacular heights for his peers in the NFL's executive ranks:
#1 - He has a master plan.
Snagging Demarcus Ware, Aquib Talib and T.J. Ward made headlines immediately during Free Agency this spring, and that's because everyone around the league understands Elway is on the hunt. And then when he clipped Emmanuel Sanders from the Chiefs' grasp at the last minute? Well, that's just poetic.
The goal is a Super Bowl ring and that means finding an All-Pro defense to back up the Denver Broncos' NFL record-holding offense.
The Hall-of-Famer GM said days after the depressing loss to Seattle Seahawks that "the goal has not changed and it will not change."
Read: World Champions...at all costs.
#2 - He says what he thinks ... so refreshing.
.@johnelway: "(cont)... with the mindset that we want to be World Champions and we’re going to do everything we can to get there."— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) February 4, 2014
John Elway is every reporter's antidote to the excruciatingly unintelligible and non-quotable pressers of most NFL coaches and execs - which are only useful in a Coors Light commercial.
At the post-Super Bowl press conference, Elway had no interest in clichés or keeping his cool.
"And I want to say one thing," the Hall of Fame QB interjected. "...the less you concentrate on just that one game, and the more you look at the full season and really what we did as a football team...I'm very proud of that."
Three weeks later at the NFL Combine, Elway was still positive but not letting the Broncos off the hook for its loss in New York.
"I think when you look at the Super Bowl and look at the way we played, I think there is a mentality there that we want to create that when we get down like that in a situation, we have to be able to get it turned around. We weren't able to get it done in the Super Bowl."
That's more like it. Time to get to work.
#3 - He likes to own things.
Car dealerships, restaurants, teams...
And guys who like to own things, don't stop until they get them.
Who better to take your team to the top than a man who wants to own another trophy?
#4 - Who doesn't want "Comeback Kid" as the GM?
Just ask Cleveland Browns fans what they think of Elway.
Or any leftover Houston Oilers fans. Or Packers fans, Chiefs fans...the list is long.
The collective groan is all you need to know about the capability of this guy to ruin the opponent's plans.
"The bottom line is we're going to work as hard as we worked this year, if not harder, and continue to do that with the mind-set that we want to be world champions and we're going to do everything we can to get there."
#5 - Patience is his best virtue.
Arm strength, accuracy, ability to scramble and find someone open. All strengths of Elway the QB.
But Elway the GM?
That guy also knows good things come to those who wait ... and then scramble like heck to score.
No. 7 waited 15 years and suffered through three crushing Super Bowl losses before getting his first Super Bowl ring in 1998 and Super Bowl MVP a year later.
Since arriving in the front office at Dove Valley, Elway has made some brilliant acquisitions, even before this spring's checkmate during Free Agency. Elway was responsible for bringing John Fox on board, drafting Von Miller, hooking Wes Welker, promoting and keeping Adam Gase, and of course, the ultimate coup, luring Peyton Manning.
Such vision has turned around a pathetic 2010 performance (thanks again, Josh McDaniels) into three consecutive winning seasons, culminating in an AFC Championship last season.
#6 - He engineered the arrival of No. 18.
If Elway is remembered for little else as GM than helping to bring Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos, it won't be insignificant.
The Hall of Fame quarterback recruited the future Hall-of-Famer in a way no other GM could - with the empathy of a competitive quarterback who still wanted to win late in his career.
And he also did it while trading the very popular Tim Tebow, a move that wasn't popular with all of Broncos Country at the time. But Elway isn't trying to win a popularity contest; he wants the Super Bowl.
That single-focused effort by Elway has paid back in more dividends than we can count. Leading the NFL's No. 1 offense, Manning helped the team put its name atop the record books in points, touchdowns, passing first downs, games with 50+ points...the list seems endless.
"To me, Peyton wanted to finish strong and have a chance to cement his legacy," Elway told NFL.com. "I really felt like this was the best spot for him. I believe that. It ended up working out."
#7 - It's 4th and 1, and he's going for it.
Elway does not like to lose.
His sacrificial, age-defying first down on 3rd and 6 in Super Bowl XXXII - which inspired a go-ahead TD and became a defining moment for the future Super Bowl champions - also solidified the nine-time Pro Bowler as one of the fiercest competitors in the game.
And since re-joining the Broncos organization as vice president in 2011, the new GM has helped his former team earn three consecutive AFC West titles, an AFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.
So what's the point of this love-fest for Elway (other than just a good excuse for a post on his birthday?)
It's that none of this is good enough.
Despite having two Super Bowl rings from his final two years, Elway says he still isn't over his three Super Bowl losses and now he's "added [the Seahawks] one to it."
He's as much a member of the team as the GM as when he was the QB. He gets ecstatic over the wins and depressed over the losses.
But like any true team leader, he walks back into the huddle and calls the next play.
"I have had several people say, 'How many times are you going to climb up another mountain?' And I said, 'Probably [until] I get too tired.' But I am not too tired to climb another mountain. Obviously, this is a mountain here that we need to climb, and I look forward to the challenge. That is the way that I am built," Elway told ESPN.com. "I am a guy that likes to compete."
Now that sounds more like Happy Birthday to me,