DENVER — This doesn’t fix everything. Not even close.
The Broncos in 2017 have more questions and issues and moving parts than they’ve had since 2011… well, goshdangit. That's when John Elway started as GM. OK, hit him with this one: the Broncos have a real quarterback controversy on their hands, and the last time that happened, you know how that turned… oops, nevermind. They won the Super Bowl. OK, here's an arrow he can't dodge: the Broncos open training camp Thursday with a new coach, and the last new coach that Elway hired didn’t do anythi… ah, forget it.
If you come at the Don, you best not miss. The bulk of Elway's six seasons as an executive has been can't-miss.
The Broncos on Monday signed Elway to a five-year contract extension they say will keep the general manager with the team through 2021, at least. It’s the best thing to happen to the franchise since Cam Newton showed up to Super Bowl 50 with gold cleats and entitled airs.
Cutting out the hyperbole, what it all means is pretty simple: the Broncos will be a factor in the Super Bowl race through 2021, at least. They may be a small factor or they may be a big factor, but as long as Elway is running the show, the Broncos will have good players, and if you have good players, you're going to be a factor. Football isn't rocket science, or fly fishing.
“This is a special place, and the Broncos are home to me,” Elway said. “While there’s still a lot of work to be done, I’m excited about the future of this team and this organization.”
The Broncos sought to downplay the Elway contract hullabaloo, even though they'd been talking since last October. When questions were asked about its status the team suggested it was a non-story, that it was going to get done. And they were right. But there’s a reason there was enough fret around here to fill weeks of sports-talk radio: the stabilizing rock that was Pat Bowlen’s leadership isn’t there anymore. The Broncos being good — and “good” is relative, but for this exercise we’ll define “good” as “relevant in the Super Bowl hunt” — was often a given for the three-plus decades that Bowlen’s owned the team. His Broncos have played in more Super Bowls (seven) than losing seasons (five), and, right or wrong, folks can take that for granted.
But now that Bowlen is not directly involved, and there is no clear successor as owner, there was fret and worry and consternation and all the jittery emotions inherent with not knowing if a mostly lovely era is at its end.
Now the stabilizing rock — the impetus for Broncos Country believing that everything’s going to be OK, just like it’s usually been — must be Elway. All those things we were talking about earlier — the questions and issues and moving parts — are things he’s gone through and succeeded in spite of before. Elway turned the Tim Tebow-faced quarterback controversy into peak Peyton Manning. He turned a soured John Fox era into Gary Kubiak, who promptly performed the finest coaching job I’ve witnessed and won Super Bowl 50.
There’s room for criticism of anyone — will an all-time quarterback go 0-for-2 on highly drafted quarterbacks? — but it’s tough to argue with four AFC West titles, 67 wins (only the Patriots have more) and a championship parade.
This doesn’t fix everything, but Elway usually does.