I'd like to take a moment to address some comments from my piece two weeks ago on Denver first-rounder Sylvester Williams.
Broncos777 talked about what had struck him while considering Sylvester Williams (emphasis mine):
Sylvester has a great story. Elway's emphasis on chemistry in the locker room is going to pay off for a long time. Sylvester's experience reminds me of a story a friend from San Diego whose parents had immigrated from Mexico once told me. He said that his parents took him once to the village where they were from and he came back with straight A's!
Nick (ncm42) added,
I cannot say enough how much I love what the front office is building here.
Broncos777 is right about Williams, and his comment includes a great story.
He and Nick are right about John Elway's emphasis on the chemistry of the locker room, attitude, and what the team is building together. It’s one of the many deeper understandings of the game that seems to spring from having the viewpoint of a Hall of Fame player and successful businessman at the helm. Those perspectives have driven his restructuring of the franchise.
The locker room is one of the keys that most teams talk about, but often fail to unify. Elway - with John Fox, Jack Del Rio, and Peyton Manning helping - has changed the entire tone of the team. Players 'get it’ in Denver. An 11-game winning streak is a pretty convincing argument of that.
The scouting department - which Elway went out of his way to compliment in this video - is another thing John put together well, and that’s already shown in the results of his first two drafts. I’d also argue that in several ways - snapping up Sylvester Williams, the Quanterus Smith choice, and the pick of Vinston Painter among them - the quality of the scouting was clearly present in the third draft as well.
Elway saw who was already in the right places, and he also promoted excellence (Matt Russell comes first to mind). He expects the best from everyone and praises the heck out of the people around him. And, if a person isn’t a good enough fit he’s let go, as director of pro personnel Keith Kidd recently was. That’s a tough part of management, but it’s also essential. Kidd’s replacement by former Cleveland GM Tom Heckert reflects the process of constantly looking to get better.
Strength coach Luke Richesson’s team has revised the Broncos' entire concept of physical conditioning, maintenance, and rehabilitation. That connection came via Jack Del Rio; Elway has a reputation in business for getting top managers and listening to their feedback. Del Rio, like Elway, likes anything that gives him an edge. Together, they were willing to change the entire method of team strength training, including rehab and nutrition.
The position coaches are another piece of this puzzle - I’ve raved about line coach Dave Magazu, but Jeff Rodgers has coached special teams at the college and NFL level for 10 years.
Clancy Barone is working with tight ends now, but he was an offensive lineman who became a line coach, spent seven seasons as a college offensive coordinator from 1997-2003, working in that capacity for Texas State University (2003), the University of Houston (2000-02), and the University of Wyoming (1997-99). He had additional responsibilities as assistant head coach for Texas State, while also coaching the offensive lines at Houston and Wyoming. He moved to coaching NFL TEs in 2006, although he coached the offensive line for Denver in 2010. He has 27 total years in coaching.
Richard Smith already had nine years in coaching before he started to coach in the NFL - in 1988. He’s specialized in being a defensive coordinator and a linebacker coach.
The list goes on.
The players are being coached in roughly equal parts by the staff and by the veterans like Manning and Champ Bailey, players who serve to repeat and emphasize the messages that Fox and Elway mention to them. The potential acquisition of Charles Woodson would serve only to help that cause; the right mix of veterans and young talent is essential.
I’m particularly enjoying this time frame because I know that franchises, like people’s lives, tend to move between the endpoints of joy and despair. We were around for the hard times, and they weren’t that long ago. This is the more enjoyable end of the spectrum, and it looks like it’s being built to last. Elway has made that possible. Although I couldn’t argue with the choice of Indy's Ryan Grigson as NFL Executive of the Year, Elway belongs in the same breath as him.
Nick also added,
THIS, my friends, is what it feels like to be a Broncos fan!
Indeed, it is. TYJE!