AFC West: Joe Ellis

Broncos camp report: Day 1

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
A daily review of the hot topics coming out of training camp:
  • When the Broncos selected wide receiver Cody Latimer in the second round of the draft in May, they did it knowing full well Latimer had suffered a fracture in his left foot in a pre-draft workout, much like Demaryius Thomas had before the Broncos made him a first-round pick in 2010. "I think they're like experts when it comes to that because it's worked out for them before," Latimer said. The Broncos dialed Latimer back for much of the offseason -- he did some limited team work in the team's three-day minicamp in June and the final set of organized team activities -- but looked just fine Thursday as he consistently flashed top-tier speed throughout the practice. He will get some premium snaps this season.
  • With Demaryius Thomas excused until Monday, Andre Caldwell took plenty of reps with the offensive starters. Caldwell, who signed a two-year deal to stay with the Broncos just before free agency opened in March, watched the team draft Latimer and sign Emmanuel Sanders. But quarterback Peyton Manning trusts Caldwell and showed even in Caldwell's limited playing time last season he was willing to throw to Caldwell in tight situations. And Thursday Manning made it clear people shouldn't be quick to dismiss Caldwell just yet in the wide receiver rotation, offering, "Caldwell will have a more significant role this season."
  • In the wake of the team's announcement that Pat Bowlen was stepping down as the team's owner this week, team president and CEO Joe Ellis met one-on-one with three players -- Manning, special teams captain David Bruton and defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Ware just signed in March, but this, as well as how Ware has conducted himself in offseason workouts, shows his standing in the locker room already. He spent time with almost every pass-rusher on the practice field Thursday, offering tips during drills, including to Derek Wolfe, Von Miller and Quanterus Smith. It will be absolutely stunning if Ware is not one of this team's five season-long captains.
  • The issue is a long way from being decided, but, as expected, Chris Clark is getting the first look with the starters at right tackle. The Broncos figure to do at least some mix-and-match at the position over the next couple of weeks with Clark and Winston Justice having received the bulk of the work in minicamp and OTAs. But if they stick to the plan to take a look at all of the possibilities, rookie Michael Schofield has shown enough in offseason work to get a look as well.
  • The Broncos lost 16 fumbles last season, the most in the league, and lost three more fumbles in the playoffs. So, safe to say ball security has been a front-burner issue for the Broncos all through the offseason with the appearance of a green ball that has been carried around by the likes of Manning and Thomas. But the fumble reminder is blue for training camp and Manning was toting it around Thursday. Things still need attention as the Broncos put the ball on the ground twice in team drills, both on strip plays by the defense.
  • Some odd and ends: With Chris Harris Jr. on the physically unable to perform list, Kayvon Webster got some work in the base defense in the two practices. ... Linebacker Von Miller, who isn't expected to be cleared for full contact until the Broncos' third preseason game, took part individual drills with the linebackers and some 7-on-7 drills. Asked about his knee he said "it feels good for today."

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Often folks look at John Elway and talk about steely resolve. They talk about competitive fire. They talk about the unblinking ability to turn pressure into football diamonds.

And Wednesday, Elway showed his heart -- showed it with tears welling in his eyes as he tried to talk about Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen's, and Bowlen's family's, decision to step down from the day-to-day work of running the team. Bowlen turned over control of the team to a family trust with team president/CEO Joe Ellis making decisions that were previously Bowlen’s to make and Elway running the team's football operations.

Both Elway and Ellis were emotional as they attempted to talk Wednesday about Bowlen's impact on them, the community and the NFL. Both have spent the better part of three decades working for Bowlen, as well as spending time around the Broncos owner and his family away from the team complex.

For some, it was the kind of emotion they hadn’t seen from Elway, in particular, since he retired from the NFL after the 1998 season. The tears welled in Elway’s eyes as he spoke Wednesday, as he took several pauses and a heavy sigh or two to try to gather himself.

“I’ve worked for him for 30 years ... it’s, uh, going to be very hard not to see him walk through that door every day," Elway said. “He’s given me so much. As a player to be able to play for him, and as I’ve said when I retired, I said as a player all you want is an opportunity to be the best and to be able to compete for world championships and ... that’s what Pat has given us."

Elway also said Bowlen’s tenure as a day-to-day presence in the building “will never be matched, he will never be replaced." In the end, Elway called it a “sad, sad day."

