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'Thank God he came to Denver': As Manning enters HOF, John Elway reflects on Peyton's historic contributions to Broncos

CANTON, Ohio — As Peyton Manning nears his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, many Broncos fans are surely glad that the legendary quarterback chose to finish his career in Denver.

President of Football Operations John Elway certainly is, too.

"Thank God he came to Denver," Elway told's Phil Milani on Saturday. "Thank God we were able to get him there, because those four years were four tremendous years. For him to be able to close out his career with a Super Bowl, a win in Super Bowl 50. [He's] a guy that's going to go down as arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. He had a different style than some, but was very, very effective and got things done. Just tremendous numbers his whole career and a great teammate and when you look at the numbers he put up, it's incredible."

During Manning's four seasons in Denver, he earned 2012 Comeback Player of the Year honors, the 2013 NFL MVP award, three Pro Bowl nods and two first-team All-Pro selections. In 2013, Manning set single-season records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477) that still stand. He also set career marks for the same two categories that stood until Tom Brady and Drew Brees surpassed them years later.

By the time Manning arrived in Denver, he had already become known for his tremendous intellect, on-field adjustments and nearly unmatched accuracy. It's no stretch to say Manning's contribution to the mental side of quarterbacking changed the expectations for the position.

"He really did," Elway said. "I think Peyton was kind of the one that got that going. You see a lot of teams now that do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage, and Peyton's the one that started that because of the style that he played. And like you said, very, very cerebral with it. Knew where he was going to go with the ball most of the times before he got it because he figured out the defense."

And while Manning was nearing the end of his career as he arrived in the Mile High City, he still showed the top-notch physical ability that — when paired with his mental acuity — led him to being elected as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

"When he came to Denver, we were worried about his shoulder and his neck and whether he was going to be able to throw the football, but the four years that he was there and watching him in practice, he was the most accurate quarterback I've ever seen throw the football," Elway said. "That, to me, is another reason why he's in the Hall of Fame and why he's such a great player."

While with the Broncos, Manning and Co. turned in several remarkable seasons as Denver won 50 games with Manning as the starter, earned four division titles, advanced to a pair of Super Bowls and won Super Bowl 50.

"The Peyton Era was one of the best four years in the team's history," President & CEO Joe Ellis said Saturday.

And while Manning chose the Broncos in free agency in 2012 for a variety of reasons, it's well-documented that Elway's experience winning late in his career helped draw Manning to Denver.

"I think that we just wanted to show him what Denver was about," Elway said. "He knew a little bit having played in Denver, but we wanted to show him what our team was about, what the organization was about. [Late Owner] Mr. [Pat] Bowlen, the way he set the standards and our standards of winning in Denver — I think he got that feel when he came in and visited us. Thank God we were able to coax him there. Go to two Super Bowls and got one of them."

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