The big news out of Denver this week is John Elway’s contract extension. The extension will keep the Executive Vice President of football operations, Elway, in Colorado through 2017 and gives him the general manager title.
This week I decided to write about Elway’s impact on the Denver Broncos in his three short years working in the front office.
In his final game, John Elway lead the Denver Broncos to a 34-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons in super bowl 33. It was Elway’s fifth super bowl, and the Broncos sixth. Elway had lead Denver to new and unknown heights during his time as quarterback. The Broncos were no longer a second rate old AFL team, they were a team with a history of success (not that they weren’t before, but now they had Lombardi trophies to their name.)
Fast forward to 2010. The Broncos were in the middle of one of the worst seasons in team history (they would finish 4-12.) Josh McDaniels had ignored the larger needs of the team and drafted Knowshon Morneo and Tim Tebow in the first round of the playoffs (the defense would be the worst in the league that year.)
Yet again it was up to John Elway to come in and save the Broncos from impending obscurity. Elway was hired in January of 2011 after talking with Pat Bowlen and immediately began working to make the team better through various acquisitions.
In his first season, Elway hired John Fox and coordinator Mike McCoy. In his first draft, Elway picked up future defensive rookie of the year Von Miller in the first round.
McCoy and Fox were able to build a unique game plan that highlighted Tebow’s skills when he became the starter half way through the season and in Elways first year the Denver Broncos won the AFC West title and advanced to the playoffs.
In the first round the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on one of the most iconic plays in Denver Broncos history, Tebow’s touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime.
While the Broncos season would ultimately end in New England the next week, John Elway maneuvered the Broncos back into national relevance over the offseason by signing Peyton Manning.
Manning was Elway’s managerial opus magnum. Ever since Elway retired as a player, the Broncos had cycled through a series of bad to mediocre play callers and in 2011 Denver was stuck with an addiction to Tebow that may have killed the potential of the team, and hurt the fanbase, had Elway not been able to sign Manning like he did. By signing Manning, Elway eased the transition off of Tebow, no fan could claim to want Tebow more than Manning.
Manning is elite, and Elway’s acquisition of him proved to the country that John Elway was just as good of a manager as a player. Elway backed up the signing of Manning with other elite signings like Wes Welker and Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie and in his third year Elway’s Broncos reached the apex of football yet again.
Although his team ultimately failed in the super bowl, Elway brought the Broncos back to greatness, and I can not say enough good things about what he has done here. Players have historically been terrible at front office jobs, but Elway has shown he is one of the best managers in the league.
Manning’s brilliance will only last for so long, when he retires the Broncos will be forced to make a huge decision with regards to the future quarterback. I have confidence that John Elway is the man to make those moves.