John Elway on the Denver Broncos Drafting a Quarterback: “We’re not sure we have a franchise guy on our team right now.”March 31, 2011 – 10:15 am by Michael Bean
It’s been five straight years that the Denver Broncos have missed the playoffs but boy there is a new sense of optimism surrounding the organization. And why shouldn’t there be? Previously defined by the standoffish Josh McDaniels, the Broncos have a new face representing the organization and he just so happens to be the most iconic and revered figure in team history. John Elway has done and said all the right things since being named President of football operations. He’s hired a competent, experienced coach in John Fox, he’s been working his tail off preparing for this year’s draft — a critically important one for the organization — and he’s made himself infinitely more available and accessible to the media and to fans. For the time being at least, Elway has built himself a nice reserve of goodwill in just a short period of time. That could all change if he whiffs on Denver’s draft picks this April, but we really won’t know how to assess their incoming crop of talent until at least a year or two down the road anyway.
Elway joined 104.3 The Fan in Denver to talk about enjoying his new job despite how demanding it is, his philosophy on how best to evaluate talent, if the Broncos will take best player available in this year’s draft or will they try to fill specific needs with their picks, the difficulty of building an elite defense in today’s NFL, the need to be great on one side of the ball and solid in the other, why the interest they’ve shown in this year’s top quarterback prospects is not a smokescreen, and why he believes that top flight defensive line talent is so hard to come by anywhere but early on in the draft.
If he’s enjoying his new job despite being extremely busy:
“I am. It’s been great. Obviously it’s been a lot of work but it’s something that I was hoping to have the opportunity to do for a long time. And that opportunity arose. I really enjoy it. I don’t call it work when you enjoy doing what you’re doing and that’s why it’s been a thrill. Getting Coach Fox in here has been a joy, I mean he’s been really refreshing for this whole building — his energy and his wisdom about the game of football is tremendous. So it’s been great working with him, as well as Brian (Xanders), and getting to know everybody in the building.”
The influence his dad will have on him in terms of how he evaluates talent:
“I think the bottom line is if you look at the great talent evaluators, they all have good instincts. Not only talent evaluators, but anybody who’s good at what they do, they have good instincts in whatever profession they’re in. So I think that’s also something that you need in talent evaluation. And not only as you said the mesuarables that each player has, but also how do they fit within the team, how are they going to be as a teammate. You know, with football, with 11 guys on the field at one time and 53 guys on your roster, everybody’s got to fit in there. And I think the thing over my career that I really noticed is one good thing that we always had here was we always had good people on the team, and for the most part a good core group of guys, and especially when we won the World Championships. And not everybody’s a perfect human being, and I’m not perfect, but I think you try to get guys that can coexist, work together, and all have the same goal. And as I said, when we won the World Championships, we had those type of guys. So having had that experience, having been through three Super Bowl losses, and then having the opportunity to win two, you kind of have an idea of what the difference is between those two teams and what it takes to get over the hump. Because as I’ve said so many times, it’s such a big jump not only getting to that game, but it’s another big jump figuring out how to win it. So hopefully that’s some of the knowledge I can add and give Coach Fox as well as Brian Xanders.”
If he thinks he’ll take a best player available approach in this year’s draft, or if the Broncos will try to fill specific needs with their picks:
“Well I think we have to look at that when we get there. I think you always want to get the best player available. But obviously in our situation where we do have some holes, we’ll have to look at that awfully strongly. What we want to do is we want to get a very good base here. Obviously that’s not going to happen in one year, but we’ve got some holes to fill. But we’re not going to get back away and get just an average player if there’s a great player on the board just to fill a need. So we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but I think that the more great players you can get on the team, the better off you’ll be, and they’re going to make everybody else better. Whether it be talent athletically or leadership-wise.”
Whether he feels it’s tougher to build an elite defense or an elite offense in today’s NFL:
“Well there’s so many great athletes. Obviously with the rules and where they’re going, obviously they’re making it easier on the offensive side of the ball with the different rules that they’re doing to add scoring to the game. So I think obviously it’s easier to move the football. You know, it’s still tough…numbers-wise, you can look at all the different numbers. Still, the bottom line is you come down you got to put it in the end zone. So the numbers can get skewed in the fact that offensively you may have a bunch of yards, but you’re not getting in the end zone. And then defensively, it really comes down to what’s your head coach’s discipline. Obviously with John Fox who we have now, he’s a defense discipline guy. So that’s where his specialty is going to be, and so I think we’re going to be able to get better on defense a lot quicker because of his knowledge of the game and his background of what kind of football he likes to play — which is going to be a physical defensive-minded game and try to run the football. But also you got to realize that you’ve got to be that good on defense but you’ve got to be able to put points on the board offensively. So that’s what we’ll work for. Obviously as I said, we’ve got some holes that we’ve got to get to, but we feel like we’ve got some good you guys on the offensive side. Offensive line wise, we’ve got some good players there — you know, (Ryan) Clady coming off that knee injury and not having the year that he did the year before but still was a great player; and J.D. Walton and (Zane) Beadles who were rookies last year that played every down and played well, and they’re just going to get better; and we got (Chris) Kuper at right guard who’s a dominant guard. So offensively we feel pretty good. Obviously it hurts us to lose Demaryius Thomas to that Achilles injury but we’re hoping to get him back maybe half way t through the season. We’ll see how that responds. And then we go back to the quarterback position with (Kyle) Orton and (Tim) Tebow and (Brady) Quinn to get better in that position. So, defensively I think we’re going to be a lot better with just what John does defensively with his mindset there, as well as with Dennis Allen coming in as the defensive coordinator. A good bright young coach who’s coming in from New Orleans who obviously won it two years ago. So he’s been there, been to the top and knows what it takes. So I think the first focus will be on the defensive side of the ball, but we realize we’ve got to be good on both sides.”
It must be a smokescreen that the Broncos are looking so heavily at this year’s crop of quarterbacks, right?:
“Well the bottom line is at that position, everybody realizes how important that position is. And anytime you have the draft position we have — second in the draft — you have to look at everybody. And we’re looking at every position, not only the quarterback position, but that seems to get the most attention because of what we have here. But obviously if there’s a guy there that’s a franchise guy there, we definitely have to look at it because we’re not sure we have a franchise guy on our team right now. So obviously we’ve got to visit that, look at it, and do our due diligence on it and then we’ll make our decision from there. But no, it’s not a smokescreen. We realize — and I realize — how important that position is, and if there’s a franchise guy there that we know is a franchise guy, we’d have to look at it.”
If he believes that it’s very hard to find solid talent along the defensive line anywhere but early on in the draft:
“It is just because of the fact that it’s so hard to be able to find guys with that size that have athletic ability. Whether they’re raw coming out of college or they’re polished coming out of college, people see that athletic ability with the size and the speed. You just can’t find that, it’s very difficult to find those type of athletes that are that big later in the draft. That’s why I think you see so many of those guys with the speed and the size do not go very deep in the draft.”