Elway has shown he’s a top exec

The National Football League will use Super Bowl week to pat itself and its biggest stars on the back.

A big part of the hype will be announcements each night of at least one of the season’s big awards starting Jan. 31 and running through Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3.

Those awards will be Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and the big one, Most Valuable Player.

The Denver Broncos have legitimate contenders for three of those awards, Von Miller in the Defensive Player of the Year category and Peyton Manning in Comeback Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

The Broncos would have a contender — and maybe the favorite, executive vice president of football operations John Elway — in another category, Executive of the Year, but for one thing: The Associated Press and the NFL do not recognize said category.

There is no “official” executive of the year. That doesn’t mean, however, some folks aren’t trying.

Elway already has been voted the executive of the year by Super Bowl Nation, a fan-based website.

In that voting, he received eight votes from the site’s writers, compared to five for John Schneider of Seattle and a smattering of votes for five others.

In an ESPN poll for executive of the year, Schneider got the nod over Elway 8-7.

Another poll, the Pro Football Writers Association, had Ryan Grigson of Indianapolis as the winner, while another poll, The Sporting News, will announce its top executive later this month.

Another sparkling trophy or not, Elway deserves credit for resurrecting the Broncos.

Let’s not even talk about his acquisition of Manning from the free-agent shelf that made sure the Broncos would be contenders this season. That one went above and beyond in simple terms of having the unmitigated gall to try it.

What Bronco fans should be rejoicing over is the simple fact the Josh McDaniels Era is officially at an end. The Road to Ruin that started in 2009 (an 8-8 record in McDaniels’ first season after starting with six wins) and ran through the 2010 season (a 3-9 start before his firing) has been rechristened the Elway Freeway.

Check this out, per the Broncos 2012 Year in Review:

Elway is the first executive in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to post a four-win improvement and deliver a division title in each of his first two years with the team.

His first big personnel move was to re-sign free-agent cornerback Champ Bailey, who was just named to a record 12th Pro Bowl slot, and that came after the previous Bronco administration passed on Bailey.

After Champ in Elway’s tenure have come a dozen more veteran free-agent signings that had a huge impact and a draft that has seen 15 of 16 selections over those two seasons still with the team.

Last season’s draft was only the second time in team history that every draftee made the team, the other being in 2007 when the Broncos had only four selections.

Has Elway done it all by his lonesome?

Obviously not. His first big executive decision early in 2010 was to hire veteran head coach John Fox, a move that caused not much of a ripple on the NFL seismograph, but it helped provide a steadying presence since Fox arrived from Carolina.

Prior to the start of the 2012 season, the Oakland Raiders hired away defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. No problem. In came Jack Del Rio, and all of a sudden the Broncos have one of the top five defenses in the league.

Last week, the Chargers hired away offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Within days, the team’s quarterback coach, Adam Gase, was promoted to offensive coordinator and quickly went about his business of saying he wanted to speed up what already is a very rapid no-huddle offense.

The beat will go on, only more rapidly.

Other big moves Elway has overseen include the jettisoning of General Manager Brian Xanders in May and moving Matt Russell, the team’s former pro scouting director, up to director of player personnel. Nowadays, if Elway is spotted, chances are Russell won’t be far removed.

Over the next several months, Elway, Fox and Russell will be spotted often at all-star games, scouting combines, individual workouts and virtually any other venue in which talent can be evaluated.

Elway and his new regime will make decisions, likely good ones if the past is any indicator, because Elway has had the Midas Touch on virtually everything he has touched.

It would be a touch warranting Executive of the Year — if there only was such a thing, officially speaking, of course.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor.


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