When the late Pat Bowlen hired John Elway as President of Football Operations and General Operations of the Denver Broncos in January 2011, Broncos fans rejoiced everywhere. And why wouldn’t they? Who wouldn’t want the 16-year face of their franchise to run their organization? The two-time Super Bowl champion seemingly had all the experience in the world to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Denver; and for a while, he did.
John Elway solidified the love and affection he has received from the Broncos organization throughout his career when, in 2012, he brought Peyton Manning to the Mile High City. Though Manning had already proved he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, there was some concern for his ability to play at such a high-level post-operation. Turns out that Elway was the hero he was thought to be when, in 2016 at Levi’s Stadium, he and Manning hoisted the Lombardi Trophy together as NFL champions.
John Elway: Lover of Quarterbacks
Things have gone downhill since that Super Bowl 50 victory. Gary Kubiak is no longer the head coach and Peyton Manning looks like he is having more fun shooting commercials as of late than ever playing football. Since Manning’s retirement after the 2016 Super Bowl victory, the Broncos have made their way through a carousel of quarterbacks.
Brock Osweiler was drafted out of Arizona State in 2012 but failed to impress enough to be more than a full-time backup. Trevor Siemian was then drafted out of Northwestern in 2015. Yet again, nothing more than a few promising games. Maybe Paxton Lynch was the answer? Nope. Not even Lynch who the Broncos traded up for in the 2016 Draft could stop the quarterback turmoil. Lynch has barely seen the field only playing three games in 2016 and two in 2017 and is now the fourth-string quarterback in injury-ridden Pittsburgh.
Let’s not even mention Case Keenum who has played for…wait for it… six teams since coming into the league in 2012. Keenum got the Broncos job for one year after going 11-3 (started 14 games) in 2017 in Minnesota – including a playoff run.
Unfortunately for Keenum, the Broncos went 6-10 in 2018 and the organization (John Elway) found a shiny new quarterback in Joe Flacco. Denver traded a 2019 fourth-round pick (113th selection) as compensation for the 11-year veteran. And that should tell you all you need to know about Flacco’s worth. Flacco was replaced by Lamar Jackson in 2018 after injuring his hip in Week 9 of the regular season, sidelining him for four weeks. But as what commonly happens in the NFL, Jackson came in younger, faster, and maybe more importantly – cheaper. In the end, the Ravens couldn’t get rid of Flacco quicker.
One in the Same
I pose this question: What did John Elway see in all these quarterbacks? If you look at their intangibles, all but Keenum are 6’3” tall with Osweiler and Lynch both topping out at 6’7”. All are Pocket quarterbacks who are immobile and rely on good pocket protection to work through their progressions. That is of course before inevitably throwing the ball away or, more often than Denver would like, taking a sack.
The Broncos have allowed 134 sacks since the beginning of the 2016 season through Week 7 of the 2019 season. This year, the offensive line ranks as one of the worst in the league. They have allowed 24 sacks this season; equivalent to the total that they allowed all of 2016.
Surely the lack of protection doesn’t help the overall level of quarterback play in Denver. Though, it isn’t Denver’s only problem. John Elway has made his way through three head coaches since 2011 (John Fox, Gary Kubiak, and Vance Joseph). Elway has also made his way through four offensive coordinators and four defensive coordinators during the same time. The coaching consistency needed to develop young, inexperienced players – especially a quarterback – isn’t a part of the current regime’s philosophy. And that starts and ends with Elway.
History has shown that teams with consistent coaching tend to perform better over time. Take teams like the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Green Bay Packers, all of which have had very few head coaching changes as of late. The Patriots have been with Bill Belichick since 2000. The Steelers have only had three head coaches since 1969 in Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin. And Green Bay has had four (if you include the four games that Joe Philbin coached at the end of 2018) since the millennium. Good consistent coaching leads to consistent success – and that is something that the Broncos organization has yet to find.
The New Normal
If you are a fan of the Broncos, you can’t be a fan of John Elway the president of football operations and the general manager. You can be a fan of John Elway the Hall of Fame quarterback that brought the team to four Super Bowls and winning two of them. But it is irresponsible of you as a fan to take the mediocre play your team has shown over the last four years (and counting) as the new normal.
John Elway lucked out with Peyton Manning when he took the helm of the Broncos. He saw the Hall of Fame prototypical quarterback he wanted to have on his team and pulled the trigger. Ever since, he has tried time and again to find the next version of Manning. By doing this, he has neglected to focus on other key positions preventing them from improving as a team.
If anyone else were in John Elway’s position, they would have been fired a year ago. The fact that the organization hired one of its most famed players into the front office has been detrimental. It is time to move on.