INDIANAPOLIS -- Before he stepped to the podium Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine, John Elway was struck by a conversation he had in the hallway.
The executive vice president of football operations was told he should just forget last season. He didn't buy it.
"I don’t want to forget last year," Elway said. "I don’t want our team to forget it. I want them to realize it was a great year, but also don’t forget that feeling of what happened in the playoff game."
Elway knows from personal experience how hard it can be to bounce back from a devastating loss. But he has also seen the benefits than come from using the loss as a "battle cry."
In 1996, the top-seeded Broncos fell to the underdog Jacksonville Jaguars by three points at home in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. The club finished both of the next two seasons as Super Bowl champions.
"I hope so," Elway said when asked whether the team can repeat that type of success. "I’m hoping that we can learn like we did back then from this experience. I’m hopeful. We’ve got a good football team, so we think that we’ll continue to build on that and see what happens."
To that point, Elway said he feels "much better" about where the Broncos are as a football team entering 2013 than he did when he first took over his current position.
Still, like the coaches and players and everyone inside the team's Dove Valley headquarters, he's not content with a solid regular season.
"13-3 is not good enough," Elway said. "It was nice, we won the division and had home-field (advantage), but when you lose in the first round of the playoffs, you know you have to get better."
He believes that process has already begun thanks to the postseason loss.
Now that Denver has been through that devastation as a team, Elway said the club has a better idea of what it takes to win in the playoffs.
"You have to go through it," he said. "That's why the experience that we went through this year is so important."
He said the postseason is all about toughness. It's about dealing with rising expectations every week and the fact that there is no next week.
"You have to be able to learn to play with a little bit of sudden death," he said, noting that he was impressed with how the Baltimore Ravens were able to accomplish that all the way to a world championship.
On Thursday, Head Coach John Fox addressed his disappointment about the loss, but maintained that the team needs to "spit that taste out and get on to this season."
He said the defeat, while motivating, can't distract from preparation for the 2013 campaign.
That's what Fox, Elway and their staffs are doing at the NFL Scouting Combine -- preparing for next season. And the club's head of football operations knows that the success of that campaign will be measured by what the Broncos can do once the regular season is in the rearview mirror.
"You can be good in the regular season," Elway said. "You make your legacy in the postseason."