Later, after matters turned to football as Elway walked to return inside the Broncos’ complex, he said “it really just hit me when I sat down to talk about him" that he had not expected to feel so much emotion when he sat down in front of the cameras and digital recorders.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Every person who works inside the Denver Broncos' suburban complex knew this day was coming.

Pat Bowlen would ask the same questions in a meeting that he had just asked a few minutes before.

He stepped away from the tireless work he did on some of the NFL’s most powerful committees, including negotiating some of the groundbreaking television contracts that fuel teams' economic engines.

He started driving less, choosing to ride with the team’s now-retired security director, Dave Abrams, or Broncos general counsel Rick Slivka, or team president Joe Ellis as they routinely went to lunch at a restaurant that overlooks an executive airport.

He was in his office less, too. Former coach Mike Shanahan once said: "[Pat] was an owner you could always find, his office was right next to mine, so some coaches can’t find their owners, don’t talk to their owners. I saw Pat every day at work."

Then for the first time, Bowlen -- who once competed in the Ironman Triathlon -- didn’t go to the league meetings in March.

[+] EnlargePat Bowlen and John Elway
AP Photo/ Ed AndrieskiThe Broncos have enjoyed their greatest moments under the leadership of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway and owner Pat Bowlen, left.
Through it all, those in and around the Broncos have always said Bowlen was "stepping away," choosing to let the people he has in place run the team in the way he hoped it would be operated.

On Tuesday, the Broncos formally announced Bowlen had surrendered control of the team as he battles Alzheimer’s disease. Ellis, who now will add the title and duties of chief executive officer to his duties as team president, will assume control of the team and represent the Broncos on all league matters.

A team statement said: "The Broncos are very saddened that Mr. Bowlen is no longer able to be part of the team’s daily operations due to his condition. We continue to offer our full support, compassion and respect to 'Mr. B,' who has faced Alzheimer’s disease with such dignity and strength."

Commissioner Roger Goodell said to the Denver Post: "This is a sad day for the NFL."

Bowlen publicly had said he suffered some short-term memory loss in recent years, even as far back as 2009, when he fired Shanahan. With tears in his eyes, Bowlen said: "This is as tough as it gets." He then hired Josh McDaniels, but fired him with four games remaining in the 2010 season, with the franchise reeling from on-field losses and its own Spygate scandal.

Early in 2011, Bowlen performed what might have been one of his last great acts as the franchise’s most successful owner. He convinced John Elway to return as the team’s chief football decision-maker.

The Broncos, it seems, always have been at their best with Elway and Bowlen together in some way. Bowlen raised the team’s first Super Bowl trophy, saying: "This one’s for John." There is little doubt if Elway could raise one as an executive, he would say: "This one’s for Pat."

Player and owner. Friend and friend. Boss and employee.

There are those around the league who believe the $35 million expansion of the team’s complex, including an indoor practice facility, was in part a spruce-up, a value-added item, if the team were to be sold. But Bowlen’s wife, Annabel, said in a statement Tuesday: "Long-term, I fully support Pat’s hope of keeping the Denver Broncos in the Bowlen family."

Ellis has been with the team for most of Bowlen’s ownership tenure in Denver. Ellis was the team’s marketing director from 1983 to 1985 -- Bowlen purchased the Broncos in 1984 -- and Ellis returned to the team in 1998 and has been with the Broncos since. Ellis was promoted to COO in 2008 and named team president in 2011.

Together, it now will be Ellis and Elway who will try to maintain what Bowlen always wanted for the Broncos: to be in the Super Bowl hunt.

Bowlen would always enthusiastically and without hesitation pick the Broncos to win the title game in the coming year in what used to be annual postseason sit-downs. Bowlen liked star power. He liked success. He liked the Broncos to be at the front of the line.

The Broncos will hold their first training camp practice Thursday, the 31st training camp since Bowlen became the team’s owner. As Bowlen battles Alzheimer’s, those he put in place -- Ellis and Elway -- to run his team when he no longer could, might have assembled his best team, at least on paper, with a future Hall of Famer at quarterback in Peyton Manning.

Whether this team closes the deal like Elway did in 1998 and 1999 remains to be seen. But you can see Bowlen knew what the future held, and knew what he wanted his franchise to be.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Denver’s potential as a Super Bowl city might not hinge on how the league’s title game went in the open-air MetLife Stadium last month, but rather in the snowstorm that hit the New York-New Jersey area the next day, stranding thousands of travelers who had come to see Super Bowl XLVIII.

At the league meeting this week NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the gathered franchise owners did not discuss the prospect of future Super Bowls in cold-weather cities with open-air stadiums. So, any read on whether or not the league believes Denver is viable as a potential bidder for a Super Bowl in 2018, 2019 or 2020 will have to wait.

The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII in the league’s first Super Bowl played in an open-air stadium in a cold-weather city. The temperature was 49 degrees at kickoff, but the following day a snowstorm affected hundreds of flights and forced scores of travelers to make alternate plans to try to get home.

[+] EnlargeMetLife stadium
Andrew Burton/Getty ImagesMetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Jan. 22, 11 days before it was the site of Superbowl XLVIII.
Goodell said Wednesday the owners did not consider the pros and cons of awarding another open-air Super Bowl in a cold-weather city, but did review how things went in the New York-New Jersey area in February.

“We discussed the New York Super Bowl really in the context of what we achieved," Goodell said. “The successes that occurred, things that we can do better ... but the overall reaction was very positive."

Broncos president Joe Ellis said he believes, after speaking informally to team owners and other high-ranking executives around the league, the decision has not been made as to whether the NFL will have a repeat performance in a northern city with an open-air stadium, but that there are some hurdles that would have to be cleared.

“And it comes down to how appealing it is the league, the public, the ownership and how the fans really feel about it," Ellis said. “That game could have been played in conditions that were far worse this time, like the next day.

"And I think everybody needs to ask the question 'do you want to put the most important game of the season on in conditions people saw in New York the day after the Super Bowl?' Is that fair to fans? To players? To coaches? To the league? To the teams? Here you are showcasing the No. 1 event in the world and you’re doing it in conditions that prevent you from doing it in the best way possible. I think that’s something that needs to be considered, needs to be discussed before they go forward."

Ellis said beyond the weather issues, the contingency plans that came with Super Bowl XLVIII, which included playing the game on either Saturday or Monday, were expensive and difficult to schedule. That list included items like scheduling security and emergency personnel as well as the potential use of public transportation on a weekday if the game had been moved to Monday.

“There were a lot of risks taken there, and a bunch of contingency planning had to be in place that actually may have been somewhat costly and somewhat cumbersome up front before you even had to execute them," Ellis said. “It will be interesting to see how they feel about going through those exercises again."

All of that said, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s desire to have a Super Bowl in Denver is well-known throughout the league, and if the league does open the bidding to cities like Denver with open-air stadium again, Bowlen would want to be in the mix. Cities like Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle would likely want to make a bid as well.

“We could do it," Ellis said. “I know Denver could do it, and for all we know it would be 60 and sunny, or it could be different, but nevertheless there’s no question in my mind that if the league chooses to go forward and do another game with these considerations in mind, cold-weather site and outdoor stadium, that we could do it as well as any city in the country. It’s just a matter of whether or not that will be a consideration, something ownership wants to do again."
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was not at the league meetings this week, but by all accounts he's happy with the people who represented his team at the annual spring gathering and the direction they have taken the team over the last three years.

The Broncos just completed their third season with John Elway as the chief decision-maker on the football side with Joe Ellis as team president. A painful, somewhat embarrassing Super Bowl blowout last month aside, the results have been three consecutive AFC West titles, a favorable enough salary cap situation that allowed them to aggressively work free agency, and fan interest back where Bowlen always wants it to be.

All things, as the Broncos decision-makers adjourned from the meetings this week, have made Bowlen a happy team owner.

"He feels, we feel, the franchise is headed in the right direction," Ellis said as the meetings drew to a close. "Certainly hiring John Elway established the foundation, beginning of a trust that needed to be re-established with our fans, that was No. 1. No. 2, bringing John Fox on helped shift the culture both outside the building and inside the building. Those two hires have kind of re-established trust and re-ignited interest in the team."

Ellis said Bowlen likes the disciplined approach Elway has taken in terms of which players have gottten the long-term contracts that carry heavy salary-cap risks. In the four high-profile deals the Broncos signed with free agents this month -- Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders -- Ware's contract is the only one that carries a significant risk toward the salary cap beyond the 2014 season if Ware doesn’t play how the Broncos expect him to.

