Gen­eral man­ager stays in con­trol of team through 2021

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Nicki Jhab­vala

Two months ago John El­way de­clared that Colorado is and will re­main his home and that, to quell any doubts about it, he would have a new con­tract in hand by the start of the sea­son.

“I’m not go­ing any­where,” he vowed.

John El­way kept his word. Three days be­fore the start of train­ing camp, the Bron­cos’ gen­eral man­ager and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions agreed to a five-year con­tract, keep­ing him in con­trol of the team’s foot­ball de­ci­sions through at least 2021.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the trust and con­fi­dence that (CEO and pres­i­dent) Joe (El­lis) has shown in me,” El­way said in a state­ment from the team. “Pat Bowlen has al­ways put out­stand­ing lead­er­ship in place, and I’m grate­ful for the sup­port Joe gives us to com­pete for cham­pi­onships each and ev­ery year.”

El­way’s value to the team as both a Hall of Fame quar­ter­back and an ex­ec­u­tive is un­par­al­leled. In his 22 sea­sons with the team (16 as a player, six as an ex­ec­u­tive), the Bron­cos have ap­peared in seven Su­per Bowls and recorded more Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onships (three) than los­ing sea­sons (two).

Al­though ex­ec­u­tive pay isn’t made public, Bal­ti­more’s Ozzie New­some was said to be the high­est-paid GM, with an an­nual sala-

ry of $3.75 mil­lion per year. Seat­tle’s John Sch­nei­der re­upped last year and was given a salary re­ported to “ap­proach” top pay.

Terms of El­way’s con­tract were not im­me­di­ately known, but he is fully ex­pected to top all.

Re-sign­ing El­way be­fore the start of camp was im­por­tant for the Bron­cos, who knew full well his value to not just the team but the state of Colorado.

“Dur­ing these last six sea­sons, John’s clearly es­tab­lished him­self as one of the best gen­eral man­agers in all of sports. He’s demon­strated im­pres­sive foot­ball in­stincts, a strong busi­ness acu­men and a con­sis­tent abil­ity to build com­pet­i­tive teams,” El­lis said. “There’s no doubt John means a great deal to the Bron­cos, our fans and the en­tire com­mu­nity. It was im­por­tant for us to reach this long-term agree­ment, and we’re all ex­cited to now turn our full at­ten­tion to­ward the 2017 sea­son.”

The team ini­ti­ated dis­cus­sions as early as the mid­dle of last sea­son with the hope of se­cur­ing El­way on a long-term deal then. Talks stalled, not be­cause of dis­cord, but be­cause El­way felt lit­tle ur­gency to ham­mer out his deal amid a Bron­cos coach­ing over­haul, a crit­i­cal free agency pe­riod and the draft — es­pe­cially when his con­tract was months away from ex­pir­ing.

El­way joined the Bron­cos’ front of­fice in 2011 as vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions, then added gen­eral man­ager to his ti­tle and signed a three-year extension in 2014, af­ter Su­per Bowl XLVIII. That con­tract ran un­til March 2018.

As time wore on, ques­tions were raised of El­way’s pos­si­ble in­ter­est in mi­nor­ity own­er­ship. The Bron­cos are still owned by Bowlen, but the team has been placed in a trust run by trustees El­lis; Rich Slivka, the team’s coun­sel; and Mary Kelly, a Den­ver at­tor­ney. Those three have the power to sell the team, but Bowlen’s trust was cre­ated to trans­fer con­trol­ling own­er­ship to Bowlen’s seven chil­dren and ap­point one the rep­re­sent­ing owner.

Bowlen’s plan, El­lis has in­sisted, is the only plan in ef­fect.

But Bowlen’s wishes have al­ways been to keep El­way a part of the Bron­cos.

“It’s hard to imag­ine John El­way run­ning an­other fran­chise,” for­mer sports agent Joel Corry said. “He’s got more lever­age than any GM has had in quite a long time, be­cause what were the Bron­cos like be­fore he got there? There was a bit of a lull be­fore he got there, and it’s kind of hard to ar­gue with the on-field suc­cess.”

In the 12-sea­son gap be­tween the end of El­way’s play­ing ca­reer and the start of his ex­ec­u­tive ca­reer, the Bron­cos made the play­offs only four times and won just one post­sea­son game. Only twice (2000 and 2005) in that stretch did they record more than 10 wins in a sea­son.

El­way took over a team in disar- ray af­ter the failed ex­per­i­ment with young head coach Josh McDaniels and trans­formed the Bron­cos into a 13-win club by 2012.

Den­ver’s 73 wins since El­way took over are sec­ond-most in the NFL in that pe­riod and, over the last six years, only the Bron­cos and the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots have won at least nine games (play­offs in­cluded) each sea­son. To boot, he has guided the Bron­cos to five AFC West ti­tles and two Su­per Bowls, first with the most-pro­lific of­fense in league his­tory, and then again with the NFL-lead­ing de­fense that guided them to their third ti­tle in 2015.

El­way’s tal­ent eval­u­a­tion has spurred much of the team’s suc­cess but is still of­ten un­her­alded for its ap­proach. Over the years, he has signed 16 play­ers who have com­bined for 32 Pro Bowl selec­tions, ac­quir­ing elite tal­ent off the street, on the open mar­ket, in the draft and in col­lege free agency.

Last sea­son was the first in which the Bron­cos failed to make the play­offs un­der El­way’s watch, with a pair of young quar­ter­backs guid­ing the of­fense. In­cum­bent starter Trevor Siemian and firstround pick Pax­ton Lynch will again en­gage in a bat­tle for the start­ing job this sum­mer, with first-year head coach Vance Joseph and his new staff over­see­ing the com­pe­ti­tion.

A new chal­lenge and a new year. For El­way, it’s the first of at least five to come.

“This is a spe­cial place, and the Bron­cos are home to me,” El­way said. ‘While there’s still a lot of work to be done, I’m ex­cited about the fu­ture of this team and this or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

AAron On­tiveroz, Den­ver Post file

Dur­ing John El­way’s time with the Bron­cos, the team has more Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onships (three) than los­ing sea­sons (two).

John El­way hoists one of the Bron­cos’ three Su­per Bowl tro­phies be­fore last sea­son’s open­ing game against the Carolina Pan­thers — the same team the Bron­cos de­feated 24-10 about seven months ear­lier in Su­per Bowl 50 to win the lat­est hard­ware.

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