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Broncos give the keys to John Elway

elway_ap_091022

John Elway officially has returned to the Broncos.  The team announced today that Elway will serve as Executive Vice President of Football Operations, a very big title for a guy whose only NFL experience consists of playing for an NFL team.

The team also announced that Chief Operating Officer Joe Ellis has been promoted to club president, a title that more accurately reflects the power and influence that Ellis has been wielding since coach Mike Shanahan was fired nearly two years ago.

“John Elway’s leadership, competitiveness and passion for the Denver Broncos will position this team for long-term success through his work leading our football operations,” owner Pat Bowlen said in a team-issued release.  “John has won championships as both a player and executive, and his experience will be a valuable addition to this franchise.  He is the perfect fit for this role, and I am excited to welcome him back to the Denver Broncos.”

His role will consist of directing the team’s football operations, overseeing the head coach and G.M. (for now) Brian Xanders.

Elway also will have final say over the personnel decisions, making him essentially the General Manager.  He’ll also lead the search for a new coach.

Sorry, folks, but we remain very skeptical about this.  Elway is getting the job without paying the dues.  Watching film with his father and running an AFL franchise isn’t the kind of experience necessary to run an NFL team, and it’s sort of an insult to the men who have earned their stripes by grinding for years, learning the business from the bottom up and earning each next rung on the ladder.

It’s almost as if Bowlen and Ellis don’t know what else to do, so they’ll give the keys to a guy whose only real qualifications are his ability to throw a ball and the fact that his presence will sell tickets and/or restore hope, false as it may be.

A press conference will be held at 3:30 p.m. ET, at which time the likes of Woody Paige and the rest of the Denver media will likely pucker up for Elway, Ellis, and Bowlen.  Here’s hoping that someone out there has the independence and the will to ask tough questions about the confusing decision to give so much responsibility and power to a guy who really has done nothing to merit it.

Also, don’t rule out the possibility that Elway will realize that working for a living is a lot more demanding than being a retired football star, as Dan Marino learned seven years ago, when he resigned as Senior Vice President of Football Operations in Miami after only three weeks on the job.

“I knew it would involve a significant lifestyle change, but after further reflection, it became clear that those adjustments were ones that my family and I are not prepared to make at this time,” Marino said at the time.

In other words, working for a living is a lot more demanding than being a retired football star.

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51 Responses to “Broncos give the keys to John Elway”
  1. stevemcguigan says: Jan 5, 2011 10:06 AM

    This is ridiculous. If it works, hurray, but I can’t think of a single reason why it should.

  2. techstar25 says: Jan 5, 2011 10:12 AM

    I don’t think you are giving him enough credit for his time in the AFL. How is this any different from a college football coach making the jump to the NFL? Those are two completely types of football programs, yet it happens all the time, and sometimes even works. At least Elway is going from pro football to pro football.

  3. terradawg says: Jan 5, 2011 10:13 AM

    Sure, it might not work, but your reasoning that the work is too hard ala Dan Marino is off base. Have you ever been to Denver? Ever notice that half of the car dealerships are/were John Elway dealerships? He hasn’t exactly been sitting on his ass since retiring.

    I can’t stand the Broncos or anything related to them, but saying he won’t be able to put in the hours is entirely off base.

  4. jimmy1smith says: Jan 5, 2011 10:14 AM

    The cheers you are hearing are coming from Oakland, San Diego and KC.

  5. 420fan says: Jan 5, 2011 10:17 AM

    HorseFace is back in Denver. Too bad he can’t throw still

  6. chapnastier says: Jan 5, 2011 10:18 AM

    Good for him and well played by the Broncos. Elway has run football teams, businesses and is a graduate of Stanford. I don’t know what else exactly it would take to make him anymore qualified for a role like this. I hope it all works out for him!

  7. leucas66 says: Jan 5, 2011 10:19 AM

    Very little upside and much more downside to this for Elway (and the franchise).

    I’m a Packers fan, and in some ways, Starr’s time as HC has affected my general sense for the guy and his legacy. Maybe it’s an age thing as I mainly knew him as coach.

    The only way this works for Elway is if they win a SB or two. But I see this as mixed results at best.

