Elway, who is largely responsible for getting Peyton Manning to Denver and building one of the NFL's most explosive offenses, will spend the coming weeks and months answering some variation of "So, how long until you and the organization get over this demoralizing defeat?"
Unfortunately, it's a question Elway has experience with; three times during his playing career he found himself on the wrong end of a Super Bowl blowout.
“I'm not over them yet,” Elway said of the previous defeats. “I just add this one to it.”
But this isn't about Elway and the Broncos feeling sorry for themselves. It's about the finality of a season that held such promise, the reality that it's all over and Denver came up short. In fact, Elway was defiant at points during the news conference, interrupting a question intended for Fox about how the team will make its way through such a long offseason.
"I want to say one thing," Elway began. "I kind of get the sense that these questions are, 'How the hell are we going to overcome this?' Right? The bottom line is, sure, it's not even 48 hours away. It's not even 48 hours away from the game. But I want to tell you this is that, right now, the focus is on what happened instead of how we got there, what we did this year (and) what we went through.
"The farther you get away from this, the less you concentrate on just that one game, and the more you look at the full season, and really what we did as a football team and really as an organization. And I'm very proud of that. ...
"So the goal has not changed and will not change. We will use this as experience we went through (and) be disappointed that we didn't play better. But the bottom line is, this organization -- what Pat Bowlen wants from this organization -- that has not changed. It will not change.
“The bottom line is we're going to work as hard as we worked this year, if not harder, and continue to do that with the mindset that we want to be world champions and we're going to do everything we can to get there.”
Manning will return but he could have new faces around him. That's the reality of fashioning a championship team in the salary-cap era. Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno and Zane Beadlesare all headed for free agency, and 35-year-old Champ Bailey will have to take a substantial pay cut to remain in Denver. For now, Elway and Fox are stressing the silver linings.
“It was a great year,” Elway said. “We came up short, but it wasn't due to lack of effort or lack of want-to. We didn't play very well two days ago. I know that's what everybody is disappointed about. We're disappointed about it, players are disappointed. But, it was a hell of a year. We went through a lot of different things, but I'm proud of the team.”
Fox added: “I know there is disappointment. It will take a while to go away for all of us, but at the end of the day, it was a successful season: 15-4 is not real shabby.”