Elway lands personnel power in Denver
Hall of Famer John Elway has been summoned by the Denver Broncos for one more comeback.
The beloved quarterback who led the Broncos to five Super Bowls and back-to-back championships before retiring in 1998 is returning as the team’s chief football executive.
His title will be executive vice president of football operations in a reshaped front office, and chief operating officer Joe Ellis becomes team president. Brian Xanders will go from the general manager in name only to one who’s empowered in the new organizational chart.
Team owner Pat Bowlen, who famously declared, ”This one’s for John!” after the Broncos’ upset of the Green Bay Packers in the 1997 Super Bowl, said in a statement Wednesday that 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.”
”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,” Bowlen said.
After his 16-year playing career ended, Elway was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. He also led the Arena Football League’s Colorado Crush to a championship in 2005 as its co-owner and chief executive officer.
Elway’s first order of business in his new role with the Broncos will be to lead the search for a coach to replace Josh McDaniels, whose 22-month misadventure left the Broncos embarrassed and in need of a major makeover.
The Broncos are coming off their worst season in their 51-year history, a 4-12 debacle that exposed McDaniels’ many personnel blunders and was marked by the Spygate II videotaping scandal that cast them as cheaters.
Elway will interview Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey on Friday in Atlanta for the vacant head-coaching position, then return to Denver to interview Eric Studesville, who was promoted from running backs coach to interim head coach after McDaniels’ Dec. 6 ouster.
Elway also is expected to push Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh to interview. A former Stanford star, Elway served as honorary captain for the Cardinal’s win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Monday night.
The Broncos have won just one playoff game since Elway retired in 1999 after his second straight Super Bowl title, and they haven’t reached the postseason in five years.
Mike Shanahan was fired as coach in January 2009 after a run of mediocrity, and McDaniels was plucked from Bill Belichick’s staff in New England.
McDaniels was kicked to the curb last month but wasn’t thrown under the bus: Ellis said the Broncos erred in giving him so much power when they made him the head coach and de facto GM with final say on personnel matters. The then-32-year-old had never had either job before.
The new coach won’t have so much latitude with the roster.
McDaniels traded away Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler and Peyton Hillis and failed to use any of his 19 draft picks on an inside linebacker or defensive tackle. The Broncos were one-dimensional on offense and had the league’s worst defense in 2010.
The Broncos have just a half-dozen picks in April’s draft, although their loss Sunday to San Diego was their franchise-record 12th defeat, securing the No. 2 overall pick in April.
McDaniels traded away several picks for players who didn’t pay immediate dividends in his short stint in Denver, including two along with Hillis to Cleveland for quarterback Brady Quinn last March — when he had already decided to make a move for Tim Tebow on draft night, which cost him three more picks.
McDaniels also traded the Patriots several draft picks for past-their-prime players Russ Hochstein, LeKevin Smith and Laurence Maroney, none of whom had any impact in Denver.
Elway retired with the most wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history, going 148-82-1. He engineered an NFL-record 47 comeback drives and was second in yards passing (51,475) and third in TD throws (300).
Elway spent the 2010 season as a marketing consultant to the Broncos after eight years as co-owner and chief executive officer of Denver’s AFL team. Elway worked closely with Bowlen, who owned one-third of the arena team.
"You think Broncos and you think Elway and Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey and Terrell Davis," wide receiver Eddie Royal said. "That name is the first name you think about and he put his heart and soul into this organization, so it’s great that he’s coming back. And he’s going to help us out. You know that he’s a winner. You know that he knows the game. And he’s been to Super Bowls, so he knows what it takes."