In the wake of Denver District Judge Shelley I. Gilman's Tuesday ruling, the Denver Broncos are free of legal entanglement and can now be sold to the highest bidder. With the heirs of late owner Pat Bowlen unable to come to an accord on one of the children assuming controlling ownership of the Broncos, the time has come to sell the team.
Who wins this Game of Thrones?
It turns out that it could be Peyton Manning or even John Elway. Long-time Denver insider, and media maven, Woody Paige reported on Tuesday that the two legendary quarterbacks could compete for the sale of the Broncos with as many as four other potential suitors.
Perhaps a better movie allegory would be Clash of the Titans.
Both Elway and Manning have partnered with an ownership buying group — separately. As the Broncos go up for an NFL auction, Manning's and Elway's respective buying groups will bid to win ownership of the club.
Who would have thought that when Elway landed the biggest free-agent fish in NFL history 10 years ago, he would one day vie for ownership of the Broncos. Together, the Elway/Manning ticket brought home four AFC West titles, two AFC crowns, and a World Championship.
After the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, Manning rode off into the sunset of retirement and just last summer was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame — another elite club in which he joined Elway. Meanwhile, Elway continued to run the team as the Broncos' top football executive — as vice president of football operations/general manager.
Elway was later promoted to president of football operations and one year ago, in the wake of a fourth straight losing season, he relinquished his GM title but remained Denver's president on the football side. In his stead, Elway hired George Paton to take over as GM.
The Paton hire was a great move but as impressive as it was, Elway marred it by saddling his first-year GM with lame-duck head coach Vic Fangio. Fangio was just dismissed after leading the Broncos to a 7-10 finish the past season and now Paton leads a new search for what will be the team's 18th head coach all-time.
Meanwhile, since retiring from football, Manning has more than dabbled in the media business, starting the uber-successful Omaha Productions, which created lauded programming like Peyton's Places on ESPN+.
Neither Manning nor Elway, as wealthy as they are, respectively, have the financial wherewithal to come up with the $3.75 billion that the Broncos are valued at. That's why an 'ownership group' is required.
Multiple investors in the group will forge one bid, respectively. As a prospective minority owner, it is believed that Manning would serve as the 'face' of his buying group and the same for Elway.
However, Elway is purportedly tired of the day-to-day grind of running an NFL team and if successful in his group's bid, might not be the guy on campus operating the Broncos. Manning — 16 years Elway's junior — could have the vim and vigor to do just that, giving Broncos Country a legendary figure to step in and take command of the team.
Who comes out on top? Only time will tell, but CEO Joe Ellis revealed this week — after Denver District Judge Gilman dismissed the Edgar Kaiser estate's 'right of first refusal' suite — that news of the team's sale will come quickly on the heels of the 18th head coach being hired.
This tandem delivered the Broncos a lot of success as a GM/QB combo. Although Elway and Manning never got the chance to compete against each other as players (Elway's last year was 1998, which was Manning's rookie season), the duo will square off in a different sort of game with even greater stakes.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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