His seat was warm in 2017 and hot in 2018.
In 2019, through four games and four disheartening losses (eight straight dating back to last year), it’s burning John Elway’s posterior, and many are wondering if (when) he succumbs.
The bloom is off the rose for the Denver Broncos‘ ballyhooed general manager. It has been for a while, in the days that followed Feb. 7, 2016, when the franchise captured its third Lombardi Trophy in one of the biggest upsets you will ever see.
Peyton Manning isn’t walking through the door. But if he did, he’d find a squad with no identity, no stable ownership, no league-wide appeal and, most strikingly, no wins. Leading the Broncos are a rookie head coach who appears somehow less effective than his predecessor and a 34-year-old quarterback cast-off to whom the team inexplicably hitched its star.
At the center of it all is Elway, who picks the groceries, as Bill Parcells likes to say. For another year, this is his creation, his baby. Not Joe Ellis’. Not Matt Russell’s. Not Annabel Bowlen’s. His. And for another year, his baby has crapped the field. Only, this time, Denver seems to be rapidly regressing rather than periodically progressing, and fan morale has never been lower.
Unfortunately for Broncos faithful, Ellis isn’t a co-parent. Neither is Russell, nor Bowlen. For as long as Elway has sole custody, this baby will continue defecating in its diaper — absent consequences.
It’s for that reason, NFL insider Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports believes, Elway won’t get his walking papers anytime soon. He didn’t after John Fox. Or Gary Kubiak. Or Vance Joseph. So why should things change now?
Rhetorical question: They shouldn’t. Not without someone close to Elway who possesses equal or greater power and the authority or clout to check his balances.
“I can’t think of the last general manager ever in the NFL who got five coaches,” Robinson recently said on the Jim Rome Show. “So he’s been through four; I can’t think of an NFL general manager who was ever gifted an opportunity to hire a fifth coach. But, again, who’s there to question John Elway? The reality is, I think John Elway is the owner of the Broncos. In terms of action and the ability to run the franchise … Joe Ellis is technically John Elway’s boss, but Joe Ellis isn’t going to step in front of John Elway. He brought two Super Bowls there as a player, he brought another as a general manager. Now, he can’t get the quarterback situation settled down for the long term. He has not been able to find his next head coach.
Until there’s someone in that organization who takes the controls in ownership, and turns around and says to John, ‘You’re on the clock,’ he’ll continue to make the mistakes that he’s going to make. The only thing that could is fans not showing up. If you saw a dramatic curtail in terms of ticket-buying, maybe that’s what moves the needle. But I don’t think John’s going anywhere.”
Follow the Heavy on NFL Facebook page for all the latest stories, rumors and viral content!
Broncos to Become a ‘Tear-Down Team?’
In the estimation of Robinson, the Broncos are “careening out of control” at 0-4 and, after Sunday’s road game against the Chargers, quite possibly 0-5. It’d be the first time in franchise history that Denver would suffer five consecutive defeats to open a season.
The blame naturally falls at The Duke’s feet, and Robinson speculates either the locker room is fracturing due to disgruntled players or will be fractured by a desperate front office, which may start the process of a rebuild — a full-blown rebuild.
“[Cornerback] Chris Harris makes the remark leaving the locker room after the last loss, they have only have 13 more weeks. When someone has that number in their head in late September, that’s pretty frightening for a franchise like the Denver Broncos. I have to wonder, if this continues to spiral out of control, I think you’re going to see other NFL teams start knocking on John Elway’s door and saying, ‘Hey, you have a lot of pieces here that are tradeable commodities. [Linebacker] Von Miller, Chris Harris, maybe some of these other guys. Are you willing to shed some of these older, veteran players?’
If this goes down a hole, considering you have Joe Flacco at quarterback and aging defensive pieces, Denver might be your next tear-down team in the NFL, maybe unexpectedly.”
Elway Breaks Silence on Losing Skid
The Broncos’ chief executive didn’t mince words nor deflect accountability during a radio appearance on KOA earlier this week. Elway accepted full blame for the club’s mess — as he should — and, in what some perceived to be a fluff response, vowed to fix Denver’s fatal flaws.
“Losing does not get any [easier] the older you get … ultimately this comes down to me so I’m here to get this thing figured out … now’s the time to really put our nose to the grindstone, work at this and see if we can get it figured out,” he said, via BSN Denver’s Andrew Mason.
Elway added: “I think we still have the football players to win, and it’s just a matter of getting over the hump … I know that we still have a good enough team to win football games.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL