Broncos Update Insider - 1/7

The power structure's in place. That was the easy part. Now comes the difficult part of rebuilding a franchise that's been largely stripped of top-tier talent and bringing it back to contender status.

It's been known for awhile that John Elway would join the Broncos in a pro personnel capacity. But until Wednesday the responsibilities among the new regime was unknown.

Elway will oversee all football operations as an executive vice president, with a direct supervisory role over general manager Brian Xanders, who not only stays but inherits increased say over the decision-making process.

Joe Ellis, a 16-year employee with the franchise, continues his remarkable rise and will serve as team president and the club's primary spokesperson. Only owner Pat Bowlen is above Ellis on the team's flow chart.

It will be an interesting group to follow, given Elway's lack of NFL front-office experience and Xanders having expanded powers for the first time. Even Ellis has more experience on the business side than the duties associated with his all-encompassing promotion.

All four men will be involved in the team's coaching search, which is the next, most important step as the team moves forward.

"The success that we had and the guys that I played under, Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan, those guys were as competitive as anybody that I have been around. I think the next guy has to have that same level of competiveness to be successful," Elway said of that process.

"He has to have knowledge of the game, (be) a master of those Xs and Os and do a great job in game, as well as the week before in preparation. More importantly, it's about his work with people."

The Broncos already have identified several candidates. The team's brass will head to Atlanta for a meeting with Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey on Friday, followed by interviews in Denver with interim head coach Eric Studesville and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on Sunday.

The team also has interest in New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, but no meetings have yet been scheduled.

The dark horse in the coaching search is Stanford's Jim Harbaugh. Elway, an alum of the school, served as honorary captain at the Orange Bowl and preliminarily gauged Harbaugh's interest. He was expected to call Harbaugh on Wednesday to get a better feel of his thought process after Harbaugh met with the San Francisco 49ers about their vacancy.

"I don't believe there's anybody that's not had that NFL experience that can make that jump -- other than Harbaugh there's nobody in the college ranks that we're interested in talking to," Elway said. "Preferably we'd like to have some head-coaching background in the NFL, but it's not a must.

"If there's a guy who's a coordinator that's up and coming and shows that he can be the head coach ... then he'll be the guy."

What's clear is that the Broncos are trying to distance themselves miles away from the Josh McDaniels era. To hear the talk around Dove Valley, McDaniels was a one-man wrecking crew, though that's likely stretching the truth. Xanders, in particular, is getting a mulligan, through efforts to paint him as the good soldier under McDaniels but not a decision-maker.

"The understanding that we all believed was true was that it was hand-in-hand with Brian and Josh did not work out that way," Elway said. "It was a one-man show there. ... He respected the chain of command."

Once the new coaching staff is in place - don't expect defensive coordinator Don Martindale to be among the returnees - the team has to decide on the future of cornerback Champ Bailey, answer whether Tim Tebow is the franchise quarterback of the future, but, above all, start rebuilding what has been a dreadful defense in two of the past three years, with two of the highest point totals allowed in franchise history.

"The bottom line is continuity," Elway said, pointing to six coordinators in six years. "I know one thing: If I was a quarterback and I was in six different offenses in six different years I wouldn't have been nearly as good a player."

Elway also seemed realistic that the task at hand was more overhaul than subtle changes.

"I know you want world championships and so do we," he said, speaking to what he called a disconnected fan base on some levels due to recent history. "But it is going to take some time for us to do that, with what happened last year. But I will tell you this - when you go back to the culture of the Denver Broncos, and the culture is wining and competing for world championships, we have been there before and we know we can do it.

"It's our challenge to get us back."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RB Correll Buckhalter is among the over-30 crowd wondering if they have a future with the Broncos, who are expected to get younger but still try to keep some influential leaders.

Buckhalter is ready for anything.

"I haven't been through this type of change. This is the first time in my career in 10 years," he said. "When the new coach comes in you don't know if he wants the team to be real young. You don't know if he wants to keep veteran players. So it's tough. But at the same time I think about the positive notes. I was there to play the whole season this year without missing a game to injury. So I think about that. Everything else will take care of itself."

--One of the consistent answers when discussing the shortcomings of Denver's defense among the players is that the group lacked big plays. Denver managed only 18 takeaways and 23 sacks while giving up 471 points.

"At the end of the day the results weren't there," cornerback Andre Goodman said. "You can blame it on injury. You can blame it on scheme. You can blame it on the players. I played for coach (Bill) Parcells and he said you are what your record says you are and you are what your stats say you are.

"We didn't turn the ball over as much as we needed. And if I had to pick one thing, at the end of the day, when you're giving up that many yards, the only thing that offsets it - New Orleans Saints last year, Super Bowl - is turnovers."

--Other than Champ Bailey, who could get the franchise tag before the team allows him to enter free agency, Denver's biggest name free agent figures to be right tackle Ryan Harris.

Elway, while deferring to Xanders, didn't seem all that positive that Harris would be manning that spot next season.

"We've got to get out in the market or find a guy in the draft that can come in and play that, but there's no question that's going to be the hole we need to fill on the offensive line," he said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm going to keep fighting for my job because I think I did some good things for this team. We'll see what they do." - RB Knowshon Moreno, on whether he's established himself firmly as the team's workhorse in the backfield.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The current coaching staff gave their position reports to management and suggestions for the 2011 season. How many of those coaches will be around to see those changes remains an open question.

Both John Elway and Brian Xanders said that the new head coach will have authority over whether to retain members of the Broncos' staff and that no moves will be made until the primary hire is made.

It's nearly a slam dunk that Eric Studesville, who served as interim coach, will have a role. The team appreciated the class and organizational ability he demonstrated in his month leading the team, which will be rewarded.

Studesville served as running backs coach before the temporary promotion.

A roster overhaul can also be expected.

"Where we are right now, we've got to start young because we've got to go through the draft. So, we're going to be a young team," Elway said. "But I think what we can do in the right situation is add free agents in the right areas, someone who we believe can come in and help give us leadership. I don't think there's been a lot of leadership on this team."

TEAM NEEDS

Defensive tackle: The team hasn't settled on 3-4 or 4-3 alignment but has to start building in the interior trenches through the draft, regardless of scheme. Denver hasn't picked a pure first-round D-lineman since Trevor Pryce in 1997.

Inside linebacker: D.J. Williams accumulates statistics but rarely makes memorable, game-changing plays. He also has had off-field troubles, which could lead to a trade and further thin this position.

Safety: Brian Dawkins remains a leader at age 37 and retaining him or letting him go will be a tough call since he's such a warrior. But the position overall lacks speed, range and playmaking ability and its younger players are consistently injured.

MEDICAL WATCH: Denver ended the season with nine players on injured reserve, so many of the major surgeries and recoveries have already begun.

Elvis Dumervil should be ready to go for the offseason program, if there is one, after chest surgery. He's the most vital cog.

Running back LenDale White is stepping up his rehabilitation and should be running on solid ground in January, coming off a torn Achilles.

Champ Bailey's heel injury should heal sufficiently by the end of the month so that he'll be able to play in the Pro Bowl, should either Darrelle Revis or Devin McCourty remain in the postseason chase.





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