Elway factor underpins the Broncos' success

Thu Feb 4, 2016 8:20pm EST
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As the Denver Broncos size up the prospect of winning a third Super Bowl when they take on the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, they can reflect on the significant influence of John Elway dating back to 1983.

Though the Broncos were charter members of the fledgling American Football League when they were founded in 1960, it wasn't until the late 1970s that they established themselves as one of the sport's elite teams.

Led by aging quarterback Craig Morton, Denver enjoyed a franchise-best record of 12–2 in the 1977 regular season before reaching their first Super Bowl, losing 27-10 to Dallas.

Since then, they have very rarely not produced winning seasons but it was the arrival of Elway, who was selected as the first overall pick by the Baltimore Colts in the 1983 NFL Draft before being traded, that made the biggest impact.

With quarterback Elway at the helm from 1983 to 1998, the Broncos developed a ruthless edge and piled up five American Football Conference titles, along with long-awaited Super Bowl triumphs in 1997 and 1998.

With running back Terrell Davis taking some of the pressure off Elway as the key figure in a potent running attack, Denver claimed their first NFL championship with a 31-24 victory over the defending champion Green Bay Packers.

The Broncos repeated the following season, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34–19 as Elway was named the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player after completing 18 of 29 passes for 336 yards.

Elway retired after winning his second Super Bowl and got involved in various business activities until being named the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations in January 2011.

Bolstered by Elway's return to the Mile High City, the franchise has continued to make big strides.   Continued...

Feb 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) addresses the media at press conference prior to Super Bowl 50 at Santa Clara Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports