John Elway came back to the Denver Broncos and turned the franchise around.
It was a mess under Josh McDaniels’ watch. Denver’s legendary quarterback landed Peyton Manning in free agency and built a historic defense that won a Super Bowl five years ago. It looked like Elway was going to be Denver’s general manager for many years and write another chapter in his history with the franchise.
Not much has gone right since that Super Bowl win. On Monday, after another losing season, Elway announced he was removing himself as the team’s general manager, giving up control of building the roster. He’ll be in charge of hiring the team’s new GM.
John Elway gives up personnel role
The team announced the moves in the front office, including Elway stepping down from the GM role. He’ll be president of football operations in 2021 and hire a GM “with full authority to oversee the personnel and football departments,” the team said.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 4, 2021
The Broncos haven’t been back to the playoffs since Super Bowl 50 and Elway has been criticized by Denver fans, which was unfathomable a few years ago. Nobody in Colorado sports history comes close to Elway in stature and accomplishments.
No matter if the Broncos spun the move as a “step up into an elevated role” for Elway, changing jobs avoids an uncomfortable situation with the biggest name in the history of the franchise.
Elway struggled to find a coach, QB
While Elway was on a roll through the 2015 season — that Broncos team won a title in spite of Manning’s poor play in his final season, which is a testament to the roster Elway built — his decisions at coach and quarterback led to five straight seasons without a playoff berth.
The Broncos never figured out their quarterback situation. They drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round, and he was a huge bust. They tried seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian. They acquired old vets Case Keenum and Joe Flacco. They used a second-round pick on Drew Lock, and it’s questionable if he’s the answer. Nothing worked.
The head coach situation wasn’t much better. Gary Kubiak stepped away as coach after the 2016 season, Vance Joseph didn’t work out as his replacement and Vic Fangio is 12-20 in two seasons. The Broncos went 9-7 in 2016, then posted losing seasons the next four years. Denver finished 5-11 this season.
Patience was wearing thin in Denver for Elway, even though he was a Hall of Fame player and built a Super Bowl-winning roster. The statement from Elway announcing the shakeup was painted in a positive light:
“Working in this role for the last 10 years and going back to my playing days, I’ve always tried to do everything I can to help the Broncos win and get better. As part of a transition I’ve thought about for a long time, I have made the decision to step up into an elevated role and hire a general manager to lead our personnel and football staff.
“While I’ll continue to be President of Football Operations in 2021, the GM will have final say on the draft, free agency and our roster. This person will be empowered to make all football decisions, working in partnership with Vic [Fangio].
“I will be there to support our GM and Vic, providing my perspective, helping with the big decisions and being a sounding board whenever needed. With all that goes into the day-to-day responsibilities of a GM and how the job has grown, this structure will set us up for success and allow me to focus on the big picture.
“This is a great place with all the resources to win. We have a lot of good people on the football side, and I’ll be there for them in any way possible.
“The relationship between the GM and Head Coach is very important—Vic is going to be involved in this hiring process. We’ll cast a wide net, and I will start the search immediately with input from Vic and Joe [Ellis, the team’s CEO].
“I’m excited to begin this chapter and find the next general manager of the Denver Broncos.”
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