Scrolling down the comments section of just about any Denver Broncos related article these days feels a little bit like taking a stroll on the deck of the Titanic. As NFL free agency moves into its third week, a collective sense of doom has crept its way into Broncos Country.
It was one thing to see top players like Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas jump ship. Most expected those guys to price themselves out of the market for the Broncos. However, less productive, but popular players, like linebacker Nate Irving and D-lineman Mitch Unrein, have signed elsewhere. And as a result, some fans have finally begun to lose faith in John Elway.
Jason W., a frequent commenter here at MHH describes his concerns this way, “I will be surprised if we make the playoffs the way Elway is tossing out great players.” Jason continues, “Why cut Manning’s pay by $4M, but not keep good players that have been taking us to the playoffs and the Super Bowl?” For Jason, and some other Broncos fans, the bloom may be coming off the rose for John Elway as an executive
As anyone who has read any of my more recent editorial work here at Mile High Huddle can tell you, I certainly have my own concerns about Elway’s approach as a General Manager. In the past three offseasons, he spent too much, and developed too little, although much of that failure in personnel development falls on the former coaching staff. One might think I’d be thrilled to see fans like Jason finally starting to question the once infallible John Elway.
Part of me is. No man is faultless. An inquisitive fan base can hold an organization accountable. And, when fans blindly follow their idols, they’re often led off cliffs. However, I’m happy to praise Elway when he’s doing something right. Today, my message to Broncos Country is simple: chill out. R-E-L-A-X.
Despite what some fans like Jason think, Nate Irving, Mitch Unrein, and Jacob Tamme are not “great players.” The tape tells you so. The statistics tell you so. The metrics tell you so. They are popular players. They’re gritty, seemingly affordable role players. Many fans had simply assumed they would be back. But, it’s clear they were never part of Elway’s plan. And, that’s a good thing.
Elway has finally placed the emphasis inside Dove Valley on developing young, home-grown talent. Players like Sylvester Williams, Malik Jackson, Lamin Barrow, Montee Ball, Quanterus Smith, Kayvon Webster and Derek Wolfe will finally have to produce if this team is going to win. As discussed in my last piece, Denver’s opted to replace outgoing free agents with low cost, high value players. That’s the way championship teams manage free agency.
Despite being one of Elway’s strongest critics in the Broncos blogosphere, I’m more than happy to bow down to the Duke of Denver when he’s right. By letting go of veteran free agents, and forcing young guys to step up, he’s making the type of player development decisions that can ensure the Broncos remain relevant in the NFL long after Peyton Manning steps away.
Speaking of #18, Ross Tucker, a former NFL player and analyst, wrote a piece this past week criticizing the Broncos for “quitting” on Peyton Manning. National analysts like Tucker don’t get it. While Manning is a remarkable player, and it’s been thrilling to watch him play in Denver these past three seasons, it’s not John Elway’s job to worry about his quarterback’s feelings. The Denver Broncos existed long before Peyton Manning was even a speck in Archie’s eye. It’s Elway’s job to make sure the Broncos remain competitive long after Peyton cashes in on his Papa John’s pension.
Something feels amiss in Broncos Country. Fans have grown so accustomed to sexy free agent signings, that this offseason has left them feeling unfulfilled. For the first time since he lined up under the guard in his rookie season, football fans in the Mile High City are questioning John Elway.
As someone who has openly shared his concerns about Elway’s track-record as a GM, I’m happy to see fans finally catechizing Elway. But, in this case, it’s simply unfair. Elway is finally building a roster to last. He’s asking his young talent to step up. And, on his behalf, I’m asking all of Broncos Country to chill the heck out.
FREE AGENCY POSITIONAL PREVIEWS
OFFENSE: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end |
Offensive tackle | Offensive guard | Center
DEFENSE: Defensive tackle | Defensive end | Outside linebacker
Inside linebacker | Safety | Cornerback
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