Mid-season awards in the NFL mean very little but they do offer a glimpse into who is doing things the right way. Pro Football Weekly (PFW) named Executive Vice-President of Football Operations, John Elway the mid-season executive of the year. Anyone who has been following me knows that I have been raving about the job that Elway has done since taking over the Denver Broncos in January of 2011, and there are a few who think I’ve been blinded because of my feelings for Elway. I’m not going to run away from the fact that I am an Elway fan, but his record since taking over the Broncos is not up for debate.
One of the numbers that was pointed out by PFW really sticks out to me; the Broncos consistently play 31 players combined on both sides of the ball on a regular basis. Of those 31, Elway and his staff have brought in 23 of the 31. That’s an astounding number in just over a year and a half. That kind of turnover is not unusual in the NFL but it is almost always associated with a team that is struggling or re-building. Elway has changed the Broncos from laughingstocks to one of the favorites in the AFC in less than two years.
There’s no doubt that Elway and the Broncos got a little lucky with Peyton Manning but it was Elway who got him to come to Denver. That’s not me saying that, that’s Peter King of Sports Illustrated and any number of people on ESPN. All of them will tell you that it was Elway’s masterful approach that brought Manning to Denver.
Has Elway made mistakes? Of course he has. What makes him different from so many other personnel guys is that he will cut his losses and move on. The best example is the signing of free agent cornerback Drayton Florence. Florence was signed to be the third cornerback behind Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter. In training camp, however, a little known player named Tony Carter beat Florence out. Most other teams would have stuck with Florence because they don’t want to admit they made a mistake in free agency; Elway didn’t care and cut him. His quote on the cut, “Carter played better.” That’s it; nothing else needs to be said. Every general manager or personnel guy is going to make mistakes, but the good ones move on.
It would take far too long to go into every single move that Elway has made that has led to the Broncos dramatic turnaround, but there can be no doubt that the job he has done is remarkable. On Tuesday, for whatever it is worth, Elway picked up some national recognition.
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