When John Elway rode in on his white horse to rescue the Denver Broncos, Pat Bowlen needed him to make tough decisions. “Vice President of Football Operations” is Bronco for “General Manager”. He’s all business. Everybody’s guessing that Elway’s next title will translate to “Owner”. At Dove Valley, John’s the man. Outside of the facility, however, it seems like every swinging Dick and every swinging Jane thinks that he or she could do a better job.
A week ago Elway was a lock for Executive of the Year in everybody’s eyes. Now he’s not even smart enough to hire the right offensive coordinator. He “took a knee” on the decision, they say. Whisenhunt must have been the better choice. Now that the Broncos season is nevermore, Denver’s favorite sport is second-guessing. Some even question the acquisition of Peyton Manning. They call 18 “fools gold” and argue that the 20M per season the Broncos have committed is just too much. Hero to zero, that’s John Elway. That’s why they pay him the big bucks.
Far be it for any fan base to give team leadership carte blanch. Being a critic is part of the fun of being sports fan – and part of your job if you work in the sports media. But John Elway is the one. Trust in Elway. His being perched atop the Denver Broncos was preordained. He has the vision and knows what it’s going to take to realize it. The other pieces: the coaches, the players, the front office staffers are moving ones. Elway’s here to stay. The face of the franchise.
Elway knew that Peyton Manning would not be hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy in 2013. Secretly, we all did. But, by winning eleven straight games, the Broncos made us forget that this season was always going to be practice. Elway didn’t forget. The Executive was disappointed by the way things ended, but he was prepared for the Broncos and their new quarterback to take some time adjusting to one another.
Now Elway’s plan enters the next phase. Adam Gase’s promotion is only one tiny part of it. Elway, who has directed the Broncos into the playoffs each year since he took over, will make a hundred small, incremental changes during the off season. He will examine the Broncos weaknesses and do all he can to correct them.
We can rest easily knowing that the right man is in charge. But we won’t. Each time John Elway makes a tweak somebody will say it was a mistake. It’s the nature of the beast. One day you can do no wrong; the next day you can do no right. It’s not reasonable, though, to assume that two years has been enough time for Elway to cast this team into his image. It won’t really be his team until long after Peyton Manning is gone.