Peyton Manning Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning Denver Broncos, John Elway Guiding Denver Broncos to Greatest Comeback Ever: A Fan’s Take, When John Elway was hired by Pat Bowlen to be the Vice President of Football Operations in early January of 2011, the Denver Broncos were at a low spot. Barely 14 months later, the team is coming off an improbable playoff berth and the signing of perhaps the biggest free agent in NFL history, Peyton Manning. Critics can disagree, but I think this is John Elway's greatest comeback ever.

Thankfully, it's not just Elway's comeback. It's a turnaround for a very proud franchise with a long history of winning. However, one really bad choice at head coach (Josh McDaniels) seemed to undo decades of success and respect. It wasn't just that the Broncos were 4-12 in McDaniels' second season. It was how those games were lost (badly), and that a scandal emerged during this time that shamed and upset Bowlen, the Broncos long-time owner, so much that he fired McDaniels before the end of the season.

It was hard to find a Broncos fan who actually liked McDaniels and thought he was doing a good job before he was fired. McDaniels, like his mentor in New England, shrouded himself in mystery. He wasn't candid with the press, ran players like Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler out of town, and seemed to think that Kyle Orton was a quality starter in the NFL. The first two could be excused by some fans, but precious few could find a reason to defend the third point.

Enter John Elway. Elway had been supposedly waiting a long time to join the franchise in some sort of management position. While he was waiting, he honed his skills as an executive as an owner/executive of an Arena Football League team in Denver. The year prior to being hired as VP, the Broncos signed Elway to a five-year consulting/marketing contract. Clearly they wanted him involved, and he was eager to oblige.

For the first 12 months of his tenure, I'd have given Elway a B for his results. While I applauded the hiring of John Fox as head coach and the selection of Vonn Miller (2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year) with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Broncos became embroiled in a media frenzy that went way beyond football. No one could have truly anticipated how big the Tim Tebow phenomenon was going to be when they named him starter after Week 5, and I gave credit to Elway at the time for not buying into it.

I'm sure he could clearly see that Tebow's success largely hinged upon the success of John Fox's defense and the changes to the offense that they made once Tebow started. Yes, Tebow made plays at the end to win games, but Elway could see the flaws of Tebow's game from up high in his private box at the stadium. He knew that the Broncos would never win a Super Bowl with Tebow, but that the rabid fan base that Tebow had would be difficult to placate unless Tebow was the starter.

Elway found his one way out of the Tebow mess by acquiring the one player (Peyton Manning) that had the persona and respect to compete with Tebow. Add in the fact that Manning is 1,000 times the quarterback that Tebow is, and you have a way to get Tebow out of town with as minimal outcry as possible (and it was still somewhat substantial). I might be a bit too cynical, but I think Elway's pursuit of Manning had two purposes. The first one was to win a Super Bowl soon to reward the fans for a decade of futility. The second was to get rid of Tebow forever and focus on real football. In that, Elway has definitely succeeded.

Of course, we have yet to see if Elway made the right moves or not this off-season. No doubt many will base their evaluations off of not only how Manning and the Broncos do in 2012, but how well (or not) Tebow does in New York. In any case, based on the aggressive and intelligent nature of the moves he's made so far, I think that the Denver Broncos are in excellent hands with John Elway. The best is yet to come.
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