Hall of Fame QB John Elway is heading to London for the October 31st game between the 49ers and Broncos, and some lucky NFL fans will get to hang with the former Denver star if they win this Pepsi Max promotion. While out promoting the giveaway, Elway took 15 minutes out of his day to speak with us on a variety of topics: The exodus of star athletes in Denver, Dez Bryant’s $55k dinner tab, never getting to a bowl game at Stanford despite an illustrious career, how he wishes he ran the shotgun more earlier in his career and of course, his wife the former Raider cheerleader.
Q: You had a tremendous career at Stanford – setting records, winning Pac-10 POY twice, and finishing 2nd in the Heisman race. Strangely, you never went to a bowl game. How’d that happen? And do you get back to Stanford much? What are your thoughts on its promising QB Andrew Luck?
A: Well, I don’t get out there as much as I used to or I’d like. My oldest daughter went there, and I haven’t been back much since she left. But I think Jim Harabugh is doing a tremendous job with the program. He’s kind of changed the attitude and turned them into a team that runs and plays good defense. Andrew Luck, wow, he’s a heck of a QB. This is the best team they’ve had in a long, long time. it’d be nice to see them get to the Rose Bowl.
As for my career, if I played there now, we definitely would have gone to a bowl (laughter). There are a lot more bowl games now than there used to be (laughs). But that was disappointing … we had a lot of good teams but could never seem to get over the hump.
Q: Surely you read about Dez Bryant’s $55k dinner tab that was part of rookie hazing. You ever experience anything remotely close to that?
A: No. To me, that seems ridiculous. But you get in that situation … and it’s hard to say no. Dez should have carried the guy’s helmet [in the preseason] and it wouldn’t have cost him $55,000. But to me, that’s unnecessary and beyond the rookie hazing-type thing. That’s trying to hurt the guy in his wallet instead of having fun with it.
Q: You turned 50 this year with a bacchanal that got plenty of newspaper coverage.
A: (Laughs) My wife threw me a 50th birthday and Rascal Flatts came to play … it all was pretty surprising. I didn’t mind turning 50.
Q: Your wife used to be a Raiders cheerleader, right? Has anyone jokingly given you static for that, due to the rivalry the Broncos used to have with the Raiders?
A: I certainly didn’t care she was a Raiders cheerleader. There were a few jokes about it, and the press loved the fact that she was a Raiders cheerleader … but she was a cheerleader from their days in Los Angeles, not Oakland.
Q: Marcus Allen set you guys up, right?
A: Well, we met at a Marcus Allen golf tournament, so he gets part of the credit, no question. I made the first move … I got her phone number, and then I called her 6-7 months after we met. I had some car dealerships out there, and when I was out there, I called her. I didn’t know if she was married or divorced or what … but I fooled her enough to marry me.
Q: With the Broncos, you really excelled out of the shotgun late in your career. Do you think you could have been more successful – if that’s even possible – if you had operated out of the gun your entire career?
A: I was thinking about that the other day – to me, it was easier throwing the football out of the shotgun because you’re away from the center, plus, you could see the field better. When you look at the teams I was on – earlier in my career – I would have liked to be out of the shotgun a bit more because we didn’t run the ball as well. But on the two Super Bowl teams I was on, with Terrell [Davis] being behind me, we were able to run the ball. I wouldn’t change anything with those Super Bowl teams because I think being in the shotgun takes something away from the running game. But for teams that can’t run the football, it’s a big advantage for a QB to be in shotgun because you can see that much better.
Q: Is there a coach currently whose system who you’d love to play in if you were in the NFL right now?
A: I thought [Mike] Shanahan’s system – the West Coast offense – was as good as there was. I had a taste of that when I was at Stanford. Bill Walsh recruited me and then went to the 49ers, so we ran that west coast offense … to me, if you look around the league at teams that are having success … half of those teams, most likely, are running some form of the West Coast offense. To me, that’s the best system. Those are the ones i’d like to be in.
Q: Did you catch the Monday Night Football game between the Bears and Packers? There was some thought that Green Bay should have let Chicago score late in the 4th quarter, and that would have given the Packers a chance to win. Why don’t more teams do that?
A: That’s the only chance they had to win. I was watching the game thinking the same thing – the only chance they have to win is let them score and get the ball back and drive the ball and get to overtime. But it’s not in anybody’s mentality to do that. And that’s why it’s so difficult. The coaches and the players – they’re never into letting anybody do anything. They’re all about stopping people in every situation. The ‘let them score’ mentality … nobody has that mentality. It’s easy to say ‘let em score’ but nobody, mentality-wise, has that.
Q: I don’t have stats of NFL arrests from when you were playing, but it seems like there are multiple run-ins with the law monthly these days. I’m sure you’re aware of the Braylon Edwards incident (and more recently Dwayne Jarrett’s DUI) … do you think the recent rise in number of NFL arrests is a problem?
A: Who knows what [the numbers were like] before there was all this attention being put on the sport? You would hope that the guys understand they’re under a microscope and that they’re going to be held to a higher standard than everyone else because of the position that they’re in. It doesn’t seem like the guys understand that. Hopefully, they can learn from their mistakes. There are a heck of a lot more guys in the NFL compared to other leagues, so there is a lot more opportunity for arrest.
Q: Denver has seen its two best football players – Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall – get traded in the last year and a half, and now Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets star, wants out. Why do the premiere athletes want out of Denver?
A: I don’t know Melo that well… I’ve met him a couple times and talked to him. Maybe he wants to be in a situation where he’s closer to the East Coast, or be in a situation like last summer with LeBron going to the Heat with the players collaborating on teams to win championships. I think everyone’s disappointed he doesn’t want to be here.
With Cutler and Marshall … that was more a choice of the organization and the type of people Josh wants to bring in.