Ware is also the only one of the four who is more than 28 years old. The Broncos have taken similar approaches in the previous two forays into free agency when, beyond the deal for quarterback Peyton Manning in 2012, the longer -- three years or more -- bonus-heavy deals have largely gone to younger players.

"John has done a very good job of bringing in players to help us win and he’s done it with the short term in mind and the long term in mind," Ellis said. "He doesn’t waver from that, sticks to his plan with discipline. I know Pat feels this way and so do I, we have the right team in place in football to have short- and long-term success. We’ve established a program that should allow -- they’ll be blips in the road -- but should allow for sustained success."

Ellis added that both he and Bowlen believe the Broncos’ approach has to be draft first and supplement with free agency if the team is to succeed both with Manning behind center and in the post-Manning era.

"People say we’re all-in because of the players we signed, I don’t see that way and John is very open and very honest in how he goes about shaping the roster," Ellis said. "He doesn’t talk about this year, he talks about this year and beyond … . He and Mike Sullivan structure deals that make sure we’re talking about this year and beyond."

"The clubs that have success, that have good performance over time, are the ones that stick to a discipline when it comes to picking players and paying players," Ellis added. "And at times in the past we may have gotten off track by signing players who were fix-it-now type players with fix-it-now type contracts and not showing any regard for financial discipline. Listen we need to spend to the cap to be competitive, we believe that, but you can’t spend recklessly. Some say you’re doing this through free agency, but I don’t think John, and I don’t want to speak for John, but the draft is equally important, if not more, to the organization."
ORLANDO, Fla. -- When Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen formally announced he had promoted Joe Ellis to team president and hired John Elway as the team’s chief football decision-maker in early 2012, most with the team said it was a sign Bowlen intended to step out of the public eye.

And though Bowlen still works from his office at the team’s complex when he is in Denver, he has a far lower profile than he once did in three decades worth, and counting, of ownership. When the team's officials arrived in Florida on Sunday for the league meetings, Bowlen was not with them.

Bowlen has been a fixture at the annual meetings, especially in his time on the broadcast committee when some of the most lucrative televisions contracts in league history were negotiated, so his absence was noted as team executives from across the league gathered in Florida. Ellis will represent Bowlen at the meetings and in any votes, including the "owner plus one" sessions that included the team owner and one other high-ranking team official. Elway will attend most of the sessions as well.

Bowlen has been in Hawaii in recent weeks. Elway joked after the Broncos’ aggressive work in free agency, he may have some explaining to do when the owner returned to Denver.

"But the environment Pat Bowlen creates, his approach and belief that he wants to compete for the world championship every year, that’s a big reason people want to play for the Denver Broncos," Elway said. "We all have a very clear expectation here that he wants to win, to do it the right way."

Since Bowlen largely turned over the business side of the franchise to Ellis and the football side to Elway, the Broncos have gone 34-14 with three consecutive AFC West titles to go with this past February’s Super Bowl appearance, even as they kept their financial house in order against the salary cap.

Elway recently signed a contract extension that takes him through the 2017 season and Ellis said Elway had demonstrated "great vision and leadership" on the job. With a favorable salary cap position and enough cash flow to get the job done, the Broncos were one of the most aggressive teams in the hours after free agency opened.

The team signed defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib, safety T.J. Ward and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos also signed defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to an extension.

Coach John Fox has formally entered the last year of his contract with the start of the new league year and the Broncos have discussed an extension with Fox’s agent Bob LaMonte in recent weeks, including a face-to-face meeting at the league's scouting combine in February in Indianapolis. Elway has repeatedly said he expected to get a deal done.

Elway has said of Fox: "He's done a nice job, I think you look at three AFC West championships, there's a lot to that, but there's also a lot to the expectations of we've got to continue what we're doing."

Offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who drew interest from the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns for their head coaching positions, is also in the final year of his deal in the 2014 season.

John Elway is 'dug in'

April, 19, 2013
For those wondering if John Elway’s role as the Denver Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations is a short-term endeavor, stop.

Denver president Joe Ellis said the legendary quarterback, who is entering his third season as the team’s top football decision-maker, is not going anywhere.

