Win the Draft: John Elway the GM must be as clutch as John Elway the player

John Elway. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports.
John Elway. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports.

It took John Elway 15 years to win a Super Bowl.

Is 10 long enough to win the NFL Draft?

As a player, Elway was a winner long before he ever hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. In fact, he lifted Broncos teams that had no business playing in Super Bowls or conference championship games. Without Elway, the Broncos wouldn’t have been 0-3 in Super Bowls XXI, XXII and XXIV – they’d have been 0-0. And no matter how good Terrell Davis was, the Broncos don’t win Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII without No. 7, either – no way.

As an executive, he’s been a winner, too. Consider the following:

In Elway’s first five seasons (in a suit and tie), the Broncos won five AFC West titles, played in two Super Bowls and won one.

Under Elway, the Broncos have drafted one future Hall of Famer (Von Miller) and signed two, still-very-capable, future Hall of Famers (Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware) as free agents, as well as a pair of guys sure to find their names on the ballot someday (Aqib Talib and undrafted free agent Chris Harris Jr.)

Anyone in Cleveland not happy with those kinds of results?

Sure, the last four seasons have been downright forgettable – and it’s easy to criticize Elway for those results (a 27-37 stretch, with zero playoff games). He was the one who brought in Vance Joseph, a terrible coaching hire. He’s the one who’s consistently missed the mark in the draft. As the Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla points out, of the 38 draft picks from 2013 to 2017 (picks that had no help from former GM Brian Xander), there are only two current starters (and one of them is named Garett Bolles. There’s no denying it; missing that often in the draft can sure leave the cupboard bare.

But wait, take a look at the last two drafts. Bradley Chubb (2018 NFL All-Rookie). Courtland Sutton (2019 Pro Bowl). Dalton Risner (2019 All-Rookie). Noah Fant (Fant finished the season with the most catches and receiving yards by a rookie tight end in Broncos history). Drew Lock (hey, by going 4-1 behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines, the kid is pretty much the reason the Broncos aren’t drafting somewhere between 5th and 10th tonight). And let’s not forget about inking the undrafted Phillip Lindsay (a 2018 Pro Bowler with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons).

You know sports, though. There were some that agreed with the Broncos’ decision to draft Tommy Maddox in the first round of 1992 – after all, Elway couldn’t win the big one, and, in fact, lost (gasp!) to the Bills in the 1991 AFC Championship Game in Buffalo. For the record, seven seasons later, Elway wore two Super Bowl rings, while Maddox was out of the league with just four NFL starts on his profootballreference page. In retrospect, it seems silly to doubt John Elway the quarterback, but if you’ve been in Denver for longer than a pandemic, you’ll surely recall Elway taking some heat.

As a GM, who has now been on the clock for 10 seasons, he’s probably taken more than his fair share of criticism – especially considering the two Super Bowl seasons (again, Cleveland… you’d take it, right?).

But with just two seasons remaining on his official contract with the Broncos, Elway is due for a “Drive-Like” performance. After three straight losing seasons, a Broncos’ first as a member of the NFL, this feels a little like “ball on the two and 98 yards to the Dog Pound”.

Johnny’s got this, right?

The beauty is that tonight’s draft is tee’d up beautifully. First, the Broncos have a lot of draft capital – enough to maneuver around and get exactly who and what they need – a credit to Elway. But second, third and maybe even 4th, 5th, and 6th, this draft is deep. Specifically, there are more excellent offensive tackles and wide receivers than in the typical draft. As luck would have it, that’s what Elway needs – badly.

Denver is a winning town, and it feels like there’s a strange new pressure on the city’s favorite son. He’s got to win this year’s draft, no doubt.

With nine seasons under his belt, Elway should have a good idea as to how to avoid being on the hotseat. Besides, this is crunchtime – late in the game for No. 7 – and that’s where Elway thrives.

It took Elway 15 years to win a Super Bowl. Winning his 10th NFL Draft seems extremely doable.

Let’s face it; he is John Elway.

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