  8. godofwine330 says: Jan 5, 2011 10:20 AM

    Unless he is going to pull a Barney Stinson and “Suit up” I don’t know how his “Leadership, competitiveness, and passion” is going to help the Broncos. People (in Cleveland) always talk about how smart Bernie Kosar is, but I don’t want him running my team.

    Players play, but outside of that they don’t really know or get into the business side of it. They would get into it more if they didn’t have agents, but since the agents handle most of their buisness they are too busy playing to learn this.

    Think about this, back-up players end up being much better coaches than star players. Why? Because they have so much more time on their hands. Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Cowher, I could go on and on. All of these players started a total of 14 starts in 24 years combined (Noll 0 starts in 7 years; Shula 0 starts in 7 years; Schottenheimer 10 starts in 6 years; Cowher 4 starts in 4 years [as per http://www.pro-football-reference.com). That said, I don’t think this is going to work for the Broncos unless he is just a face. He goes, signs some autographs, yada, yada, yada, but he doesn’t pick draft picks or anything important. There are the rare Ozzie Newsomes who were stars on the field and stars as a GM, hitting solidly on almost a dozen #1 picks, but he is the exception more than the rule.

  9. east96st says: Jan 5, 2011 10:20 AM

    “they’ll give the keys to a guy whose only real qualifications are his ability to throw a ball and the fact that his presence will sell tickets”

    That’s really all that needs to be said. As long as the cash keeps flowing, why would Bowlen care if Elway is fit for the job or not? Watch the Broncos start selling Elway jerseys all over again just to milk a few more dimes from the saps, ummmm, I mean fans.

  10. bluestree says: Jan 5, 2011 10:20 AM

    Lotsa luck, Denver. Kiss a couple more seasons goodbye.

  11. clusterpuck says: Jan 5, 2011 10:22 AM

    They should hire Terrell Davis as head coach while they are at it

  12. broncobeta says: Jan 5, 2011 10:25 AM

    As much as I hate this move, I don’t agree with saying Elway has never worked for a living. Ever since he retired he has made a lot out of himself in the business world when he could have just sat on his NFL money.

    However, this move does reek of desperation by Bowlen. Obviously Bowlen has no idea how to structure an NFL team.

  13. realitypolice says: Jan 5, 2011 10:25 AM

    “Also, don’t rule out the possibility that Elway will realize that working for a living is a lot more demanding than being a retired football star”
    =====================================
    The Marino comparison is unjust. Marino was basically just a jock, who went from the field to the studio, and really just wanted to play golf. John Elway has hardly been just “a retired football star”.

    John Elway has been successful on many levels since leaving the game. He had a string of very successful auto dealerships that he sold for over 80 million dollars, and his AFL team was pretty good too. He is highly respected in the community. Sure, there was that Ponzi scheme, but no one’s perfect.

    I realize none of that means he will be successful running an NFL franchise. Frankly, I have no idea if he will be. But my own experiences in the business world have taught me that successful people are successful people, and many have spread their accomplishments across a wide range of ventures.

    Hopefully he will know what he doesn’t know, and make sure to surround himself with people who can fill in the blanks.

    If not, how much worse off could the Broncos really be?

    Sorry, but I believe that whole, “pay your dues, fight your way up from the bottom, learn every aspect of the business” thing is slightly overrated.

    The league is full of executives who struggled up the ladder and then failed miserably. Past experience is far from a guarantee of future success.

    Ask Buddy Nix, who “fought his way up” for 40 years and then drafted CJ Spiller.

  14. luvthatdirtywata says: Jan 5, 2011 10:26 AM

    Nobody was a bigger fan of John back in the day, but final say on personnel decisions? I dunno. Too much for one person…unless that person is Bill Belichick, of course.

  15. Nevis says: Jan 5, 2011 10:30 AM

    Sorry, Elway is no way qualified to do this and it will show. Broncos dreaming if they think Harbaugh will end up there.