“He’s dug in,” Ellis told reporters Friday. “I went up and visited the draft meetings just to see the interaction and see how they were working in the room. They’re in there early in the morning until early evening with a lot of conversation. John’s listening, hearing everybody out. There’s good dialogue between he and Coach Fox, back and forth, some of the assistant coaches, some of the personnel people. I run out of gas after about an hour and a half -- my attention span isn’t quite as good as theirs when it comes to analyzing players over and over. But they’re doing a lot of hard work. I don’t see him wavering with that at all. I think he’s very good about delegating and listening, but also strong enough and confident enough in his knowledge and his opinions to have the courage of his convictions and make good decisions on behalf of the organization, as I said, short-term and long-term. I believe he’s going to be here for a while.”

Elway has been widely considered a smashing success since taking over as a rookie decision-maker two years ago. Denver has won the AFC West title in both of Elway’s years with the team, and he is the primary reason why Peyton Manning signed with the team last year. Ellis said he has no doubts about Elway.

"Somebody asked me, ‘Are you surprised at how well he’s doing?’ My answer to that would be I’m surprised that people are surprised that he’s doing that well, because he brings a lot to the table. He brings leadership, competitive fire -- he’s one of the most competitive guys you know -- wants to win in the worst way, a lot of intelligence, knowledge, and he brings an outside business perspective to it, which is very, very rare. He’s fully vested in the organization and the community. He understands all about the fans and how much this team means to them. He’s disciplined. It’s very, very noticeable in meeting with him and talking with him. He sticks to his plan. He stays disciplined. Teams get in trouble in this league when they sway from their plan and sway from what is their discipline. I know Pat (Bowlen) feels very, very confident that John will not do that. We’re lucky to have him here.”

In another AFC West note:

Quarterback coach Steve Clarkson is working with Oakland backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor in addition to Tim Tebow. Clarkson told the San Francisco Chronicle that he thinks Pryor can develop into a quality NFL player.

The rebirth of John Elway

April, 6, 2012
John ElwayAP Photo/Derek GeeJohn Elway is bringing the competitiveness he exhibited as a player to the Broncos' front office.
It was midday on the Saturday of the NFL combine in February. The cavernous media room was bustling with activity when a trendy, middle-aged man walked briskly through.

Wearing designer jeans, a leather jacket and looking like he just walked out of a Beverly Hills hair salon, John Elway smiled winningly, shaking hands and offering quick quips as he breezed through.

In the often stodgy world of the NFL, Elway was working the combine his own way. NFL front-office leaders are usually not the leather-jacket-and-$100-dollar-haircut types. Neither are they Super Bowl winning, Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

“John is a very confident, calm, poised executive,” Denver president Joe Ellis said. “There’s no question, he is a qualified leader who is the right man for this franchise.”

Back-to-back Super Bowl wins capped Elway's 16-year playing career with the Broncos. Now 15 months into his newest role, he is showing he has the chance to be successful in his second life in Denver. Since he became the team's primary decision maker in January 2011, the Broncos have begun the process of becoming a front-line franchise -- as they were for much of Elway’s tenure as a player.

He took over a team that had gone 4-12 in 2010 and had lost 22 of its past 28 games. Elway spearheaded an effort that turned the Broncos into a surprise AFC West champion that upset Pittsburgh in the first round of the AFC playoffs -- the Broncos' first postseason win in six years.

Elway made the right choice in hiring John Fox and made the right call last April when the Broncos drafted linebacker Von Miller with the No. 2 pick. Miller notched 11.5 sacks and 64 tackles in his first campaign and was named the NFL Defensive of Rookie of the Year. The quarterback known for late-game brilliance engineered his greatest scoring drive as an executive last month when he won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/The Denver Post/John LeybaJohn Elway has likened signing free agent Peyton Manning to winning the Super Bowl.
When his kindred spirit picked up the phone on the morning of March 19 and told Elway that he had chosen the Broncos, Elway finally got the superstar quarterback he wanted. That let him end the Tim Tebow experiment. Tebow never fit what Elway wanted in his quarterback. Manning did.

Elway received much credit, inside and outside the organization, for outlasting Tennessee and San Francisco. Manning said at his introductory news conference in Denver that Elway played a major role in his decision to sign with the Broncos.

