Incoming Rookie Caused ‘Nightmare Thoughts’ of Broncos Legend on Draft Night

George Paton, Denver Broncos

Getty General Manager George Paton of the Denver Broncos.

Denver Broncos fans have longed for the next John Elway as much as the organization has through multiple ownership and front office regime changes. They may have found him in Bo Nix.

At least, those are the feelings one notable fan of the Kansas City Chiefs got after hearing Nix’s name called when the Broncos were on the clock with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2024 draft.

That Chiefs fan was Oregon head coach Dan Lanning.

Lanning is undoubtedly biased after having a hand in Nix’s record-breaking efforts with the Oregon Ducks over the last two seasons. Still, it’s strong praise from someone who has seen Nix more than anyone in a football sense over the last two years.

“I immediately had nightmare thoughts of John Elway,’’ Lanning said jokingly, per the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson on May 9.

“I started to think about the negative.”

Lanning touted Nix’s intelligence, competitiveness, and work ethic among the QB’s strongest qualities, adding that the quarterback has performed on the big stage. He also compared Nix’s detractors to “weathermen.”

“They don’t have to be right,” Lanning said, per Tomasson. “Who cares what they think? It’s about what kind of career he’s going to have.”

Nix’s career arc is as critical of an aspect in all of this as any.

If he starts in Week 1 as some predict, Nix will be the Broncos’ 25th quarterback to start a regular season game since Elway retired in 1999. Broncos head coach Sean Payton went to great lengths to keep his preference at quarterback a secret during the predraft process.

Lanning believes that is the right situation for Nix, and he is not alone in that assessment.

Rival Exec’s Bullish on Bo Nix With Sean Payton, Broncos

Dan Lanning, Bo Nix, Denver Broncos

GettyHead Coach Dan Lanning and quarterback Bo Nix #10 of the Oregon Ducks.

“I’m betting on it (succeeding) heavily,” an anonymous exec said, per The Athletic’s Mike Sando on May 3. “Bo has experience, he has enough arm talent and I think he is going to do what he is coached to do. Sean Payton’s system is optimal for him. Bo is not going to go off-script as much as Russ was going to do. Look, I don’t want him to be successful, but I think he is going to be legit there.”

A different exec pumped the brakes on Payton’s reference to missing out on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes when the head coach was with the New Orleans Saints. Aware of Payton and the Saints’ interest in Mahomes in 2017, the Chiefs jumped ahead of them in the draft.

Not everyone is sold on Nix as a prospect. But even some in that group are keen on his chances to succeed with the Broncos under Payton.

“I’m not a Bo Nix fan, but if anybody can get something out of him, Sean could,” yet another exec said, per Sando. “He’ll program that kid to do exactly what he wants every week. It won’t be enough the first year, but Sean will buy a third year to develop the kid and see if he can get him through.”

Elway’s Hall of Fame career included nine Pro Bowls, one MVP, and two Super Bowl wins in five trips. That is in addition to his counting stats of 51,475 passing yards and 300 touchdowns to 226 interceptions.

Broncos Landed a ‘Steal’ in Troy Franklin

Troy Franklin, Denver Broncos

GettyWide receiver Troy Franklin #11 of the Oregon Ducks.

Fans would likely be happy if Nix approaches half of what Elway did in his career. He has to prove worthy of being QB1 first.

The talent around him will go a long way toward that.

Lanning also had high praise for wide receiver Troy Franklin. The Broncos selected Franklin with the No. 102 overall pick in the fourth round of the draft. He dismissed negative perceptions about Franklin’s passion and insisted he was an “extremely intelligent” player who “works his tail off.”

If Franklin helps Nix achieve a level that warrants the kind of anxiety Lanning described, it will have been a worthwhile investment.

“The Broncos got a steal there,’’ Lanning said, per Tomasson. “That’s a great pick for them.”