  16. quentincosta says: Jan 5, 2011 10:32 AM

    Mr. Ed is in charge and TeBlow will be a HOFer…ha ha ha

  17. xpensivewinos says: Jan 5, 2011 10:32 AM

    Most of the guys who have “paid their dues” and done all of the things supposedly required to be qualified for this position, still suck at it………as evidenced by how many teams perpetually stink. There are very few people who are or have been elite at player evaluation. Most of the so-called experts track records is about the same as a blind-folded monkey throwing darts at a board.

    Just because Matt Millen failed, doesn’t mean Elway will. If he works with Xander and Ellis and doesn’t steamroll them, he could be fine. McDaniels is the one who destroyed this team, not those two guys.

    If Elway is smart enough and can check his ego enough to listen to those other guys, he could be alright.

    And, that team is so bad right now, he would have to pull an uber-Millen to make them any worse. He should start 1-for-1 as whoever he hires as a head coach should be better than McDaniels.

  18. southsidesteve86 says: Jan 5, 2011 10:45 AM

    Two words: Michael Jordan

  19. polegojim says: Jan 5, 2011 10:45 AM

    This will be interesting.

    Elway is the King of Comebacks. Let’s hope he’s got some magic left.

  20. harrisonhits2 says: Jan 5, 2011 10:55 AM

    “at which time the likes of Woody Paige and the rest of the Denver media will likely pucker up”

    I don’t know about the rest of the media there, but Paige makes a block of cement look intelligent compared to the drivel he spews.

  21. brasho says: Jan 5, 2011 11:00 AM

    This is very interesting… and makes me flash back 27 years ago. The struggling Broncos work a trade to land the best QB (from Stanford) to come out of the draft in years. The Colts get a ton in return but do nothing with it.

    So what is the chance the Broncos roll the dice and overpay for the savior QB from Stanford once again? It worked the first time.

  22. 7pints says: Jan 5, 2011 11:06 AM

    It’s not imitation… hating is the most sincere form of flattery. The great ones are truly hated. Sorry for whatever he did to your team. Actually, no I’m not. lol.

  23. gergie1957 says: Jan 5, 2011 11:09 AM

    This is pretty simple if they win, good choice, if they keep losing, bad choice.

    unfortunately the vision of Matt Millen enters my head. great football player, Bad GM.

    I do think John Elway comes off as a more level headed sound thinking guy then Matt ever did.

  24. gilgafresh says: Jan 5, 2011 11:09 AM

    This isn’t really a case of Elway, the GM – or Elway, the player personnel guy – or Elway, the next Millen/Marino.

    This is Elway, owner in training/waiting.

    His early career was defined by trying to do it alone and ALMOST succeeding. His ultimate success came when he finally had people around him that could do their jobs well, and thus, allow John to do what he did/does best: LEAD.

    Lesson learned. I think he understands that. I also believe that this is a unique situation without precedent, and trying to draw comparisons to seemingly similar past examples is futile and probably deserves as much consideration and credibility as the weatherman’s 10 day forecast.

  25. richm2256 says: Jan 5, 2011 11:26 AM

    I honestly don’t see this as a bad move. To me,this is a perfect move.

    First of all, Elway was an elite quarterback, and elite quarterbacks don’t exist strictly because of physical ability. There are a hundred guys who can throw a football well, very few have the intelligence to throw it wisely. These are your Montana’s, your Brady’s, your Manning’s. These guys possess a much more cerebral presence. They also know the skills needed to design and execute a successful offense, and very probably know a hell of a lot about successful defenses they’ve faces as well.I would see that translating into hiring a GM and coach with those same abilities.

    If he uses that intelligence, and is smart enough to surround himself with qualified people whom he listens to,and evaluates their opinions tomake the best choices he can, I see no reason why a guy with Elway’s intellect and previous success in business ventures cannot succeed here as well. I would love to see the Donks restored to a competitive level in the NFL, and wish Elway the best.

  26. scrotiemcb says: Jan 5, 2011 11:31 AM

    Any way you shake it, letting John Elway run the team is a huge improvement over who has run the team the last couple of months– the brain dead Denver media and the dumbest collection of fans this side of the latest soccer stampede.

  27. radrntn says: Jan 5, 2011 11:38 AM

    lets face the facts, the broncos have never won anything since elway has left.

