DENVER — John Elway no longer is the Duke. John is a Don.
It is, we've learned with these Broncos, his guy or the highway. This is their way, and it has evolved into a winning way. Their roster appears Super Bowl-worthy, again.
Don John doesn't mess around. Not then, not now.
"In the huddle he was never a rah-rah guy. His thing was, 'Hey, we need 98 yards. Let's go get it,'" Broncos great Terrell Davis said in a conversation before the Super Bowl. "It wasn't like this intimidating, too-serious look on his face. He looked just like you would expect somebody who has absolute confidence he was going to make this happen: 'Don't worry about this. We're going to win.'
"It's a sense of calmness. At the same time there's a sense of urgency and execution."
This is like that. There is a sense of urgency, considering the Peyton Window, and execution, considering his shark-attack approach to free agency.
Don John is managing the Broncos the way he quarterbacked them. He's signed, drafted, cut, moved, traded and released players — popular, productive players, at that — with, as TD put it, absolute confidence.
Dons rule their domain with a heavy hand, whether it's Corleone in Sicily, King in the ring, or Johnson in Miami.
This will be Elway's 20th year with the same franchise — 16 as quarterback, three-plus as executive. Longevity builds capital, and Don John, after the Super Bowl loss to Seattle, threw his around.
Don't like our contract offer, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie? There's the door. Leave it open for Aqib Talib. Champ, you da man. But that's a big salary, man.
Thank you, Shaun Phillips, for an excellent season. But hey, over there, DeMarcus Ware. The name's John. Don John.
In a roundtable with local media before the AFC Championship Game, Elway explained his blueprint for shaping a roster:
"The way that we put the team together is we said, 'If we can find somebody better than that, we've got to find them. If they're out there, then we'll sign them,'" he said.
We didn't pay as much attention to the comment then. So Don John forced our attention with another scorched-earth haul in free agency.
In order to do that — sign the better player — another player must hit the highway. These are the rules. Time's up, Eric Decker. So long, Zane Beadles and Knowshon Moreno. These were not his guys, plucked from his drafts, chosen by his staff.
Now they are elsewhere.
When Von Miller's rookie contract expires after next season, remember this truth nugget: Vonnie Football was Elway's first draft pick as VP of football operations. Their recent M.O. suggests speeding tickets, or court dates, won't scare away these Broncos from a mega-deal for the mega-linebacker.
I expected the Broncos would undervalue Decker and let him walk after four reliable seasons in Colorado. I thought that would be a mistake. I was wrong, because Don John signed another receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, who is gifted enough, at a lower price, to replace Decker's production, if not his jersey sales.
I expected the Broncos also would let Moreno go after five seasons in Colorado. I expected that because, in consecutive drafts, Don John used high picks on tailbacks.
Right or wrong, Don John has absolute confidence in his decisions, and his picks.
"There is no question we have high expectations of Montee," Elway said after Ball's rookie season.
To us, the hole at middle linebacker hasn't been addressed. To these Broncos, it was, in the same draft that brought Miller. Middle linebacker Nate Irving has dibs. Again.
It's good to be drafted into the NFL. It's better to be drafted by these Broncos.
Whether it's free agency or the draft or other personnel moves, are these the wrong ways? Or the right ways?
Let the others Duke it out. These are the ways of a quarterback/general manager with absolute confidence. Ninety-eight yards and let's go get it.