Gut Reaction: Broncos extend Elway’s contract, name him GM

Last updated: Feb 12, 2014 11:30 PM

On Wednesday morning, the Broncos announced they've extended John Elway's contract three years - through the 2017 season - and added GM to his title.

With final say on all personnel decisions, Elway has been the de facto GM since he first took over as VP of football ops in 2011, even though Brian Xanders had the title of GM through that season.

Said the Duke of his extension,

I am grateful for the opportunity that I’ve been given with the Broncos. Our goal is to continue building on the culture of winning established by Pat Bowlen, and we remain relentlessly committed to delivering a World Championship to our fans.

My initial reaction was, Wait, Elway has a contract?

It's funny - at least for me, I never actually think about Elway's role with the Broncos as being his job, or something he gets paid for. Rather, it just seems like what he's meant to be doing, with ownership of the team somewhere down the line. It's his birthright, you know?

Of course, there's no way he's doing this for free, and Pat Bowlen likely got out of the lifetime contract business when he fired Mike Shanahan a few years back.

Then again, Elway is the Broncos. He'd have to pull off quite the Matt Millen impression to not be running this team.

Needless to say, this is wonderful news.

To mark the occasion, here are my lists of the best and worst moves of Elway 2.0:

Worst Moves

Now, let's be honest - everything here is nitpicking, because Elway has done a stellar job. It's hard to argue with taking a 4-12 squad and producing three division titles, two 13-win seasons, and a SB appearance in just three seasons. But everyone's going to have misses, and Elway is no exception:

  1. However much blame belongs to Marty Magid, there's no denying that the Elvis Dumervil fiasco could have been avoided at several junctures.
  2. Extending punter Britton Colquitt a year before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent and giving him the heftiest contract of any punter in the league. There are several reasons this was a wasteful move, from Denver's altitudinal advantage, to the presence of Peyton Manning, to Colquitt's subpar performance last season.
  3. Aside from his terrific 2013 season, the same things apply to Matt Prater and his whopper of a contract. In all, the Broncos spent $2M more on specialists than the average NFL team did in 2013, and that's wholly unnecessary. What's worse is that Colquitt and Prater will eat up far more cap space in 2014 ($7,062,500) than they even did in 2013 ($5,312,500). We've been over this a zillion times before, but a team at altitude and with the most prolific offense in league history doesn't need to be paying its kickers much at all. What could the Broncos have done with an extra $2M to work with in 2013? Well, they probably could have signed either Dumervil or Charles Woodson.
  4. Giving Joe Mays $4.5M in guarantees in 2012 was a head-slapper at the time, and it never looked better from there. In a related item - even though they only played 20 or 30 snaps each week - leaving the Mike job in the wrinkly hands of Keith Brooking and then Paris Lenon have been among Elway's biggest miscues. Veteran depth is great, but does the guy have to be 36+ years old?
  5. While Elway is undoubtedly correct when he posits that one can never have enough cornerbacks, paying Drayton Florence a $1.5M signing bonus (only to cut him in a matter of months) was a poor move. Again, though, we're picking nits here, and in this case, it's along with the benefit of hindsight.
  6. 100% hindsight here, but trading Sealver Siliga - who became a key member of the Pats defense down the stretch last year - for John Moffitt, who retired midseason, wasn't such a great swap.
  7. As I wrote many times last year, it takes a lot to crack the roster of an overdog like Denver. But still, collectively, the 2013 draft class had very little impact on the Broncos' season. That's not to say anything about those players' futures in Denver, though, and overall, Elway has presided over some very successful drafts.

Best Moves

  1. Signing Peyton Manning. Obvious best move is obvious.
  2. Getting rid of Tim Tebow, and the Zombies who accompanied him? No-brainer there (no pun intended). Drafting Danny Trevathan with one of the picks that came back from the Jets, and getting cash from them too? Brilliant. TYJE.
  3. I've been an outspoken critic of John Fox's ultraconservative gameday decisions, but Elway's hiring of Fox was an excellent decision, especially considering where the franchise was post-Josh McDaniels.
  4. The 2012 combination of Manny Ramirez and Chris Kuper at right guard was somewhat disastrous; Louis Vasquez didn't just shore up that position, he turned a liability into an outright strength.
  5. Adding Wes Welker to an already prolific passing attack took Denver to never-before-reached heights, and it wasn't even that expensive of a move (two years, $12M).
  6. Drafting Julius Thomas was a great, moderate-risk move, but remaining patient while Orange Julius worked through his injuries might have been even more impressive.
  7. Acquiring Chris Harris as an undrafted rookie has paid enormous dividends. We'd have this ranked higher, but hitting on college free agents is largely about luck.
  8. He may have had a rough 2013, but taking Von Miller over Marcell Dareus was the right call, even if Dareus graded out as PFF's sixth best DT in 2013.
  9. On the topic of breakout seasons by defensive tackles, the signing of Terrance Knighton had an impact wider than Pot Roast's hips.
  10. Re-signing Champ Bailey was Elway's first big move, and showed that he meant business, especially coming off a 4-12 season that would have made a departure by Champ totally understandable.
  11. There's no way the Broncos would have made it as far in 2013 as they did without Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Shaun Phillips, each of whom was signed to an under-market one-year deal before the season.
  12. The Broncos paid Willis McGahee just $5M over two years, during which time he helped convince many suckers that Tebow was a viable NFL quarterback. Wait, is this on the right list?
  13. Brodrick Bunkley was only around for a year, but acquiring him from Philly for a sixth-round choice was among the first of many relative bargains pulled off under Elway's watch. BTW, letting Bunkley leave for New Orleans on a hefty contract was just as wise a decision as trading for him in the first place, just as cutting McGahee made as much sense as signing him.
  14. The Zombies thought the trade of Brandon Lloyd to St. Louis was about sabotaging things for Tebow. However, the deal not only provided more valuable playing time for youngsters Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but it also brought back the pick that would become Malik Jackson.
  15. Waiving Kyle Orton and allowing him to escape Tebowmania was a rare humane transaction in a league that rarely does the right thing by people.


Mike Klis, Jeff Legwold, and Benjamin Hochman react to the news.

Updates - Whoops, forgot about John Fox, after originally having meant to include him; also omitted Louis Vasquez (h/t Yahmule).

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

Gut Reactions