John Elway, Vice President of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos, met with the press today to talk about Sunday's brutal loss to the Indianapolis Colts, his decision to part ways with John Fox and what the future holds.
Since the Broncos essentially laid an egg on Sunday, speculation has been rampant that the Peyton Manning era in Denver is over. Although nothing is set in stone, Elway's comments and a little reading between the lines, indicates that Manning is still very much a part of the organizational paradigm.
Elway went so far as to say that Manning will be "involved" in the search to find the Broncos next head coach.
“Peyton’s going to be involved," Elway said. "I’m going to talk to Peyton as we go through the process. But there is no timetable. I think we want to be thorough with it. As I said, there are a lot of good candidates, so we want to be thorough with it. So there’s really no timeline to it. We want to find the best guy that’s going to fit that seat upstairs in the head coach’s office the best.”
Many, myself included, have speculated that the best chance for Manning to return again in 2015 would be for the Broncos to hire Adam Gase as the next head coach. But as I type this, Gase is interviewing with the San Francisco 49ers in Denver.
Word from around the league suggests that the 'Niners will give Gase the "full court press", with the intention of not letting him leave the room without signing a deal. However, rumor has it that Elway wants Gase to check with him before inking anything in blood.
The hue and cry from much of the media and fans in Denver, over the last two days, has been primarily directed at Manning. When two of the three trips to the playoffs as a Bronco results in a one-and-done scenario at home, it stands to reason.
The narrative that Manning is a phenomenal regular season quarterback who fades down the stretch and outright folds in the playoffs isn't going away any time soon. Manning's performance on Sunday reinforced that.
But Elway sees nothing wrong in his soon-to-be 39-year old quarterback. He believes that Manning has another season left in the tank.
“I think he does," Elway said today. "I think that we’ve seen what he did this year. Obviously, 10 games into the year we had a little shift as far as what we did on offense, trying to create more balance. So therefore it was something new for him, because he hadn’t had that balance before. So therefore, it was a bit of an adjustment for him and I think he did a heck of a job adjusting. And so everyone’s trying to tie it to the numbers, but if you think about Peyton Manning and you think about the numbers that he’s put up for his whole career and the numbers he put up in the last six games—I think we won four or five of them in that stretch—they just weren’t quite the numbers, but Peyton was still making the right decisions and still playing as well as he’s ever played.”
Fans would argue with Elway on that last point. The eye test contradicts the notion that down the stretch, Manning played as well as he ever has. But later, Elway spoke about the failures at the institutional level, not the individual, to peak at the right time and perform better in the post-season.
“I think that we’ve got to peak a little bit later than we peaked," Elway said, "but I’m not going to get into our conversation of where our differences were.”
There is not doubt that in the Fox/Manning era, the Broncos would roar out of the gates, but either stumble down the stretch, or fall flat in the playoffs. Likely, figuring out how to remedy that issue was the predominant issue that created the chasm between Elway and Fox.
“I think in any relationship, whether it be player-coach, coach-GM, you’re always going to have bumpy patches," Elway siad. "I think the main thing between John and I was we disagreed how to get to the next level. We accomplished so much—four AFC West Championships—but I think the biggest miss between us was how we can take that next step and what is was going to take to get to that next step. I think that’s where that disagreement came from."
For now, Elway will turn his attention toward finding the right man to lead the Broncos as head coach. He's going to take his time and was unwilling to commit to a timetable today. Manning will be involved though.
As for what Elway is looking for in that new hire, he had this to say.
"The next guy, what do I look for? I look for a guy that’s very smart, that’s competitive, that is aching to win world championships like I am. And I think there are a lot of things. You want to get like-minded people. I think that helps a lot, or even to have a great conversation, agree to disagree, but come out with the right decision for what’s best for the Denver Broncos, which is our main goal. I know there are a lot of quality candidates out there. So after we get done here, we look forward to starting that process.”
Whomever the Broncos hire, one thing is for sure. Elway has fully stocked the cupboard. The Broncos certainly do not lack in the talent department. They have some questions in free agency that have to be answered, but there will be a time and a place for that; after the coaching search.