Good Morning, Broncos Country!
Lost in the shuffle of the Von Miller extension is the best move that John Elway has made in his tenure.
Most will think it was Peyton Manning, and you would have a great argument. But it's not.
This move happened on March 12, 2014. It was the final move in a defensive purge by Elway and the Broncos after the disastrous performance in Super Bowl XLVIII, and it led to what we've seen the last year. Heck, the last two years. And what we will, hopefully, continue to see in 2016.
That was when Denver signed DeMarcus Ware. Without that move by Elway, the Broncos don't win the Super Bowl, the defense isn't as historic and Miller wouldn't be the highest paid non-quarterback in NFL history.
To put this in simpler terms: Without Ware, we don't see any of those things.
As most of Broncos Country knows by now, Ware is Miller's idol. Miller wanted to be Ware growing up in Texas. He still does. But as Ware has undoubtedly told Miller: "Don't be me. Be better than me." And Miller can.
When you flashback three years, it's a testament to the work Miller has put in to get here. The Broncos linebacker was one screw-up away from a year-long suspension. To say his career was in doubt is like saying Andy Reid bungles clock management. It wasn't "if," but "when."
Enter Ware into the equation. That's not to say Miller didn't start the process to right his career and life before that day in March of 2014, but it left no doubt it would happen. To wit: Miller is no longer in the NFL’s substance abuse program. At all. He’s no longer subject to multiple tests a week or faces suspension if he were to test positive again.
Far too often in the new age of analytics and stats, the real impact of a player is lost. While important in some instances, it's only a character in the story. How major the role becomes depends on personal taste.
The stats may not show Ware as the best move Elway has made in his five years in Denver as the general manager and executive president. Especially when you compare Ware's numbers to those of Manning's. In that instance, it's not close. And when you consider that PFM allowed us all to move on from Tim Tebow ...
But the signing of Ware carries so much more significance. As noted above, it made possible the incredible memories we now have. It helped a young man remain motivated to turn his life around and create the incredible memories he's made. It spurred a group of defensive players to go down in history as one of the best ever.
That's only the start.
The Broncos defense can prove last season was no fluke. That it will get even better in 2016, which allows the offense to improve and run the ball more effectively to keep the defense off the field. The end goal remaining back-to-back Lombardi Trophies.
As I wrote back in March, it appears Ware has turned his attention to Demaryius Thomas. The two took a safari in South Africa a few weeks after the Super Bowl. As I noted in the story, read into that what you may, but it's no coincidence after the struggles Thomas had last season.
Perhaps the lesson from Ware to Thomas on that trip: In the face of danger, you can still have fun. But you must have a clear mind to do so or you'll get eaten alive.
Thomas doesn't have far to look to see the impact Ware carries. Miller is now on the path to put himself in the discussion with Derrick Thomas and Reggie White. To solidify his name in NFL lore. To be better than his idol.
Without the best move in Elway's tenure, none of this happens.
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