Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but everyone is also entitled to challenge those opinions. In a recent Bleacher Report article; m.bleacherreport.com/articles/2080145-why-john-elway-deserves-failing-grade-as-denver-broncos-executive?is_shared=true …Travis Wakeman, the writer, makes the argument that John Elway has failed as an Executive with the Denver Broncos. My first inclination was to let it go but there are so many inaccuracies in this piece that someone had to respond. Let’s take the points one by one.
Wakeman claims that the Broncos seriously over spent for Aqib Talib and should have made a run at Darrelle Revis who ended up replacing Talib with the New England Patriots. This opinion is actually a valid one and shared by others but to say signing Talib was a mistake is a gross overstatement. Revis is probably an upgrade over Talib but Talib is also a huge upgrade over Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie who played for the Broncos in 2013.
Add in the fact that Talib be play alongside Chris Harris and 2014 first-round pick, Bradley Roby and the signing is even a better move. That trio has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL.
As for Elway’s record in free agency since taking over in January 2011, there’s no way anyone can seriously question the results. It would be impossible to recount everyone Elway has signed who has contributed but here are just a few; Wes Welker, Terrance Knighton, Rodgers-Cromartie, Louis Vazquez, Willis McGahee and so many more.
The big names like Talib, TJ Ward and DeMarcus Ware this year get the most publicity but it’s the under the radar signings that have set Elway apart. Knighton might be the best example of that class; he was written off as a bust with the Jacksonville Jaguars but the Broncos saw something in him. Knighton was a beast all season in the middle of the defensive line in 2013, and figures to be a big part of an improved front seven in 2104.
Wakeman then attacks Elway’s draft record and again there have be some misses, but take a look at the picks who are contributing to a championship caliber team. It’s true that Von Miller had a lost season due to a suspension and an ACL injury in 2013, but his talent is undeniable.
Orlando Franklin has been a starter since day one and safety Rahim Moore was having a breakout season before suffering a freak leg injury in week 11 last year. We could go on and on and keep listing all of the draft picks that have contributed to three straight AFC West Titles and an AFC Championship, but you get the point.
As with free agency, Elway’s most impressive work has come late in the draft. The Broncos selected Julius Thomas in the 4th round and now he is one of the best two or three tight-ends in football. Elway and his staff also signed cornerback, Harrisas an undrafted free agent. Harris is now widely considered one of the top corners in the game.
As for last year’s draft class, I agree with Wakeman that the jury is still out. However Montee Ball was a better back than Knowshon Moreno by season’s end, and should have played more in the Super Bowl. Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams got off to a slow start but like Ball, he was one of the better players on the defense through the playoffs. Wakeman claims that the Broncos were deep enough on the defensive line and therefore picking Williams was a mistake.
You can never have too many defensive linemen, especially talented ones like Williams. It’s true that the Broncos had Knighton and Kevin Vickerson but both of those players are older and on short-term deals. Part of being a good executive is keeping one eye on the present and one eye on the future. By drafting Williams, the Broncos now have a very deep and talented group on the defensive line.
As for Wakeman’s claim that the signing of Manning was risky and would be a mistake if the Broncos do not win a Super Bowl, I’m not even sure where to begin with this. Manning could not play another down for the Broncos and it would still be the right move. It’s true the Broncos got destroyed in the Super Bowl by a superior team but they don’t even get close to that game without Manning.
Then there’s this; Wakeman implies that the Broncos would have been better off keeping Tim Tebow because he is 12 years younger than Manning. He admits that Tebow has issues with throwing but points to his 7-4 record, and the playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. How come Wakeman gives credit to Tebow for going 7-4 and winning one playoff game, but Manning gets no credit for going 13-3 for two straight seasons and winning an AFC Title?
If Tebow was so great and has so much promise as a young quarterback, then why has no one signed him? Could it be that Elway saw early on that the Broncos were never be able to win big with a guy who can’t hit the broad side of a barn from five yards away? How anyone can seriously question a move that takes you from Tebow as your starting quarterback to Manning is, again, beyond me.
I know I haven’t hit on every point Wakeman made but I’ll leave you with these facts. When Elway took over the Broncos, they were coming off a 4-12 season and the team was at its lowest point since the 1960’s. Since then, under the direction of Elway, the Broncos have won three consecutive division titles and an AFC Title. No they have not achieved Elway’s ultimate goal of a World Championship, but he’s not done yet either.
Elway saved the Broncos as a player in 1983 and he saved them again as an executive in 2011.