“Certainly, I have had a relationship with John and it goes back a long way, but I’ve seen John now in a different role,” Manning said. “I’ve always seen him as a quarterback, never had to play against him, but that’s always the role I saw him as. Now I’ve seen him as a leader of a franchise and I really like what he had to say. Everyone knows what kind of competitor he is as a player, and I can tell he is just as competitive in this new role. That got me excited, I know he’s going to do everything he can do to help this franchise win.”

Although the decision to move away from wildly popular Tebow could have been controversial, the decision to pursue Manning was considered a no-brainier around the league. Trading Tebow after a playoff win was a bold move by a decision maker bent on making a call he believed was in the best interest of his team -- the court of public opinion be damned.

Elway talked about the thrill he felt when he signed Manning in a video interview with ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Elway likened it to the joy of winning a Super Bowl as a player. Those comments jibe with what some friends have said about Elway in the past year. They said this new role has filled a void in his life and given him a chance to compete, something he dearly missed. When he was hired in Denver last year, Elway joked that he had played enough golf in his retired life.

At the combine, Elway said his role as an executive has reignited his competitive juices.

“To go to Mile High on Sunday and to get butterflies, that’s why I came back,” Elway said.

After his retirement as a player, Elway, 51, was involved in several businesses and ran the Denver franchise of the Arena League with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, whom he remained close to after his playing days ended. Elway often talked about joining the Broncos in a front-office role, but he wasn’t around the team much. However, near the end of the disastrous 23-month Josh McDaniels era, the Broncos believed the time was right to hand the franchise's keys to their greatest and most beloved player.

The combination of Elway’s experience as a Hall of Fame player, his Stanford education, his Arena League and business success -- and the fact that his late father, Jack, was a well respected Denver personnel man -- all made him an attractive leader. Still, everyone heard the whispers that Elway could be another in a long line of playing-field legends turned coaching or personnel failures.

“I think people underestimated how hungry John was and his love for the Broncos,” Ellis said. “He’s been waiting to do this. He brings a deep skill set, including a willingness to roll up his sleeves and work hard. … He has a terrific, deep base of football knowledge and he commands strong business skills. He is perfect for the big picture of our organization.”

Elway has been praised by people inside the organization for not having any ego and for his willingness to learn on the job. “He knows what he doesn’t know,” one team employee said. Agents around the league have been impressed with Elway’s professionalism and knowledge of players and contract situations. They have found him easy to deal with.

His first move may have been his most important. Elway and Fox have meshed beautifully, insiders say, and they have similar personalities and approaches.

“There’s no question, we needed a culture change, and together, John and John Fox have created it,” Ellis said. “We are very confident and happy about where we are with John as our leader.”
Veteran safety Brian Dawkins led a group of 10 Denver Broncos players in a meeting with team president Joe Ellis.

The players wanted to see if they could begin to work out at the facility. Ellis told them that, for now, they will not be allowed to work out there. Ellis did say the team may have an update for the players later in the day.

A team spokesman said the meeting was “pleasant.”

The lockout situation is a fluid one, and there are a lot of moving parts. But it is clear players want to get back to work.

AFC West lockout tour

March, 13, 2011
I know you would much rather read about signings and trades. Believe me, I’d much rather write about actual football-related business.

However, all we have is the lockout and we have to pay attention to it. Let’s take a look at lockout-inspired news from each AFC West team, beginning with an interesting offer by the Broncos:


Broncos’ CEO Joe Ellis said the team doesn’t have a problem showing the players their own books. That has been a sticking point in the labor talks.

“If the league decides they want to open up the books of the Denver Broncos to present them to the union -- I don’t know if the league is into identifying individual clubs because they’re private businesses,” Ellis told the Denver Post. “But with a neutral [auditor] to verify the fact that certain teams haven’t been operating as effectively as they did in the past, we’re a willing and able participant.’”

That’s nice to hear, but unless the league decides to open every team’s books, nothing will happen.

Kansas City

Chiefs’ owner Clerk Hunt is not losing his composure over the lockout. He said it is “part of the process.”

“I really view it right now as just part of the process and hopefully the litigation process will lead both sides back to the bargaining table in the near future,” Hunt told the Kansas City Star. “It’s a bump in the road, but hopefully one we can overcome.”

I commend Hunt for his approach to this situation. It is not panic time. There is still time to get a deal done and save everything that goes along with an NFL season.


The Raiders are taking this lockout thing seriously. Soon after the lockout began, they took down player images from their website. I can’t blame the Raiders. They can do whatever they want.

