As a former player with no personnel experience getting the keys to an NFL franchise, John Elway is in exclusive company. There’s really only one recent example of the same thing happening, and that was Matt Millen’s tenure running the Detroit Lions.
Broncos fans, be afraid. Be very afraid.
Mike Klis of the Denver Post contacted Millen to ask about his experiences, and Millen acknowledged that the Broncos had better hope Elway is a whole lot better than he was.
“I hope John does better than I did, because I stunk at it,” Millen said.
Unlike Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame player who worked his way up the personnel ladder before becoming G.M. of the Ravens, Elway and Millen got their jobs without having to learn the ropes first, although Elway does have a little more experience than Millen did, since Elway ran an Arena Football team. Millen said Elway may be surprised by what the job entails.
“There’s a misconception about the job,” Millen said. “It’s less about the game of football. It’s less about X’s and O’s. It’s less about personnel decisions. It’s a job about managing people. It’s about building a consensus when you pick the right head coach. You can’t go in and be this football czar and say this is how it’s going to work. If you pick somebody that a coach doesn’t like and doesn’t coach, that’s a bad situation.”
One difference between Elway and Millen is where they’re starting: Millen took over a Lions team that had gone 9-7 the previous season and promptly ran them into the ground. Elway is taking over a 4-12 Broncos team that has nowhere to go but up.
And Millen does believe Elway can turn the Broncos around.
“Absolutely,” Millen said. “John has a shot to be successful.”