John Elway may be the only one in the Broncos locker room that knows firsthand the sensation of a loss like the one Denver experienced Saturday.
And more importantly, he may be able to discern what lies ahead.
“They’ll never forget what happened on Saturday,” said the Broncos current Vice President of Football Operations, relating it to a fateful night more than a decade ago. “They’ll never forget that and I think we’ll use that as we did in ‘96. It was a great incentive for us to come back and have even a better year the following year as we did.”
Denver entered the 1996-97 NFL playoffs hot and on a vengeance, much the way the Peyton Manning led version did this season. They were the No. 1 seed, with the best record in football and they had one of the best quarterbacks of all time ready to break through. (Elway hadn’t won a Super Bowl at this point in his career. Manning currently has one.)
They were supposedly the team to beat; they got just that.
Following their opening round bye, Denver was a 12.5-point favorite at home, in old rowdy Mile High Stadium, against a mediocre Jacksonville Jaguars squad. Unthinkably, unbelievably and totally definite; they lost 30-27.
“I think looking at it and how we deal with it, it’s the same and the bottom line is, it will be something that these players will remember for a long time,” Elway continued.
The very next year, the Broncos, motivated and this time truly immovable, won the first Super Bowl in franchise history. They beat the Green Bay Packers, this time, they themselves were underdogs. The sequel followed, back-to-back World Championships in the Mile High City.
One loss didn’t induce the victories, the wins perhaps make it sting even more, but it’s hard to find that particular defeat as a simple coincidence.
Elway indirectly appreciated the repercussions of such a disappointment, “It’s how we approach it [the loss to the Ravens], how we use it, how we learn from it and it gives us an opportunity to be that much better next year.”
The resemblance is truly striking, the factors and the results all eerily analogous. The hope is that history is prone to repetition, not so much so that it’s ‘farce’ as Karl Marx proclaimed, but the preference is for the imminent future to be way Elway knows it.