DENVER — The NFL operates in windows. Or we view it through windows, one of the two. The ballyhooed Peyton Manning window closed in Indianapolis, then it was thrown wide open in Denver, then it slid downward on greased rails before he propped it open one final time for Super Bowl 50.
What window remains of the bombastic “No Fly Zone” shrinks by the day, if Aqib Talib’s social media activity is any indication: “Who coming to get me???” His tweet was in response to a report the Broncos are looking to trade the 32-year-old cornerback. It was Talib who told me, “There wasn’t a ‘No Fly Zone’ till I got here!” If he goes, the nickname goes too, and another window in time, and football, closes.
Now the Broncos peer through a new pair of windows: John Elway's and Von Miller’s. Their decorated runs as star player and star executive could start and end simultaneously. Miller, the Super Bowl 50 MVP who was Elway's first and finest draft choice, signed on for a contract extension that runs through the 2021 season. (The all-world pass rusher soon turns 29 — March 26, if you haven’t RSVP’ed yet.) Elway, the Super Bowl 33 MVP, also has a contract through 2021.
“Life is too short to rebuild in the NFL,” Elway said last week at the scouting combine.
Time’s ticking — this time on the star boss and star employee, and both know it. Despite Denver’s downward turn in ‘17, Miller earned yet another selection to the Pro Bowl. He’s the eighth Bronco with six. At the time, Vonnie Football reflected: “It’s just another indication of how long I’ve been here with the Broncos. It’s scary and cool at the same time.”
What’s the rush on reigniting the Broncos? It’s the ringmaker and the rusher.
Elway would be 61 if — and that’s a big if — he directs the Broncos through the final year of his contract. Miller would be 32 if — another big if — he stays and plays here through his. (Big-money guys don't always play in the same place through the length of their contracts. See: Talib, above.) John and Von are tied at the hip in orange and blue. On New Year’s Eve, during a pro-am golf event in Scottsdale, Ariz., Elway wore Miller’s No. 58 jersey to the 18th green. “That’s love!” Miller tweeted.
John leads Von in Super Bowl rings, 3-1. Is that why Miller cut Elway out of a photo during contract negotiations in 2016? Elway earned $45.4 million in 16 seasons as a player, per Spotrac.com. Miller's on pace for $144 million in 11 seasons. They are BFF — Broncos family forever.
“He’s telling the truth,” Miller said when Elway called the Broncos “soft.”
“The product that we were putting out there, it was soft. If I had to go up to John’s office right now I would say the same thing,” Miller said. “We see eye to eye on everything that’s happening. I’m right there with him. I’m going to follow his lead until the ship burns down. I’m with him, together.”
Around 7 p.m. April 27, Elway returns to the top five of the NFL draft for a third time. He was selected No. 1 overall in 1983 and selected Miller No. 2 overall in 2011. Both panned out. Now the Broncos have the fifth overall pick and, Friday night in Indianapolis, were scheduled to interview seven quarterbacks at the scouting combine: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Luke Falk — listed in my order of preference. One of the seven will be drafted by 7. Book it.
Until the past two seasons, Miller was 5 for 5 on playoff berths*. (*He played in nine games in 2013 before a knee injury forced him to miss 10, including Super Bowl XLVIII.) It seemed Miller was one of the few players visibly disgusted as the lost season of 2017 wore on and wore them down.
Vonnie Football says it’s “scary and cool” he’s already through Year 7 in the NFL. Cool, since Von remains at the top of the game. Scary, since he knows a football life is short. Perhaps it’s worth noting his pass-rushing and life mentor, DeMarcus Ware, only had double-digit sack totals twice after Year 7?
Von hits hard. The wall hits harder.
Why does Elway shy from the "R" word, rebuild, and believe “life is too short?” Part of the reason must be Von’s timeline. Players like him don't come around often (as Elway, still in search of his quarterbacking doppelgänger, would know). In six of seven seasons Miller has erupted for double-digit sacks — even last season, when bookend pass-rusher Shane Ray again played the role of a ghost. The former first-rounder shows just 15 starts and 13 sacks over three seasons. Shane must show up before Von’s time is up.
Von is the kindest superstar I’ve ever worked around. He is as likely to hold a lengthy conversation with a total stranger as he is an old friend, maybe the best thing you can say about a man. My favorite charity event of the year is “Von’s Vision” at Mile High. When Miller arrives to meet “my heroes,” as he called the kids, their eyes light up through the eyeglasses he provides.
Through the next window can you see another ring? That's on John and Von.