Elway: A Relentless Life by Jason Cole

From Goodreads: “The definitive biography of John Elway, Hall of Fame Quarterback, two-time Super Bowl Champion, now President of Football Operations and General Manager of the Denver Broncos.”

What on earth is a Wisconsin gal doing reading a biography about the quarterback that was partly responsible for the Green Bay Packers’ only Super Bowl loss? I like football, and I can appreciate a really good athlete.

I’ve always been magnanimous to other teams and players. I attribute it to the fact that I was born on Super Bowl Sunday, 1973. That was the Super Bowl of the undefeated Miami Dolphins. I used to have a Green Bay Packers license plate that said SPRBL 7, which probably confused the heck out of other drivers!

As of 2017’s NFL off-season, Elway held at least 33 Broncos franchise records, including:

  • Completions: career (4,123), playoffs (355), rookie season (123)
  • Passing Yards: career (51,475-Brett Favre has 71,838 )
  • Passing Touchdowns: career (300), playoffs (27) (Brett Favre has 508, just sayin’)
  • Sacks (516) Favre has him beat there, too, with 525


On to the book. Jason Cole had unprecedented access to everyone EXCEPT  John Elway when writing Elway: A Relentless Life  (to be released September 15, 2020). His family provided interviews, his friends, his teammates, his business partners. And maybe that’s why I had problems with the book.

The first several chapters are all about Jack Elway, John’s football coach father. There’s backstory, then there’s backstory.  The reader gets a really good feel for who John Elway’s dad was.  Then there’s even a short chapter on Elway’s mom, Jan.  That chapter felt like it was thrown in there to try and even out the overwhelming praise Cole had for Jack Elway and the way he raised his kids, even though football consumed him so much he wasn’t around much when his kids were growing up.

Then, when John Elway starts playing football, we get a whole chapter on the man who was his high school football coach before actually getting to how Elway performed. Several chapters make up the draft and the deal that traded Elway from the Colts to the Broncos. It involves lots of people with lots of backstory, but I didn’t feel I got a glimpse of who Elway was in all of this, besides the #1 player in the draft.

Almost the whole book is like this.  You’re 40% into it before Elway even gets traded to the Broncos.  Then there’s chapter after chapter on coaches and other important people in Elway’s life of a Bronco. It takes until you’re 70% into the book before you get to Elway’s defining Super Bowls. As painful as it was for a Green Bay Packers fan to read the chapter on Super Bowl XXXII, I thought it was well done, as was the succeeding chapter on Super Bowl XXXIII.

One of the things I like to know about when I read about someone in the public eye is how they are as a human being off the field, with their families.  After Elway retires from the Broncos, there’s a short chapter on the dissolution of his marriage to Janet, and a brief biographical sketch of each of his four kids. Then there’s another brief chapter on meeting and marrying his current wife.

I thought the section on the Arena Football League was pretty good, as you got a feel for Elway’s actions and the work he put in to making a success into his team.  The same can be said about his work as an executive with the Broncos and the moves he made to create another successful team.  But at times, like earlier in the book, Elway is overshadowed by the other people: Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, etc.

Elway: A Relentless Life  is for diehard Broncos fans, if you want to know everything about the people that surrounded Elway during his climb to the top as a player and as an executive. As for getting to know the man himself, this book is sadly lacking.

Thanks to Net Galley for this Advanced Readers Copy (ARC).

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