Glenn Cadrez was a linebacker that played in Denver from 1995 to 2000, helping anchor a Broncos defense that won consecutive Super Bowl titles.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Broncos' Super Bowl XXXII victory, we'll be interviewing prominent players from that team and asking them about their memories of that team and their championship season.
Here's what Cadrez had to say about that memorable season.
WAS THERE A DIFFERENT MINDSET GOING INTO THAT SEASON?
Absolutely. I think every championship team has certain ingredients to it. Obviously, we had a great quarterback — which is what you need — we had a great running game, good receivers who could push the ball downfield, sure-handed receivers and a great tight end. We had a very nice defense that came at you in different angles (and with) a lot of stunts, but I think the one key ingredient that we had that kind of burned in our souls throughout the offseason before that year was that loss to Jacksonville. That was the key ingredient to our success that kept us wanting to stay in the weight room a little longer, wanting to stay in the film room a little longer, wanting to get every little detail right, so that when we walked on the field we were so prepared that there was no denying us.
YOU HAD SOME TOUGH LOSSES THAT YEAR DURING THE SEASON, PARTICULARLY AGAINST KANSAS CITY. DID THAT FUEL THE FIRE, SINCE IT DROPPED YOU OFF THE NATIONAL RADAR A BIT?
It definitely played to our favor, moreso the games that I recall – the Pittsburgh game that we really got beat pretty bad and then a Monday night game in San Francisco – those two games left a really bad taste in our mouth where we started to question ourselves. The loss to Kansas City earlier (in November 1997) where it was by a field goal, that's football. You can't control which way the ball bounces. There were one or two plays that could have determined that game, so it's kind of easier to bounce back on those. But those losses that were really devastating losses that were by big margins really shows you who you are as a team, because you take that long trip back home. We used to have a saying, "We're all we got," because the media is now off to doing their thing with other teams and the fans, but us in this plane and in this locker room, we're all we got. Luckily we were such a tight-knit group that everyone felt the same throughout the year with the ups and downs. We took it as what it was, as a chance to get better. Whether it was a win or a loss, it was a chance to go back, look at film and get better as a team.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GETTING ANOTHER SHOT AT JACKSONVILLE IN THE FIRST ROUND?
It couldn't have been scripted any better. We were just shaking our heads. Who needs motivation to play Jacksonville at home again in a playoff situation? So it really fell into our lap the opportunity to kind of make history and go 3-0 in the tournament and go on to the Super Bowl. It was perfect. We got to go avenge our loss in Kansas City, we got to go avenge our loss in Pittsburgh, and obviously Jacksonville in the first game. It was scripted perfectly.
THE TEAM HAD A GREAT OFFENSE, BUT HOW MUCH DID THE DEFENSE BRING TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP EQUATION?
Obviously you don't really think of defense when you think of the Denver Broncos in the '90s and that's because we had such great Hall of Fame players on the other side. But when you break down our film and really look at our defense, I think we had kind of a bend-but don't- break mentality. We stunted in a lot of different directions, we came at you in a lot of different directions. We had a lot of good players, sure tacklers, we had guys that just knew the defense and they weren't going to get burned or get in trouble on missed assignments. They were students of the game. We were an older defense. Our mentality was, "If you get a first down, that's good news and bad news. That's good news for you that you got the first down, but the bad news is, now you've got to go 10 more yards off us, and we're not going to let the same mistakes happen that you had on the first series." I think we led the league in three-and-outs, which are stats that an offensive coordinator will look at and say, "This defense is a tough defense." We were a tight group, we played well together, we communicated well together, we played for each other, which was a very big attribute, and I'm not going to sit here and say we deserved to be one of the top defenses in the league or in Super Bowl history, but when it came time to play, I think we were very well-prepared and ready to take on whoever.
WHAT MOMENTS STAND OUT TO YOU FROM THAT SEASON THAT SYMBOLIZE WHAT THE TEAM WAS ALL ABOUT?
I think the playoff road to the Super Bowl really exemplified who we were. You may get us once, but you're not going to get us the second time. That's pretty much what that statement was throughout the playoffs. All three teams had embarrassed us, and we paid them back. It was payback time, and you're not going to knock us down twice. We were a very resilient team. We believed in each other, and it's really tough in this league to beat 52 guys. Good teams can go out there and lose and a lot of teams play with 20 or 30 guys, but I used to get excited watching our kickoff team play. (Head Coach) Mike (Shanahan) did a great job. Before the game he would show all highlights of special teams, offense and defense, and we fed off that. We fed off each other's success. We wanted a free agent to come in and woo us on the film on the kickoff or something. Everything was contagious in that organization and I think it showed on the field. We got this momentum that we knew that the only ones that are going to beat us is us.
IN THE SUPER BOWL, YOU WERE THE BIGGEST UNDERDOG IN YEARS. DID THAT SURPRISE YOU THAT EVERYONE FIGURED THE PACKERS WOULD WIN EASILY?
Whoever wrote this script, thank you, this is awesome, because 10 years later we're going to be talking about how great it was, like we're doing now. We were two-touchdown underdogs, and we sat there like we had a royal flush in our hand. We knew it, and all we were doing was just laying down the cards, just being quiet and saying all the right things. But we knew what he had under the engine and we knew it was about to explode.
WHAT WAS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THAT FINAL FOURTH-DOWN PLAY THAT CLINCHED THE TITLE FOR YOU?
Some little inner kid jumped out of me and I was just going crazy (saying), "We did it!" I think that's what everyone who wins the Super Bowl for the first time or the fourth time, they say, "We did it." Ours was special because we did come through a little adversity with the year before and we did shock the world a little bit. In sports that's always a big plus, always nice to do. I can't describe it. Sometimes I'll watch the Super Bowl tapes or they'll show it on the NFL Network and it just gives me goose bumps. The second one, we had more of a chance to stop and smell the roses, but the first one we were just so focused and so ready to accomplish all our dreams.
THAT NIGHT AS YOU WERE CELEBRATING, WERE YOU AWARE OF WHAT IT WAS GOING TO MEAN TO EVERYONE BACK IN DENVER?
We thought it would be a big deal for Denver, but we didn't imagine getting off the bus and seeing hundreds of thousands of people and the parades, and three generations of people there cheering and wearing their Broncos stuff. It was awesome. It was once in a lifetime, just a great feeling. It was like one big family. Those were some proud days to be a Bronco.
DO YOU LOOK AT ALL THE GREAT PLAYERS OUT THERE THAT DIDN'T GET TO WIN TWO RINGS LIKE YOU DID?
Absolutely. There's not a day that goes by that I don't count my blessings looking at a lot of the older guys when I go to golf tournaments and stuff that were great players that gave it up on the field week in and week out that weren't able to get to that pinnacle. That's the nature of the business. A lot of good players aren't going to get that chance, and I definitely realize that, and realize that I'm in a fraternity of only a few that have played this game. I take that, and it humbles me and I'm very appreciative of the opportunities that we had.
Each Tuesday and Friday between now and Super Bowl XLII, we'll spotlight a different member of the 1997 team. This coming Tuesday, John Mobley will share his memories.