ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --For 16 seasons, John Elway handled the pressure of life on the field in the NFL. His 47 career comebacks in the fourth quarter or overtime attest to that.
But on Sunday as the Broncos were taking on the San Diego Chargers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations found that things can be even more stressful watching from a box above the field.
"It's very different. And it takes some getting used to," Elway said Thursday. "I enjoy watching the regular-season games, but I was absolutely miserable last week watching this game. I mean, it took me four hours to get the pit out of my stomach after the game was over."
The pit, Elway laughed, began growing in the middle of the third quarter, and was at its biggest with the Broncos leading by seven, facing a third-and-17.
But Peyton Manning found Julius Thomas on the sideline for a 21-yard gain to convert that third down, and two more third-down conversions later, the Broncos were in the victory formation to seal a playoff win.
"I thought it was a great call and it was a great throw," Elway said. "Those are the type of plays you have to make in playoff football – and we were able to make.
"We had a couple other third downs that we were able to pick up, too. I'm one that the difference between my wins and my losses in Super Bowls are the ones that are charging and not retreating – and when we're going ahead and we're making it, we're trying to win it on offense rather than retreating on the other side. So I was glad late in the game – even after the third-and-17, we were able to throw the ball and get some more first downs. A championship is not given to you, you have to go win it. And that's on both sides of the ball."
Elway has plenty of playoff experience and two Super Bowl titles under his belt. And while watching the postseason in his new role with the team is different -- and "not nearly as much fun" as actually playing in the postseason -- he relishes the opportunity nonetheless.
"I also am proud of being a part of it and being able to help put the team together, put the coaches together – put the personnel side and everything that comes together," Elway said. "I'm proud of everybody that has been a part of putting this whole thing together. So there is a lot of pride in that. It's a different feeling than – there's more of a quiet pride than there is being the quarterback, where everyone is patting you on the back."
Being on the inside of the building has given Elway all the more reason to root on the team, because he knows what has gone into getting to the AFC Championship Game -- and what the feeling is like to win it.
"You're sitting there hoping and cheering just like any other fan, any other fan of the Broncos – I just know how hard those guys worked, too," he said. "So I want to see good things happen to them because I talked to them in training camp. I said, 'If you're world champions, I'm saying that every little bit of work that you put into that is worth it.' And I know how hard this team has worked, how hard these coaches have worked, and I hope that it pans out for them. Just so that they can get that feeling.
"Because it is something that – it's not comparable to anything else that there is because of the work and the pride that you take when you're able to be the best football team in the world."