DENVER • YouTube it.
“How to fix Broncos offense ...”
Oops, I mean “John Elway.” YouTube Elway in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Pretty nice li’l evening, actually, a decent time suck while the Avs (5-0) and Nuggets (3-0 preseason) cruise along not on TV. Does 82-0 still count if nobody can see it?
Anyway, YouTube all those times the play wasn’t over till No. 7 decided it was over, all the 30-yard ropes that crushed the other guys’ souls. Watch the one — listen to the one — with Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen on the NBC call against the Cleveland Browns, perhaps during the 1986 AFC Championship Game that bore The Drive.
And insert “Mahomes” in place of “Elway” to bring the magic full circle. As the free-wheeling quarterback eludes three tacklers on a mad scramble out of the pocket, Enberg shouts: “Elway (Mahomes) is in trouble ... throws it completely across the field to Vance Johnson!”
Olsen: “That’s the kind of pass that will cause most coaches to grab their hearts — all the way back across the field! But Elway (Mahomes) does that repeatedly across the game!”
It works. What’s old is new again, from apocalyptic politics to ripped blue jeans to quarterbacks in the AFC West. Now it’s the Chiefs who bring the Houdini quarterback with a laser-rocket arm and “athletic arrogance,” as Vic Fangio called it, brilliantly.
Sorry, Broncos friends. I can’t get enough of the guy. Debate where Mahomes’ career goes from here, if he flames out, if the Chiefs will Chief it. But YouTube it. Best arm of an era, the fearlessness, off-script improv. Forget the stats, supporting casts, just watch ‘em play. They’re crazy similar.
“Oooh,” Broncos great and longtime Elway teammate Steve Atwater said the other day in Denver’s locker room. “Now that’s interesting.”
“With John,” Atwater said, “you thought a play was over, but Vance or Mark (Jackson) is going deep and getting behind the defense. That’s what Kansas City’s doing.”
Like most good ideas, this comparison came from someone else: Peyton Manning. On a podcast with NBC Sports’ reporter Peter King, Manning, whose own was sandwiched between the two eras, said the Mahomes experience struck him as a remake of the Elway show.
“Whether it’s kind of the no-look throws, sort of the ability to sprint left and throw back to the right, he’s got a little Elway in him,” Manning told King. “Elway was kind of famous for that. I mean, the Broncos actually started designing plays to sprint left and throw back right.”
OK, OK. Mahomes must get to work before he’s in the Elway conversation. Can he carry a franchise to five Super Bowls when it hasn’t been to one in 50 years? Forgive the skeptical Broncos fans if they have their doubts. But after two decades of Elway and Manning, Colorado also knows an all-time talent when it sees one.
After three decades bouncing around the NFL, so does Fangio: “I think he’s like John Elway was in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He’s that guy. Like Aaron Rodgers has been for the last 12, 14 years — however many years he’s been starting. He’s kind of that guy.”
These Chiefs are going to Super Bowl LIV only with a ticket. Their defense portends a typical January — 28th in yards allowed per game, 22nd in yards per play, 30th in rushing defense are personnel issues, not coordination issues.
Still, Mahomes. The best show in sports is why K.C. arrives at Empower Field at Mile High as a 3-point favorite, despite the Broncos’ winning streak and the Chiefs’ losing streak.
“He reminds me — just the way he moves, the way he throws, the way he looks in the pocket — he looks like John Elway to me,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters. He was a Cherry Creek kid when Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls in the late ‘90s. “I’m not saying he’s John Elway, but if I would compare him to someone — just the arm talent, the mobility, his lower half and how he sits with his shoulders, it’s who he reminds me of when I watch him move.”
Whether Mahomes eventually measures up to Elway is on the Chiefs more than him. In all five of Elway’s Super Bowl seasons the Broncos paired the quarterback with a defense that ranked among the top dozen in the NFL in total yards allowed. Throw for show, tackle for dough.
But that’s none of Denver’s business. This QB looks like That QB, and what a twist that is.
“With a guy like this, you have to defend two plays: the one they’ve called and the one he might create,” Fangio said.
Which one’s he talking about? YouTube it.