Understanding John Elway & The Denver Broncos Approach To Winning In The Offseason

Carl Dumler analyzes how the decisions John Elway and the Broncos front office make in the offseason, consistently put them in a position to win on the grid-iron.

In the NFL, the difference between success and failure is razor thin. Around 45 percent of all NFL games over the past 20 years have been decided by seven points or less. Almost 24 percent of all games have been decided by three points or less.

The smallest decision can make all the difference. Not all of those decisions that decide the outcome of a game happen during the game — or even during the season. One of the more overlooked aspects are that of the offseason decisions.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1757296-flash-sale-get-5-months-o... The right or wrong decision truly could be the difference between a Super Bowl trophy coming home, or front office employees, coaches, and players quickly looking for new employment elsewhere.

There are two ways to find sustained success in the NFL. The first is to get lucky and find a top-5 QB that can do enough to cover up the obvious deficiencies of the rest of the roster.

The other is to have a great front office that makes sure the roster from top to bottom has great talent to compete on both sides of the ball. Fans should feel very fortunate that the Denver Broncos have one of the strongest front offices in the NFL. They have shown an elite ability to pay attention to the smallest of details, that in the end could make all the difference. 

Thinking back over the last few years, there are countless examples of Denver's front office handling the offseason the right way. One of the first that sticks out is how GM John Elway handled the courtship of Peyton Manning.

Elway especially understood the mindset of what Manning wanted to hear and what he wanted to experience in making his decision. Other teams scared Manning away by being overaggressive in their pursuit.

Seattle tried to surprise Manning by showing up in Denver to meet with him and he turned them down. San Francisco tried to show up at one of his practices in disguises. Elway, on the other hand, showed Manning how he planned to surround him with the best team to help him win another Super Bowl. 

Matthew Emmons/USA Today

Elway respected that Manning was going through a very stressful process that was more public than even Manning wanted it to be. So, when Manning left the Broncos facility, Elway even went to the point of sending seven different vehicles in seven different directions, trying to confuse the media and give Manning some privacy. Those little details obviously paid off in the Broncos winning maybe the greatest free agent signing in NFL history.

In 2014 we also saw the Broncos make some of the biggest signings that maybe changed the whole course of the franchise. That offseason started with Elway deciding that the Broncos defense had to form an identity of being one of the most destructive units in the entire NFL.

Now, while the Broncos have not said this was done on purpose, the two biggest signings of that offseason shared a plane ride from Dallas to Denver. Cornerback Aqib Talib was flying to Denver for his official press conference, after he had agreed to sign with the Broncos.

Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware was flying in after the Cowboys released him and coming in for a visit to see if the Broncos were a good fit. They just so happened to be on the same flight and eventually struck up a conversation.

It was during this conversation that Ware was quoted as saying, “'You know what? I see exactly what they’re doing.’ So it was good. When I looked back there in that back seat and I see Talib, I’m like, 'You know what? They’re trying to get the job done.'”

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1752165-broncos-offseason-all-you... This offseason we have seen the Broncos masterfully set up the opportunity to hire the man they wanted to become the 16th Head Coach in team history in Vance Joseph. He was considered one of the hottest coaching candidates available, with possibly four more interviews set up after meeting with the Broncos.

The reason I bring up the Joseph example is because Elway has displayed two major philosophies that have helped him and the Broncos land some of the top players and coaches they've targeted. Elway works hard to be the first to interview, or he makes sure that interview happens in the evening to keep the player or coach around overnight.

Vance Joseph was scheduled to head to the Los Angeles Chargers the next morning, but that extra time mulling over the decision for both Elway and Joseph led to them meeting in the morning and not letting him leave Denver without a contract. This style of offseason work has become a pattern developed by the Broncos that has found great success.

Beyond the players and coaches they have brought in, the Broncos have also proven that they know when to walk away. The old saying in the NFL goes “sometimes the best deals are the ones you never make.”

The Broncos do not hesitate to walk away if the deal is not on their terms. Media have ripped on the Broncos maybe more for the decisions the team didn’t make than anything else, yet countless times, Elway and company have been proven right.

This past week we just watched tight end Julius Thomas get traded for a seventh round pick after the Broncos let him walk to Jacksonville. That decision netted the Broncos a third round compensatory pick in last year’s draft, where they were able to get safety Justin Simmons, who helped win the game against New Orleans with a blocked extra point. Simmons is also a player that is showing some great promise to be a playmaker for this defense for years to come.

Connected to that last point is the fact that the Broncos are recognized as one of the toughest franchises in the NFL to negotiate with. Some might look at that as a negative, but to me it shows a front office working hard to develop the deepest and strongest depth chart they can.

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The other team that is recognized by agents as difficult to deal with are the New England Patriots. Denver and New England have obviously combined to win the last three Super Bowls and have respectively represented the AFC in each of the last four seasons.

When free agents walk in the building at Dove Valley, it is made very clear that winning championships is the top priority. Not every NFL team has that same mindset.

Players, owners, and coaches will say it out loud but deep down that is not always the case. This negotiating tactic might mean the Broncos miss out on a few players along the way. But in the end, the proof is in the pudding. Since Pat Bowlen took over as the owner of the Denver Broncos, no team in the NFL has a better winning percentage (.612).

Not every decision the Broncos have made has worked out perfectly. Every team in the NFL can point to decisions they wish they could take back.

The Broncos, though, have shown they know how to build a great NFL roster and use many different avenues to accomplish the goal of winning. I expect nothing less than that from the Broncos heading into this offseason.

They have the resources available with great draft capital, a healthy cap situation, and plenty of talent already on the roster. I, for one, cannot wait to see all that the Denver Broncos have in store to remind the rest of the NFL that they are not fading away, but will be back in the hunt and hungry for their fourth Lombardi Trophy. 

Carl Dumler is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. Find him on Twitter @CarlDumlerMHH.

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