This week’s Monday Morning Manning shows that Peyton Manning is just the second quarterback in the history of the National Football League to have six straight games with a passer rating of 100 or better while having at least 30 attempts in each of those games. Drew Brees did it once, and he and Manning now are the only quarterbacks to have ever accomplished this.
And we all know that Peyton Manning would not be in the Denver if John Elway had not been entrusted with rebuilding the football operations of the Denver Broncos by Owner Pat Bowlen and President Joe Ellis.
John Elway knows what a football player looks like. He has played a lot of football, watched a lot of football, and grew up at the same breakfast and dinner table with a great coach and scout, his dad Jack.
It gives me an especially warm feeling to watch John’s success running the Broncos’ football operations because every move he makes, every step he takes, is a tribute to Jack, who was a great guy besides being a tremendous football man. I suspect John feels the same way.
Last week Pro Football Weekly came out with their mid-season all-pro team and named John Elway as the NFL’s executive of the year for the halfway point.
I sent out some tweets that anyone who does not agree with that just is not paying attention, and there are stats to validate what John has done.
Less than two full years ago the Broncos were at the lowest ebb of franchise history in forty years.
But then Mr. B handed the reins of football operations to the one perfect, right guy. And the Broncos are in first place and have a chance to pound away at some goals.
But you can only accomplish goals with players. Pro sports is unforgiving that way. No matter how hard coaches work, they are dependent on players for their success.
The late Ohio State coach Woody Hayes once way asked is he was superstitious, and he said, “Yes. I believe it is bad luck if you do not have great players.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how John Elway has influenced the Broncos roster in just two years.
Thirty-one different players have started at least one game this year for Denver, and Elway had a hand in putting 23 of them on the Bronco roster.
This includes a very significant free agent signing (no, not that one) of cornerback Champ Bailey. Champ opted to stay here in Denver instead of going to any number of places where the grass might have seemed greener—and now the grass seems lush and plush in the Mile High City, but you do NOT want to play without Champ Bailey.
Also resigned was linebacker Wesley Woodyard, whose development continues at a high level and who like Bailey and Manning is a team captain.
Then, of course, there is the “other” free agent signing—Peyton Manning, of whom an extremely strong argument could be made that he is the greatest and most significant free agent signing in the history of the NFL. And it is a whole lot more difficult to sign a Peyton Manning than to have the first pick in the draft and enunciate the right name on draft day. No knock on anyone else, but the relative perceived difficulty of securing Manning, and the exponential value to the roster of acquiring him, almost cannot be calculated and certainly cannot be overstated.
But it did not stop there.
Willis McGahee was a huge free agent signing at running back for the Broncos, with 1,000 yards last year and another excellent season now.
John Elway drafted Von Miller last year—how good does that look? We’ll let you make your own judgment about his talents and career prospects.
Starting tackle Orlando Franklin also was chosen in last year’s draft, as was safety Rahim Moore. Last year the Broncos signed undrafted rookie Chris Harris, and he led all defensive backs in tackles in 2011.
Colorado native Mitch Unrein also was an undrafted free agent last year, and this year has worked his way into the defensive line rotation. Linebacker Joe Mays and tight end Virgil Green joined us last year as well, along with offensive lineman Manny Ramirez.
He headed the draft that selected Derek Wolfe this year.
This year’s free agents? How about tight ends Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme, defensive tackle Justin Bannan returning for a second tour in Denver, safety Mike Adams, who had a big sack for a safety at Carolina, and middle linebacker Keith Brooking, who is showing everyone that he has plenty left to contribute to a top flight defense.
Starting center Dan Koppen and wide receiver Brandon Stokley were huge signings, along with safety/kick returner Jim Leonhard.
And although hampered by injury and illness, Tracy Porter and defensive tackle Ty Warren were highly regarded free agent signings as well.
Each of those players has started at least one game for the Denver Broncos, and John Elway supervised the signing of every one.
Plus, a non starter who certainly has been a key factor to the recent success of the Broncos is wide receiver/kick return specialist Trindon Holliday, signed as a free agent just a few weeks ago. Holliday is one of just six Bronco players ever to have two return touchdowns in the same season, and each was a big score in a Denver win, one at Cincinnati and one at Carolina.
Every one of those acquisitions came under the watch of John Elway. And as significant as each is, the signing of Manning stands out in particular as the most dramatic free agent signing in NFL history, with Manning playing at the highest possible level.
At the end of the year, when awards and honors are given out, John Elway should be at the front of the line to be recognized as NFL Executive of the Year.