San Diego

Chargers’ center Nick Hardwick, who was the team’s union representative, is taking a similar approach to Hunt. He is not panicking.

“In general, I’m optimistic,” Hardwick told the San Diego Union Tribune. “I’m going to stay that way. I’m going to control what I can control. I hope all my teammates have that same approach.”
John ElwayRon Chenoy/US PresswireJohn Elway made it clear that the next coach will have to believe in Tim Tebow.
The Duke is back in charge in Denver.

In his introductory news conference to announce that he is the new front-office leader of the team, legendary Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway took command.

He made it clear that it will be his job to regain the fan base's trust that was lost during the Josh McDaniels debacle. Elway spoke on what he is looking for in a coach (he is going to call Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh) and he made it clear that any coach who doesn’t believe in Tim Tebow, probably isn’t the man for the job. McDaniels may have been the person responsible for bringing Tebow to Denver, but the quarterback has won over the rest of the organization, including Elway.

Here are some highlights from Elway’s conference, with quotes provided by the Broncos’ public relations department:

On whether he has maintained discussions with Harbaugh since the Orange Bowl

“I have not, not yet. We are going to put a call into him and see where he is falling and hopefully we get that done today or tomorrow and find out exactly where he is. Obviously, he just got back from the Orange Bowl. I think they got back yesterday and he had some different things that he had to do, so we do have a call into him (and) hope to hear back and see what direction he is going to go ... I did see Jim down there (at the Orange bowl). I did mention to him that I understood everything that was going on and did not want to take a lot of his time with the game that he had to play and the everything that he had to do. But, I did mention to him that if he decided that he wanted to jump to the NFL and wanted to go in the NFL direction that the Denver Broncos would be interested.”

My take: Elway is no on the record about wanting Harbaugh. Let’s see if the Broncos can get him. The San Francisco 49ers have a head start -- they are meeting with Harbaugh on Wednesday.

(Read full post)

Second John Elway era starts

January, 5, 2011
The worst-kept secret in Colorado was officially revealed Wednesday when the Denver Broncos introduced legendary quarterback John Elway as the team’s new executive vice president of football operations.

“John Elway’s leadership, competitiveness and passion for the Denver Broncos will position this team for long-term success through his work leading our football operations,” Denver owner Pat Bowlen said in a release by the team. “John has won championships as both a player and executive, and his experience will be a valuable addition to this franchise. He is the perfect fit for this role, and I am excited to welcome him back to the Denver Broncos.”

Chief operating officer Joe Ellis was promoted to president and general manager Brian Xanders will remain.

But the new direction of the Broncos will revolve around Elway, as expected. This is directly from the team’s release: Elway will have final authority over the Broncos’ football operations and lead the club’s head-coaching search. He will report directly to Bowlen and Ellis on all matters involving football operations.

The importance of Elway’s solution has been known for weeks. Now it’s time for him to officially go to work. Elway has to prove Denver made the right decision by entrusting him instead of an established executive to lead the team.

This is more than a ceremonial position. Elway is going from legendary quarterback to the man in charge of restoring the team’s glory by wearing a business suit. We’ve seen numerous legends try this in the past in several sports and they haven’t always been successful.

Elway has his work cut out for him, and the Broncos hope his nearly unmatched success as a player and his small-scale success as the leader of the Colorado Arena Football League team will result with the turnaround of the Broncos.

Elway’s first duty is to find the right coach for Denver after the Josh McDaniels disaster. His early targets are Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.

Whoever he picks, Elway has to lead the Broncos to the end zone. At 4-12 and with several personnel issues, this is the front-office equivalent of the "The Drive" against Cleveland for Elway.

A Denver candidate to keep an eye on

December, 11, 2010
There will be a lot of names floated in connection to the Denver Broncos’ head-coaching vacancy.

Here’s one name to file away for next month: Mike Nolan.

It makes perfect sense that Nolan is somebody Denver considers. Ownership is familiar with Nolan as he had two previous stints with the Broncos, including last season when he was the team’s defensive coordinator. He also brings head-coaching experience, after three season as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

While he and Josh McDaniels parted ways after one season because they decided they couldn’t work well together, Nolan got along with other key factions of the team. Most importantly, the Broncos’ defense was successful under Nolan. It has crashed badly ever since Nolan left to become Miami’s defensive coordinator.

