By Dave Bruning
Quality leadership is at the core of all successful professional sports. The reemergence of the Denver Broncos as a Super Bowl contender can be directly tied to the removal of the kid gloves of Josh McDaniels for the steady hands of John Elway, John Fox and Peyton Manning.
The head coaching tenure of McDaniels is widely viewed with angst and anger by Denver fans. It ended ignominiously with the Broncos embroiled in a cheating scandal, caught videotaping another team. McDaniels was previously involved in a similar scandal when he was with the New England Patriots.
Quality leaders rectify their mistakes. Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen did just that by removing McDaniels and turning to Elway to lead one last two-minute drill: revitalize and restore the Denver Broncos.
Elway had publicly and privately expressed his desire to be involved in running the Broncos. He bided his time until getting the call from Bowlen by leading the Colorado Crush to an arena league title and running a successful car dealership and restaurant. Elway had the steady hands of leadership the Broncos so desperately needed.
His first decision as executive vice president of football operations for the Broncos was perhaps his biggest, hiring a new head coach. The culture of the Broncos was in disarray and their performance on the field was even worse. Denver needed an experienced coach looking for a fresh start. Elway chose the steady hands of former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox.
Fox had enjoyed a nice 9-year run in Carolina, taking them to their only Super Bowl. Fox had a reputation as a defensive coach who was endlessly positive and related well with his players. Denver fans have watched his steady hands guide the Broncos back to elite status.
Elway next turned his attention to addressing the quarterback position. He was not enamored with Tim Tebow and did not feel he could be a successful NFL quarterback. The decision wasn’t popular with all Denver fans, but Elway’s pedigree as a player leads me to believe he knew a little bit about what it takes to play quarterback. Hello, Peyton Manning.
I think it is fair to say if Elway were not leading the Broncos, Manning would be playing elsewhere. The Broncos presented Manning with everything he was looking for. Manning’ steady hands currently lead the most prolific offense in NFL history. He and Elway have made Denver perhaps the most attractive destination for free agents and reenergized a passionate football city.
The Denver Broncos have transformed themselves in recent years both on and off the football field. All that’s left is winning their 3rd Super Bowl. They would not have the opportunity to claim the Lombardi trophy were it not for the steady hands of leadership that guide the Broncos.