NFL

Is John Elway a Hall of Fame General Manager?

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As the Denver Broncos bask in the glory of winning their third Super Bowl title, everyone associated with the franchise from fans to players to the janitors inside Sports Authority Field at Mile High need to be singing the praises of John Elway.

If not for Elway, Tuesday’s parade that saw over 1 million visitors would’nt have been possible.

“I’m proud that we’ve been able to compete and have good teams since I’ve been back,” Elway stated. “I’ve been around football my whole life. Understanding (my father) as a coach, and getting to spend that time, and learning the game from both sides has helped me tremendously.”

Elway is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. The Hall of Famer played in five Super Bowls, winning two of them.

Having said that, Elway’s due diligence from the front office has been pretty remarkable in its own right.

“Not all guys, especially those who were talented themselves, realize what it takes, especially at other positions,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips stressed. “He’s been able to pick up draft choices and free agents and have a great feel for the strength of the team, where they are as players and how to get them better.”

It all started back in 2002 when Elway become co-owner of the AFL’s Colorado Crush. Elway spent six years with the Crush, which include an AFL League Championship in 2005.

Sure, it was on a much smaller scale, but just to receive that front office experience with the Crush was a huge learning tool for Elway moving forward.

The Broncos legend was named the team’s vice president in 2011, but in the season prior to his arrival, Denver endured an 4-14 campaign, so there was clearly a lot of work to do.

During Elway’s first season in office, Denver went 8-8, won a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers before being ousted by the New England Patriots.

All things considered, it was a good season, but Elway knew he couldn’t win a championship with Tim Tebow as his starting quarterback, which is why he went out and reeled in future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.

Throughout Manning’s tenure in the ‘Mile High City’, he’s helped lead the Broncos to two Super Bowl appearances, while winning the AFC West every year.

After getting demolished by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl two years ago, Elway had to give the defense a much needed boost.

In addition to drafting the likes of Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson and signing undrafted free agent Chris Harris Jr., the Broncos czar went out and spent money in free agency.

He brought in linebacker DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and strong safety T.J. Ward.

Bringing in that kind of talent will instantly improve your defense drastically, which wasn’t anymore evident than this past season as Denver finished the regular season ranked No. 1.

“It helps having played, knowing what I liked and being drawn to those types of players that I would want on my team, and also what I like in coaches based on the qualities of coaches I’ve had,” Elway explained.

Following John Fox’s successful four-year stint in Denver, Elway knew it was time to bring in coaches he was more familiar and comfortable with.

The hires of Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips says it all. 

“The bottom line is I know Gary and he knows what it takes and he has done a tremendous job this year with the team,” said Elway. “When he came in here, he had won a lot of football games, and to be able to come in and get us back to the Super Bowl has been tremendous. There is not a better guy for the job.”

Elway has now joined the great Jerry West as the only Hall of Fame players to win championships as a player and a general manager.

Is this enough to put Elway into Canton as a general manager?

Probably not, but if he continues to keep Denver afloat post-Manning then he’ll have a great shot.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.