When I write a long column, I number my different topics and always retire Number 7 for John Elway. I've seen that done by others, here and there, and I always think it's cool to be the guy who started it. As a player, John Elway's career was amazing, and he's very well-deserving of having his greatness honored in whatever little way that people like us can do it. I advocated for the hiring of Elway to a front office role, and I was glad when it happened, but I have to tell you, I'm troubled with what I've been seeing from him.
I have no doubt that Elway is a smart guy, and I have little doubt that he can be a good front office guy. I keep hoping that he'll stop with the media blitz, and that he realizes that it's inappropriate, but there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. I listened to Brian Xanders on Sirius NFL Radio last night, and he's been at it too. It seems like they want to be the public faces of the Denver Broncos, and this is a huge mistake. The front office should speak to the media sparingly, and only in the offseason. Otherwise, they severely risk handcuffing the Head Coach, who is essentially required by NFL policy to be the public face of the team.
Here in snowy Cleveland, I witnessed the phenomenon of the overly talkative front office, and it blew up badly on ex-Browns GM Phil Savage. Romeo Crennel pretty clearly wasn't Head Coach material, and a lot of the reason is that he's a fairly quiet, introverted guy. He doesn't command a press conference or inspire the media to say nice things about him or the team. You know how a guy can be smart, but not really seem so in his public speaking, causing people to assume he's actually kind of dumb? That's what was going on around here with Romeo. Add to that the fact that he had some clock management mistakes, and a Romeo-Is-Dumb narrative really took off, even after the Browns were 10-6 in his second season.
Phil Savage started talking way too much to the media during the 2008 season, and even engaged in an inappropriate email tete-a-tete with some idiot fan. By doing so, he significantly diminished his own credibility and associated himself with the product on the field, which was very disappointing. After that season, both Savage and Crennel were canned, and the Browns started over with a whole new program, which has since given way to another whole new program. If Savage had just shut up, he wouldn't have been associated so much with the product on the field, and the Browns would have had sufficient cover to keep him. (Savage struggled with the management side of being the GM, but he was a good scout, as always.)
John Fox is the opposite of quiet or introverted. When he really gets his feet under him, he's going to have no problem being the public face of the team. There can only be one, and as I alluded to, the NFL requires coaches to address the media twice a week during every game week. He's directly responsible for the product on the field, and it's therefore appropriate for him to be the guy who's speaking for it. If the front office has it in their mind to be commenting as well, you almost can't help but send mixed messages and give the idiot Denver media rabbit holes to go down. Is there dissension at Dove Valley? What did John Elway mean when he said that the team needed to improve? Is John Fox in trouble? Enough speculation goes on already, and there's no need to facilitate more of it by being stupid.
Elway should be building consensus between Fox and Xanders. It's appropriate for him or Xanders (probably not both) to speak after the Draft ends and share some of the rationale of what they did, and help sell the product to the fans. The Draft class is their product. So is the free agent class. Once training camp starts, though, it's Fox's show, and he alone should be speaking for that product. This is how it's done throughout the NFL, and for good reason. While it's true that Elway talking won't cause any wins or losses, it will absolutely influence the media coverage of those things, most probably for the worst.
I get that the Broncos want to create touch points for fans, but John Fox needs to be the guy doing it, not John Elway. Elway needs to publicly be seen as above the fray - otherwise, when things start going wrong, he's not going to be able to separate himself from the mess. He's John Elway, and we all appreciate his importance in Broncos history, but things always get back to "what have you done for me lately?" If I think he's screwing up, I'll have no problem hitting Elway. Right now, I think he's screwing up in a non-meaningful way. If he keeps up this insistence on chatting with the media, it will eventually become meaningful. I'll always retire Number 7 for John, but understand that when I do, it's only on account of what he did as a player.