The NFL playoffs begin today, and the Denver Broncos will be watching like the rest of us as they enjoy their bye week. With no game this weekend, it’s a great time to reflect and Broncos public relations guru Patrick Smyth provided two factoids worth reflecting on. John Elway has done a great job rebuilding the Broncos in his first two seasons – there have been countless articles that have documented that fact, but the numbers provided by Smyth on Saturday are astonishing.
Since 1966 – basically the Super Bowl era – Elway is the first general manager/vice president of football operations to lead a team to a four-win improvement in each of his first two seasons. When Elway took over in January of 2011, the Broncos were 4-12 and at their lowest point since the 1960’s. The Broncos went 8-8 in 2011, won the AFC West and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild card playoff game. That may have been enough of an accomplishment for some people to live off of for two or three years, but Elway is about one thing: championships, and 8-8 was not going to cut it. He saw a chance in acquiring Peyton Manning to turn the Broncos into contenders and he took it. Now the Broncos sit at 13-3 with the number one-seed in the AFC, and it is Elway who is the architect of that incredible turnaround.
If you listen to the four-letter network and other national pundits; a lot of them would tell you that the signing of Manning was the only thing Elway has done. There’s no doubt that the signing of Manning is the crown jewel in Elway’s executive resume, but it’s lazy journalism to point to that as the only thing Elway has done. Here’s another fact for you: of the 33 players who have started a game for the Broncos this season, 23 of them were acquired by Elway. He’s done that in less than two years – he has built this team almost from scratch. Everyone knows about the big moves with Manning like the drafting of Von Miller, but it’s the secondary moves that have been the most impressive.
Elway hired John Fox and received a fair amount of criticism for that hire, but Fox was the perfect coach for the Broncos. Elway knew he needed to fix the locker room, and he needed a coach who could do that, and change the culture. Fox is respected and well-liked among the players. It’s also important to note that Elway and Fox work extremely well together, and having your personnel guy on the same page with the head coach is huge.
In Elway’s first two drafts, no fewer than ten of his picks are contributing on a regular basis including four starters. That starter number would be five if safety Quinton Carter was not on injured reserve. Some of the players Elway has drafted include: Miller, Orlando Franklin, Rahim Moore, Carter, Derek Wolfe, Ronnie Hillman, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. For a team with a recent history of terrible drafts, that two under Elway have been outstanding.
In free agency, Elway’s work is just as impressive. He signed running back Willis McGahee when people thought he was done. He also signed guys like safety Mike Adams, center Dan Koppen, fullback Jacob Hester, linebacker Keith Brooking, safety Jim Leonhard, defensive tackle Justin Bannan and too many more to list. All of those players have made major contributions to the Broncos success this season, and they were all signed by Elway.
There are a lot of guys who have made a career out of being an executive in the NFL and few of them – actually, none of them, have accomplished what Elway has in his first two seasons. He would tell you that the job is not done because the only thing he cares about are Vince Lombardi Trophies. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think John Elway is the Executive of the Year! The numbers back it up.
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