  28. smartbutlazy says: Jan 5, 2011 11:39 AM

    Stop comparing John Elway to Dan Marino. Marino proved he was a loser throughout his career and has done nothing notable since. Elway proved he was a winner throughout his career and has continued that success throughout life.

  29. usher716 says: Jan 5, 2011 11:39 AM

    Reminds me of the bills hiring marv levy as their GM, which was a move to appease the fans but ultimately sank the franchise deeper into irrelevance

  30. freebird2011 says: Jan 5, 2011 11:47 AM

    Matt Millen Part Deux.

    Smith, Pioli, and Davis must be having a celebratory scotch today.

  31. bigbeefyd says: Jan 5, 2011 11:48 AM

    John did a helluva job running the Crush – he was a day-to-day manager – personnel and everything ont he football side. This is not the same as Matt Millen jumping from the broadcast booth to the GM’s office.

  32. leucas66 says: Jan 5, 2011 11:54 AM

    I agree lots of experienced guys fail, but if you go with that mindset, then anyone can be a GM.

  33. youdressfunny says: Jan 5, 2011 12:10 PM

    LMAO!! You commenters feared Elway when he was on the field and now I can hear the fear in your comments! Hilarious. This was a move that was needed and will bring the Broncos back to their dominance again within a few years. Elway has been successful with everything he has had a hand in. Retired my ass. Must be all the pansy raider fans out here. What a bunch of losers.

  34. hooterdawg says: Jan 5, 2011 12:11 PM

    Is this anything like the career path of a certain mediocre attorney becoming an internet hack – and then posturing himself as a sports journalist?

  35. thehouseofho says: Jan 5, 2011 12:18 PM

    Like others have said, the Marino comparison fails on so many levels. Elway has worked very hard since his retirement. He has also succeeded as a businessman, which is essentially what his position entails. He succeeded running the day-to-day operations of an AFL franchise and they were successful. You can poo-poo that all you want, but that does take skill and more importantly, hard work.

    John Elway has shown himself to be a good businessman and a fair judge of talent based on his experience. What are your qualifications do judge him in his new role before he has even done anything?

  36. nygiantstones says: Jan 5, 2011 12:32 PM

    “the men who have earned their stripes by grinding for years” How many of those guys have a degree from Stanford, have won 2 Superbowls as a QB, and won a championship as an executive? (although I assume that championship is from arena league or something) Just saying, I doubt Elway is a dummy and I’m sure he’s going to surround himself with similarly intelligent people.

  37. R8RBOB says: Jan 5, 2011 12:36 PM

    Mr. Ed is Matt Millen 2.o

    Good Luck Donks

  38. realitypolice says: Jan 5, 2011 12:46 PM

    leucas66 says:
    Jan 5, 2011 11:54 AM
    I agree lots of experienced guys fail, but if you go with that mindset, then anyone can be a GM.
    ==============

    No one is saying anyone can be a GM. I’m saying a guy who grew up the son of a coach, had a hall of fame career including two super bowl wins, and has a proven track record of success in a variety of businesses including owning and operating a professional football team can probably handle it.

  39. cusoman says: Jan 5, 2011 12:56 PM

    This didn’t work with Kevin McHale and the Timberwolves, and it won’t work with the Broncos either.

  40. profootballwalk says: Jan 5, 2011 1:26 PM

    So maybe if the Broncos start cheating on the salary cap again, they can win the Super Bowl. It worked when Elway played for them.

  41. universalcynic says: Jan 5, 2011 1:33 PM

    “Here’s hoping that someone out there has the independence and the will to ask tough questions about the confusing decision to give so much responsibility and power to a guy who really has done nothing to merit it.”

    Mark Kiszla is the only writer at the DP who not only writes really poor articles, but asked the worst questions at press conference when they call on him.

    Elway can’t do any worse that Teddy “I Generally Manage” Sundquist. That guy did nothing special in Denver or for PFT as a contributor.

    Elway will do fine. There is alot of work to do and I think once they find their coach, everything else will fall into place.

  42. universalcynic says: Jan 5, 2011 1:37 PM

    Additionally, so long as Al Davis is alive, we’ll never have to worry about having the worst leadership in the division.

    Long live the crypt keeper.

