Broncos fans will always have a special place in their hearts for Hall of Famer John Elway, who is at least partially responsible for bringing the team all three of its Super Bowl titles — two as a player and one as an executive.
Following a successful career as the Broncos’ quarterback, Elway joined the team’s front office as the director of player personnel, then executive vice president of football operations and general manager. There have been some ups and downs during Elway’s tenure in the front office, and the biggest misses have come at the quarterback position.
Signing Peyton Manning
Elway joined the front office in 2011, and his first major move was signing Peyton Manning prior to the 2012 season. While Manning was in the twilight of his career, he had some good seasons with the team before an injury-shortened final season in 2015.
That was the season when the Broncos won their third championship and led to Manning choosing to retire that offseason. So signing Manning gave the Broncos four seasons of a future Hall of Famer under center and a Super Bowl title. Overall, it was a good decision by Elway. Then, there were the not-so-good decisions.
The post-Manning quarterback parade
Following Manning’s retirement, John Elway has made some questionable decisions at quarterback, which usually doesn’t turn out well for a team. The list of quarterbacks that Elway has drafted is a who’s who of NFL busts:
- 2012: Brock Osweiler, No. 57 overall, who had two stints with the Broncos in which he started 11 games
- 2015: Trevor Siemian, No. 250 overall, who made 24 starts with a 13-11 record
- 2016: Paxton Lynch, No. 26 overall, who started four games with four touchdowns and four interceptions
- 2017: Chad Kelly, No. 253 overall, who has yet to start a game
- 2019: Drew Lock, No. 42 overall, who isn’t going to begin the season as the starter
In March, Elway traded a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft to the Ravens in exchange for veteran Joe Flacco, who can help mentor Lock as he adjusts to the NFL.
Is John Elway too old school?
If you look into that list of quarterbacks that Elway has drafted or traded for, they have one particular trait in common — they’re all 6’2″ or taller, and three of the six stand at least 6’6″.
Elway seems to be stuck in the past and targeting tall quarterbacks with big arms but who aren’t very mobile. That was the prototypical quarterback in earlier generations, but now teams are gravitating more toward smaller, athletic quarterbacks — guys like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Sticking with what used to be a tried-and-true formula, rather than adjusting to the modern game and going with more athletic quarterbacks may be one reason why the Broncos haven’t made the playoffs since Manning’s last season in 2015.
Does Flacco represent John Elway’s last hope?
Since the quarterbacks Elway has drafted haven’t worked out, he’s hoping that getting a veteran like Flacco is the missing piece the Broncos need to compete in the AFC West.
If it doesn’t work out, could Elway be out as the Broncos’ GM after the season? He’s a former quarterback, so he should be good at finding talented quarterbacks, but he has been unable to do that so far.
With quarterback being such an important position, if he can’t make the right personnel move under center, the Broncos may decide to move in a different direction and replace Elway with a more modern-thinking, analytically inclined general manager who is better prepared for the modern NFL. Or can the goodwill John Elway has built up in the Mile High City save him?