The Broncos’ 13th general manager won’t race into the end zone stands and fight fans to retrieve footballs, buy uniforms and clown socks from a defunct college football bowl and draft from a magazine. He personally won’t paint logos on the helmets. He won’t be a lawyer from The Netherlands, with Dutch as his first language, who never had seen an NFL game a year before his appointment. He won’t stage a bonfire rally in the stadium parking lot, and he will not name himself the coach, too. He won’t be “The X Man,’’ and he won’t be a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback or a Canadian Football Hall of Fame linebacker. He won’t have coached high school baseball or coached as an assistant in the Super Bowl. He won’t utter “Half a loaf is better than none’’ after his team settles for a tie, and he will not experience a players’ Mutiny on the Broncos that results in his resignation. He won’t be an Air Force Academy graduate and member of the U.S. bobsled team. He won’t be a CPA and an original Viking.
Believe it, Robert Ripley.
The Broncos’ next GM won’t have done any of the things the 12 previous Denver executives before him — from Dean Griffing to John Elway — did.
There are 40 possible candidates for the Broncos’ prestigious position.
The first they reached out to for an interview could, and should, be the last man standing.
Anthony “Champ’’ Kelly has an unusual, unique background.
The Bears’ assistant director of player personnel was born 40 years ago in Campbellton, Fla., a tiny town of 200 near the Alabama border. He played wide receiver and defensive back at Kentucky and received a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA. He coached at a Lexington high school, then became a player, the coach and the general manager for the Lexington Horseman, the (minor-league) United Indoor Football league champions while working for the Nurse’s Registry.
Champ was employed by IBM as a software engineer from 2002-05 and started a nonprofit for underprivileged youths.
In 2007 the Broncos hired Kelly, because of his analytical and football background, as a college scout. A year later he was promoted to assistant coordinator of pro and college scouting, and in 2010, John Elway, the newly named executive vice president of football operations, elevated the Broncos’ other “Champ’’ — the most notable was cornerback Champ Bailey — to assistant director of pro personnel.
Kelly, in that role for five years, was instrumental in the luring of veteran free agents Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and DeMarcus Ware and undrafted free agents, such as Chris Harris Jr., to the Broncos, who reached the Super Bowl in the 2014 season.
The players admired Kelly, who describes himself “as husband, father and God-fearing man.’’
When coach John Fox left Denver, Kelly joined him with the Bears as director of pro scouting. Kelly totally reorganized the Bears’ player evaluation system and was named assistant director of pro personnel in charge of grading the 100 top college players, free agency acquisition and advance scouting.
One coach he worked with in Chicago was defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
In 2019 Champ was an aspirant for the Jets’ GM job after being recommended by Adam Gase, who had known him well in Denver. But Kelly was passed over after his interview.
Three former Broncos and Pro Bowlers reached out to me Monday evening and recommended Kelly as Elway’s successor.
Broncos’ CEO Joe Ellis said in his media conference Tuesday that the team made an official request to the Bears to interview Kelly.
Ellis emphasized that the Broncos had been inadequate (read: virtually nonexistent) in “diversity’’ in the executive offices, particularly since more than 70 percent of the players are African-Americans.
Asked about considering African-American contenders, Ellis said: “It’s very important. . . . We will be interviewing several of them.’’ I have counted 28 men of color GM possibilities.
Kelly likely will be a viable prospect for the seven franchises pursuing new general managers.
Elway and Fangio, who have extensive backgrounds with Champ, will make the final general manager selection. If Kelly is their primary choice, the two must act fast and decisively.
Kelly certainly is exceptional — and unlike any of the Broncos’ past GMs.
Perhaps Champ could become a champ in Denver.