Denver has had five defensive coordinators in the past five seasons. It will likely have a sixth defensive coordinator next season. Bringing back Nolan would give the unit much-needed stability, something that the Broncos badly crave since McDaniels lasted only 23 months.

Another factor would be that owner Pat Bowlen can hire Nolan without breaking the bank. Bowlen still has to pay Mike Shanahan and McDaniels next season.

Denver COO Joe Ellis said earlier this week the new coach likely won’t have the personnel power Shanahan and McDaniels had. I don’t think that would be a stumbling block for Nolan, who would likely cherish the chance for another head-coaching opportunity.

I’m not saying Nolan will end up being the choice, or that he is the perfect choice, but his candidacy in Denver makes sense for a lot of reasons.
Random thoughts on Josh McDaniels’ firing in Denver on Monday:

Expect to hear a lot of rumors in the next several weeks about replacements. Remember, nothing will likely happen until January.

The Broncos are already denying a local radio report that they are negotiating with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. He may be a candidate down the road, but the Broncos haven’t started the process yet. Like they did during the search two years ago, the Broncos have promised to be up front with the media during their search and won’t hide interviews. Kudos for that.

Expect the John Elway talk to heat up. Elway has said he’d like to become a part owner and he would be open to a front-office job. Perhaps Denver will consider the legendary quarterback down the road.

The Broncos need help in the personnel department. It might not be a bad idea if they hire a general manager and give him power of all personnel decisions, including the hiring of the next coach. The Chiefs went that route when they hired Scott Pioli two years ago and it’s worked out pretty well thus far. Denver is a team that needs a complete overhaul, starting with the direction of the front office.

Denver CEO Joe Ellis and interim coach Eric Studesville will meet with media on Tuesday. It’ll be interesting to hear what direction the Broncos will go in. Before he was fired Monday, McDaniels indicated he wasn’t interested in making rookie Tim Tebow the starting quarterback now that the Broncos are out of the playoff mix at 3-9. I’m sure Studesville will be asked about his thoughts on the subject.

As expected, Bowlen supports coach

November, 29, 2010
My reaction to the news that Denver owner Pat Bowlen said Josh McDaniels will remain the team’s coach in 2011: What else do you expect Bowlen to say?

We know fans in Denver want McDaniels out and many in the media think that should be the case based on his 5-16 record in the past 21 games and the recent videotape scandal that cost the team and McDaniels a combined $100,000 in fines.

But ownership put out signals last month that McDaniels will be back in 2011. A major reason for that is the team still owes money to former coach Mike Shanahan through next season. There is little chance Bowlen is going to pay Shanahan, McDaniels and a new coach in the same year.

Denver CEO Joe Ellis said Saturday that the scandal was not a cause for McDaniels' termination. Still, the fact that Bowlen, who has been keeping a low profile lately, publicly stated his current plans has to be looked at as a strong sign of support for McDaniels.

"Yes he will," Bowlen told Fanhouse when asked if McDaniels will return next season. "I am not interested in making a coaching change.”

"I'm very happy with Josh. Josh is doing a good job. I wish he had a few more wins, but we've got five games to go. I've got 27 years in this business. The ball bounces funny and it doesn't always bounce your way. We've had bad breaks, injuries. I've been around football long enough to know this happens and it's a part of the game. We've still got a chance to make the playoffs. People have been in a position like ours and it's been done before.''

The Broncos are 3-8. They are not going to the playoffs. Bowlen, who indicated that some of the staff may not be as safe as McDaniels, is just putting a happy face on this situation. He knows this team is going nowhere this year.

But neither is McDaniels. I know this will make many Denver fans very unhappy. But you had to see this coming. Denver is planning to give McDaniels another chance.

Now, things can always change. Ownerships in Dallas and Minnesota stood behind their head coaches until the day they were fired.

If fans stop going to Denver’s remaining home games and the Broncos finish 3-13, the cries for McDaniels’ termination will be loud. But as of Nov. 29, Bowlen is sticking to his plan -- McDaniels is staying in Denver.

It’s not a shock.

UPDATE: In a statement released to some media on Monday night, Bowlen said the season has been a disappointment and that everything will be evaluated at the end of the season. This was clearly an attempt to calm fans who may be in an uproar over his comments to Fanhouse.