  43. funkylovemonkey says: Jan 5, 2011 1:41 PM

    I’m not sure how much “business savvy” it took for Elway, who’s practically worshiped in Denver, to make money off a bunch of car dealerships with his name on them. I mean, if Karl Malone can do it in Salt Lake City, I’m thinking that might not be the strongest argument for competency. Besides which how much day to day management was he really involved with those business ventures? I’m sure as an owner he mostly just cashed checks while he left the micromanaging to those below him.

    He was co-owner of the Crush along with Stan Kroenke (owner of the Nuggets) and Pat Bowlen who incidentally owns the Broncos. How much control did he have over the Crush and how involved was he? It’s impossible to tell, but I’m not sure he would really want to claim that anyway. The Crush were 48-48 (nice symmetry) under John’s leadership. I’m pretty sure if Denver finishes Elways tenure with a .500 record there won’t be a lot of happy people.

    Was he a fantastic player? No doubt. But it’s a big stretch to say that those skills would translate to good personnel decisions. Being able to read defenses can be difficult and he did it well. That doesn’t mean he has the skill set needed to evaluate talent or make draft and trade decisions. And if your response is “Well he’ll have a lot of smart guys around him giving him advice,” why wouldn’t you want the smart guys making the decisions as well?

    This is a very cynical ploy by the Broncos to get asses in the seat for next year by fostering a lot of false hope within the fan base after an embarrassing year. Looks like from the comments on this page it’s working.

  44. drbob117 says: Jan 5, 2011 1:42 PM

    No reason Elway can’t do this. He has run an AFL team and has plenty of experience in football as a player. Stanford prepared him to be a success in anything he does. Hey, Howie Roseman was a lawyer, and now he’s the GM of the team I root for, and actually did a good job this year, so don’t be married to the whole ‘paying your dues’ nonsense. That’s just a bunch of old school football folks trying to preserve their turf.

  45. 30ptbuck says: Jan 5, 2011 2:04 PM

    Brett Lorenzo Favre has been named as Executive Vice President of Football Operations and head grounds keeper of the Minnesota Vikings
    Skol losers

  46. profootballwalk says: Jan 5, 2011 2:20 PM

    John Elway was Brett Favre before Brett Favre was Brett Favre. Damn good, and overrated by fanboys in the media. Elway’s QB rating was less than 80, and less than two QBs who played in his era. Bernie Kosar and Randall Cunningham.

    For those who don’t remember, people were finally jumping off the bandwagon, when Elway won two Super Bowls late in his career. Then they all jumped back on the bandwagon. Then we found out that Denver had cheated on the salary cap to hold on to important veteran players. Oh, and did I mention Terrell Davis?

  47. diegorodriguez3897 says: Jan 5, 2011 2:42 PM

    John Elway is by far the most qualified person available for the position he was just hired to fill. The comparisions to Matt Millen and Kevin McHale are laughable and completely without any factual support. It is far more likely that he ends up having a similar level of success to Joe Dumars than not considering how successful he has been since he retired. He prepares, he works, he produces. That has been his track record in the past and there is little reason to believe that it will not continue to be that way in the future.

  48. diegorodriguez3897 says: Jan 5, 2011 2:49 PM

    @Profootball walk. Really? You call FIVE Super Bowl appearances overrated? You are mistaken. Elway was the only reason that the Broncos made it the first three times that he got them during his career. Don’t believe it? Look it up because it was common knowledge then that without Elway none of those three teams were good enough to get to the SB. And, you mention Terrell Davis like he was a dirty secret or something. Montana had Rice, Roger Craig and Ronnie Lot on the other side of the ball the Giants had L.T. and Phil Simms, the Redskins had the Hogs and a stout defense.
    The Broncos had Elway and not much else.

  49. luvthatdirtywata says: Jan 5, 2011 3:54 PM

    Anybody who says Elway is over-rated doesn’t know professional football.

  50. rcali says: Jan 5, 2011 3:58 PM

    How can a car salesmen just walk into a NFL team and start barking orders?

  51. 81daytona says: Jan 5, 2011 4:12 PM

    Don’t worry, Matty.

    He can’t do any worse.

    A chewed piece of gum could have managed the team better than you…

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