The initial rumors that developed sometime in November that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was considering making John Elway a formal part of the organization made me skeptical. Former on-the-field stars don’t typically make for the best head coaches or front office men. How could bringing Elway into Dove Valley on a day-to-day basis be much more than a PR ploy? It was hard to envision the Hall of Fame quarterback possessing any interest in logging the long hours required to be anything more than a public face for a franchise that was falling out of favor with its fan base.
After hearing Elway speak today as newly appointed executive vice president of football operations, I am of the opinion that Bowlen’s decision to hire #7 is brilliant. Elway indeed possesses the unique mix of organizational icon, business ace, and experienced football personnel man (albeit, with the Colorado Crush). However, it is also the nine-time Pro Bowler’s appreciation for past franchise success that makes him the right man for resurrecting Denver from the depths of a four-win season. Elway took the podium at Dove Valley to address the media for nearly one hour, covering all manner of topics relating to the Orange and Blue. The underlying tone of his opening address: the Broncos need to re-establish two things: 1) the relationship between the organization and its fan base, and 2) its winning culture.
Elway made mention of the fact that since Pat Bowlen purchased the team prior to the 1984 season, the Broncos are the second most winning franchise in the NFL. The former quarterback and his 16 seasons at the helm are a large part of that. There aren’t many teams in the league that can draw from a winning tradition and use it to establish a culture that motivates a group of well paid athletes. The Broncos have the potential be one of the few—however, they must have the right people (or person) at the top to do the culture-establishing and motivating. Elway, who said “when you go back to the culture of the Denver Broncos — and the culture is winning, and the culture is competing for World Championships — we have been there before and we know we can do it”, certainly seems to be such a person.
With the hiring of Josh McDaniels, there was much talk of Pat Bowlen trying to capture the knowledge of someone privy to the “Patriot Way.” As it turned out, trying to integrate the philosophies of an outsider who appeared to have little-to-no interest in the storied past of an organization with two Lombardi trophies and six Super Bowl appearances led to the worst Broncos showing in nearly 40 years. McDaniels’ lack of transparency and sometimes questionable moral compass (see “McSpyGate) alienated a devoted fan base. Elway understands the magnitude of regaining the trust of the Mile High faithful: “I understand the relationship, which is unique to the Denver Broncos over any other team in the NFL and the fact that Denver Broncos fans have an emotional connection to the Denver Broncos and they love (the team) and there is a connection there.”
Elway has also pledged to dispense with the cloak-and-dagger antics: “[Broncos president Joe Ellis and I talked a lot of about] transparency and getting our fans back and making them feel a part of this organization, because it is unique within the NFL.” To that end, Elway has also indicated that fans will see not only the soon-to-hired head coach as a spokesman for the organization, but also general manager Brian Xanders and himself.
Whether John Elway will be “Mr. Right” for his second Broncos stint remains to be seen. However, for the highly-prioritized purposes of regaining the trust and enthusiasm of the Denver fan base, Elway is certainly “Mr. Right Now.”