John Elway may not wield the same kind of power around the Denver Broncos organization that he once did as its top football executive and general manager, but that doesn't mean his voice is mute. Elway has forgotten more about football than most of us will ever know, and his presence as a sounding board in the draft war room for his successor George Paton shows that his voice still resonates.
Even given his high-profile whiffs on quarterbacks like Paxton Lynch, Elway speaking publicly on the team's current signal-caller always piques the interest of Broncos country.
Television cameras caught up with the Broncos' legendary quarterback this week and he was more than happy to enthusiastically endorse Paton’s blockbuster trade to acquire franchise QB Russell Wilson.
“We’re excited that he’s in town, there’s no question. He was the piece we needed,” Elway told Altitude TV's Vic Lombardi. “We had a good football team around him and I think George [Paton] did a tremendous job of putting the deal together and getting him here. It’s great to see the fan base energized again.”
Given the Broncos' long playoff drought, getting some juice back under center has energized a heretofore fatigued, but still passionate, fan base. Taking out two birds with one stone, was, however, the very definition of front-office mastery from Paton.
Consequently, Broncos fans are now poised to quickly climb back on the gravy train on account of having a quarterback who isn't afraid to mix it with the very best and is a proven winner. Elway is all too aware that Wilson is the key component if the Broncos are going to not only survive but thrive in the uber-competitive AFC West.
“We’ve got a chance to compete in the AFC West, which obviously is going to be tough,” Elway said. “But again, like anything, we’ve got to stay healthy. We’ve had a tough time doing that the last several years. So, if we can stay healthy, Russell’s been there, he’s won Super Bowls, he knows what it takes and the leadership he’s provided is tremendous.”
Avoiding the vagaries of the injury bug will be paramount. Elway is not wrong as the Broncos have been decimated by injuries over the past two seasons in particular.
Elway's misevaluation of a litany of quarterbacks boiled down to, in large part, overestimating the leadership skills of players like Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, and Teddy Bridgewater. Unfortunately, that puts a large asterisk next to Elway's name as a GM of 10 years, despite being the brainchild of Denver's Super Bowl 50 triumph.
Now that Wilson is at the helm, and possibly just before Elway ends his long association with the Broncos, the team finally has a solution under center and winning is back on the menu. Uniting the organization has been a key task for Paton and Elway's specter looking over his shoulder as 'The Duke of Denver' could well have held him back.
But judging by Elway’s positive demeanor and upbeat reactions to Paton's maneuvers, that won’t be an issue the Broncos' current GM needs to worry about anytime soon.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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