Here are John Elway's career statistics split between his first 10 seasons in the NFL and his last six...
2,375/4,339, 30,216 yards, 158 TD, 157 INT
212.8 yards per game
7.0 yards per attempt
1.01 TD/INT ratio
1,748/2,911, 21,259 yards, 142 TD, 69 INT
238.9 yards per game
7.3 yards per attempt
2.06 TD/INT ratio
And here's Elway's injury history...
1983: Injured during the fifth game, did not play the next four games
1984: Injured during the first game, active but did not start the next game
1986: Injured during the third game, started the next game
1987: Injured during the second game, did not play the next three games
1990: Injured during the eighth game, started the next game
1992: Injured during the 10th game, did not play the next four games
1994: Injured during the 13th game, did not play the next game; injured during the 15th game, did not play the next game
1995: Injured during the 10th game, started the next game
1998: Injured during the third game, did not play the next two games; injured during the ninth game, did not play the next game
John Elway had moments of greatness during his first 10 years in the NFL, but was not the most consistent QB in the NFL. He had plenty of good games with some great games embedded therein, but every now and then he'd have some bad games too, and his bad games were terrible. He also had a lengthy injury history, and people said he took too many sacks. Does this all sound familiar? It should.
If Bronco fans were like Steeler fans, then many of them would have started calling Elway "dumb" by 1990, claiming that he's not "cerebral" enough to ever be a great QB, and asking why he couldn't be more like Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman or Jim Kelly. Other fans would have lamented the decline of the Broncos by pointing to Elway's injury history, claiming that he was on the downside of his career, and that his best days were in the past. Some would even go so far as to suggest trading him away.
Of course, as we all know, Elway's best days were yet to come, and he became a better and more consistent QB during his last six seasons in the league than he was during his first 10 seasons. The Broncos gave him a stellar offensive line and an excellent running game, which brought out the best in him. Nobody tried to discredit him for having such a good supporting cast either, nor did anybody question his greatness despite a poor stat line when he finally won his first Super Bowl.
We're blessed to have our John Elway now. His name is Ben Roethlisberger, and he needs to be given more respect. If Elway and the Broncos weren't done by 1992, then Roethlisberger and the Steelers sure as hell aren't done now. And if Elway was a great QB, then goddamn it; Roethlisberger is a great QB too.