JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — John Elway says Peyton Manning cannot stamp himself as the greatest quarterback in NFL history even if he wins the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Elway told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he's come to realize the argument over who's the best QB ever is a lot like beauty: It's in the eye of the beholder.
"I don't think there's ever going to be a 'very best.' I think there's always going to be a conversation," said Elway, the Broncos' Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-executive vice president who lured Manning to Denver after his release from Indianapolis two years ago.
Manning has the chance to become the first starting quarterback to lead two franchises to Super Bowl titles when the Broncos play the Seahawks at MetLife Stadium.
When Manning signed with the Broncos on March 20, 2012, Elway declared, "My goal is to make Peyton Manning the best quarterback that's ever played the game."
But at the team hotel on the Hudson River on Wednesday morning, Elway said he now realizes that question will never truly be answered "even though when he walks away Peyton may well have broken every single record."
"So, you're going to always have your detractors, but he may have a large percentage of 'who's the best,' you know what I mean?" Elway said. "Yeah, all he can do is he can continue to cement his legacy, especially if he continues to keep going like the year he had this year. And I'm going to try to make sure he has all the weapons to be able to do that."
Manning has brushed off all questions about his legacy this week.
With Manning leading the huddle and Elway the front office, Denver is back in the big game for the first time since the Broncos won back-to-back titles in 1998 and '99, after which Elway tried his hand at running restaurants and car dealerships.
Those businesses "don't have scoreboards on Sundays," so Elway returned to his beloved Broncos in 2011 to rescue the foundering franchise after a slow descent under Mike Shanahan and a nosedive under Josh McDaniels.
Tebowmania quickly came and went and with Manning throwing for 99 touchdowns, the Broncos have gone 28-6 the last two years.
Elway looked more relaxed in his suit and tie than he ever did during the weeks preceding the five Super Bowls he played in, wins over Green Bay and Atlanta after losses to the Giants, Redskins and 49ers.
That's because Super Bowl week is way more stressful on a quarterback, he said.
"Well, I'm finally at the stage where I worry about what I can and can't control," Elway said.