MIAMI -- Befitting his credentials as a future Hall of Famer, John Elway's name is scattered prominently throughout the NFL record book. Why, then, can't he summon a great Super Bowl performance?
It's not from lack of trying. In fact, it may be from trying too hard.
In his four previous Super Bowl appearances for the Denver Broncos, Elway, the master of electrifying late-game comebacks and daring escapes from the pocket, has been merely pedestrian.
His passer rating in those four Super Bowls combined is a dreadful 49.9, which compares unfavorably with his 93.0 rating this season. He hasn't finished a season with a rating below the mid-80s since 1992.
At 49.9, his numbers are more akin to struggling San Diego rookie Ryan Leaf than to Joe Montana, who has the NFL's top career passer rating in his four Super Bowls (127.8). Jim Plunkett is second (122.8 in two games), and Terry Bradshaw is third (112.8 in four games).
Elway is 18th.
"I've wanted to put up big numbers in every football game I've ever played," Elway said Tuesday. "I can't try any harder than I've always tried. I'm going to play this one as hard as I've played the other 230-some games that I've ever played. Hopefully, it works out."
It worked out the last time, although not in the way Elway might have envisioned.
While Elway fashioned another ordinary Super Bowl effort -- completing 12 of 22 passes for 123 yards with no touchdowns and an interception for a 51.9 rating -- his Broncos beat Green Bay 31-24, thanks to MVP Terrell Davis' 157 yards and three scores.
Asked if he still yearned to be a Super Bowl MVP, Elway said, "You bet. I want to do the best I can, but the bottom line is I want to win. Would winning the MVP be a thrill? Sure. It would be great -- if it came along with a win."
Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who served as Elway's backup for nine seasons before taking on the coordinator job in 1995, said he will remember Elway as "the greatest competitor I've ever been around," not for his lackluster Super Bowl performances.
"I really don't think he's played poorly," Kubiak said. "As we found out last year, teams win this game, not one player. Maybe too much is made out of one position. We had to run the ball to win that game last year, so John's statistics weren't going to be tremendous, but he did what he had to do for us to win."
Even Elway admits that in the Broncos' three previous Super Bowl appearances -- after the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons -- he was considered a one-man show on offense, which required him to try to do too much in the title game.
"Back then, I always thought that for us to win, I had to play real well," Elway said. "That's not to take away from the guys we had. But after that first Super Bowl, I think I put more and more pressure on myself with each one."
Elway turned in a decent effort in his first Super Bowl, completing 22 of 37 passes for 304 yards with one touchdown and one interception for an 83.6 rating in Denver's 39-20 loss to the New York Giants.
It never got better than that.
In a loss to Washington the following year, he threw three interceptions and got a 36.8 rating. Then, against San Francisco, his statistics were positively Leafian -- 10 for 26, 108 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions for a 19.4 rating.
The pressure was off last season, however, because of Davis, who ran for 1,750 yards and followed it up with 2,008 this season.
"Last year, we had such a great running game, it really took the pressure off of me," he said. "I just had to hand off to Terrell last year. It's nice to be in that situation where you have a real good football team around you."
He's surrounded by another real good one this year.
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