If the news we're hearing is true, the Broncos are about to announce a name that could hardly be topped in the state of Colorado when it comes to perfect football memories: John Elway, the slam-dunk Hall of Famer and possibly the best quarterback ever to play the game (that's me sneaking in my argument), will accept the position of vice-president of football operations with the team as early as Monday.
Drafted by the team in 1983, Elway led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning the last two when he finally had a better-than-average team around him before retiring after the 1998 season.
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Of course, the questions are just how involved Elway will be in day-to-day operations, and what will prevent him from becoming another Matt Millen -- an outstanding ex-player (which Millen was) with no clue whatsoever what it takes to run a front office and gather the right kind of personnel together to perform on the field. In short, is this going to be a promotional hire driven by a need to get Broncos fans thinking about the good times?
"I'm not going to get too far into that now," Elway said Friday on a local radio show. "Hopefully, we get something done [this week]. We'll get that all settled. There is a process that has to be followed. If you understand, I don't want to say too much about it right now."
According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Elway will take his title -- the same one given to Mike Shanahan as a result of the Super Bowls Shanahan and Elway won together in the late 1990s -- and work every day out of an office at the team facility. His job will not be to gladhand advertisers and play in Pro-Ams. But can he do what needs to be done?
"It's something that's been on his to-do list forever," former teammate Karl Mecklenberg told Klis. "It's not like the team came to him and said, 'We need your help, we need you to be a figurehead.' When he came to Mr. Bowlen before, Mr. Bowlen made sure he ran him through that whole Arena [Football League] thing. Mr. Bowlen had John run the Crush, and he learned the ropes there. It's about time. They need something. I don't know if a guy in the front office is necessarily the answer. But I think John will figure it out."
[Rewind: Tim Tebow's Friar Tuck haircut]
Mecklenburg's point is a good one. Elway ran the Colorado Crush Arena League team, and the fact that he's a coach's son -- the son of the legendary Jack Elway -- adds some credibility to the idea that he has the acumen to put this together if he can surround himself with the right people. Elway's competitiveness has never been questioned, nor has his intelligence. If he can work with Xanders, who understands the needs of the modern NFL, and has a competent scouting staff ... well, everybody has to start somewhere.
"He has true leadership skills, mental toughness. I can tell that," Xanders said. "And he's going to hold everybody accountable. I think it's a great opportunity for him to oversee the whole football operations of the Denver Broncos, because he knows the expectations of the fans and the organization. And he's going to try and lead us there."
It may not be a traditionally successful transition, but the Broncos could do worse. Remember that for every Matt Millen, there's an Ozzie Newsome, the great tight end who's run the Baltimore Ravens for years and has done so as well as any personnel executive. Who's to say that Elway couldn't make the same leap?
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- Pat Bowlen
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- Matt Millen