ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- John Elway leaned back in his chair, stretched out his bothersome knee and went straight to the bottom line about quarterbacks.
It was several years ago now, while Elway was still general manager for the Denver Broncos. He went into what it takes to be a quarterback who wins trophies and why finding a great quarterback is so hard.
"You have to be willing to put it all on the line," Elway said. "To compete every day, to push every day, to do it yourself every day because you can't ask other people to do it if you're not. And to never waver from that and to understand some people aren't going to like it. That's what I mean when somebody raises all boats. It's not easy and sometimes the boats are heavy."
With Elway seated in the back of a crowded auditorium at the Broncos' complex Wednesday for quarterback Russell Wilson's introductory news conference, Wilson said the types of things that were likely music to Elway's ears. He said things that haven't been heard, or seen, with the Broncos since Peyton Manning was doing the heavy lifting.
"How fast can you process what you see, what you know and what you studied," Wilson said when asked about day-to-day expectations. "I think that ability to process everything is really critical. So, guys got to be really on their stuff every day in practice; it starts with the meetings. It starts with offseason; it starts with the weight room. Will you show up on time and be ready to do this, ready to do that? There's little things like that, and that's a really critical part to it. I think that wild obsession with doing the little things right, it allows you to have the big things and the big moments as well."
Wilson's approach is what's been missing for the Broncos during six consecutive playoff misses. Yes, his nine Pro Bowl selections are nice, the Super Bowl win is great and those eight seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes are, well, rare air. But his leadership may be needed above everything else.
Wilson has already planned throwing sessions with the Broncos receivers -- most likely in California as well as Denver. He's made unshakeable proclamations about reaching the playoffs and the Super Bowl. He's underlined the importance of practice.
There are mountains of stories from former teammates and coaches about Manning and Elway, who demanded plays be run again in practice because a route wasn't right or someone was out of place or they simply just didn't like how it went.
Those moments have been harder to find since Manning retired as a carousel of quarterbacks have battled for the starting job. Uncertain standing on the roster doesn't often yield the kind of confidence needed to rerun plays on the practice field.
"Ultimately, it's about the tempo of practice," Wilson said. "I really believe when fans, when people come to see us practice, they need to see a show. It's a show. So that way when you go to the game, it's ... what you already know. So I think that ability to go from practice at the highest level, competing at the highest level with our defense, our offense, our special teams."
Music to current general manager George Paton's ears as well. Paton said Wilson became the Broncos' "No. 1 target" of the offseason, even before the Super Bowl, when he believed Wilson would actually be available in the trade market.
"We were going to do everything it took to get Russ," Paton said. "It's just unique you can trade [for] a quarterback, a franchise quarterback, in his prime, and we just felt we had to take that chance. ... He has elite arm strength, elite accuracy, we feel he has the best deep ball in the NFL and you watch him off schedule, with his eyes, his instincts, his playmaking ability and the 'it' factor that all the great quarterbacks have. He's the best in the biggest moments, he's best at the end of the game to win the game and the durability he's had throughout his career is unparalleled.
"But the thing that sets Russell apart is he's a winner. ... And we're bringing him to a team that is talented, that is hungry, that just needs to learn how to win. And we feel like he's going to get us where we need to go."
The "it" factor can be difficult to explain. It can be accompanied with a variety of statistical bullet points. But one of the first times former Broncos linebacker Von Miller spoke to Manning after Manning's arrival in 2012, Miller said he knew what "it" looked like before the second sentence was out of Manning's mouth.
"There was just that feeling," Miller said then. "That feeling of I'm going to do everything every day to beat someone's ass on that field. ... That he was going to study and practice and do everything and we all better do that too. You just felt that, everybody felt that. That's what it is."