- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
If this were England, John Elway would have been knighted by now. In South America they'd have named a military junta after him. In Moscow he'd have his own apartment. But since this is America and the NFL, the best we can offer is $1 million a year and a personal press corps that dutifully records his every move. Denver is a town that went crazy over a defensive unit—the Orange Crush—in '77. Imagine what the folks there will do when this kid completes his first touchdown pass, which should be either three or six minutes into the season, depending on who wins the coin toss. Yes, he's got it all—a football coach for a daddy, who taught him the right stuff from Day 1; an ex-NFL coach, Paul Wiggin, who gave him a pro-style offense at Stanford; a cannon for an arm; quick feet; great football savvy—everything.
What was most amazing about Elway at Stanford was his ability to throw 50-yard passes on the money when he was off-balance or running for his life. What's that you say? That talent will come in handy as he works behind the Broncos' offensive line. Now, now, let's not be vicious. You'd be surprised how much linemen perk up when they realize the guy behind them is mobile and nimble, when he can escape the first rusher all by himself. Don't forget, these are guys who got gray hair trying to pass-block for a statue, Craig Morton.
The receiving corps has perked up already. Steve Watson, they say, is back to his Pro Bowl form of 1981. Rick Upchurch had the best camp of his career. Gerald Willhite, coming out of the backfield, is the kind of skittery little target Elway had at Stanford in Darrin Nelson and Vincent White. But the running game, 17th in the NFL last year, lacks the big crunch up the middle, and it won't get much better unless Elway's bullets open things for the ballcarriers.
The defense, once the NFL's finest, sagged to 24th last year, and even Elway's fireworks may not be enough to compensate for its deficiencies. A big upper could be the return of Outside Linebacker Bob Swenson, a contract holdout much of '82, to the form that made him one of pro football's best two years ago.
The Seattle press, cowed and browbeaten by Seahawk Coach Jack Patera for seven years, welcomed former Buffalo Coach Chuck Knox with sighs of relief. He didn't let them down in his first press conference. He promised that things would improve. He looked the writers straight in the eye and swore that better days were ahead. He ended his talk with a rousing "Let's go out and kick their butts," and that night eight writers got booked for assault. No, no, no, it's a joke. They aren't that desperate in Seattle yet, but if ever a man had a town pulling for him, it's Knox.
He traded upward in the draft to get Penn State's Curt Warner, who could be the first 1,000-yard runner in the club's seven-year history. Then he brought in the blockers, not rookies but the old veteran types he is so comfortable with—Fullback Cullen Bryant and Tight End Charle Young from his old L.A. Ram teams, Guard Reggie McKenzie from Buffalo and Cincinnati Center Blair Bush.
Everyone ran on Seattle's defense last year, but Tom Catlin, one of the six assistants Knox brought from Buffalo, faced a similar problem with the Bills and conquered it. A major change: Catlin switched one of pro football's last remaining 4-3 defenses to a 3-4. Now all he needs is the people to play it.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS