I just read a Woody Paige article, Elway back in Broncos' grace, which I notice Gr3yStreet has submitted as a FanShot. It's a feel-good read. John is golfing with Josh, John recently attended a mini-camp workout, John wants to be involved with the Broncos. It always puzzled me that John, the greatest Bronco ever, was so disinterested in getting involved with the team. It puzzled me that Rod Smith, one of the classiest acts ever, who bleeds for the Broncos and is loyalty personified, was "too busy" to be involved. Now we see Smith tutoring Demaryius Thomas after previously trying to work with Marshall. Is McDaniels really as hard to get along with as reputed? Does he really drive away talented players? Or does he simply lack patience for guys whose brilliant me-first stats somehow don't translate into team wins? The quality free agents he's managed to attract suggest that good players do want to play for McDaniels, and it's equally clear that he's managed to make Bronco greats Elway and Smith feel wanted and valued.
Why were they so estranged? I can't speak for Smith but Paige's article suggests it was Shanahan who kept Elway at arm's length.
Elway said: "I told Mike I understood the relationship between head coach and player. My father (Jack) was a coach. I told him I wouldn't cross the line, but he made sure I didn't. . . . However, even after Shanahan and Elway won two Super Bowls (after losing three together) and John retired, the abyss widened, because Bowlen had shouted "this one's for John" after the first title, Shanahan didn't want Elway in an executive role, and if the coach won without Elway, that one would be for Shanahan."
I'm not trying to pick on Shanahan — two super bowls speaks for itself — but the reluctance of former players to get involved with the Shanahan-led Broncos was not a mirage. Neither is it a mirage that two of the most beloved Broncos greats, Elway and Smith, are now happily giving time to the franchise that they never, in their hearts, abandoned. McDaniels, dismissed by some as an egotist, apparently has no problem sharing the stage with past Broncos greats. He has clearly reached out and struck a chord:
McDaniels said: "I've really enjoyed being around John. He means so much to the Broncos, Denver and the NFL. We've had fun, and I look forward to John having a relationship with the Broncos, Pat Bowlen and me well into the future."
Elway said: "I've gotten to know Josh, and I'd like to get to know him even better and assist him and the Broncos whatever way I can. Josh knows what he wants and how to get there."
Where before Elway was so alienated that he passed on an opportunity to become part owner of the Broncos . . .
At the end of Elway's career, Bowlen offered to sell him up to 20 percent of the ownership, and Elway eventually would become COO. Elway declined; he didn't want then to be a minority shareholder.
. . . he's now not at all averse to the idea:
Elway would be willing if Bowlen made the offer again. They were owners (with Stan Kroenke) of the defunct Colorado Crush arena football team. "I did that because I wanted to be in football again," Elway said. "I got the experience on the ownership and personnel side, and I was ready for the NFL . . . Would I like to be part owner of the Broncos? Yes."
Whether or not that works out the Broncos and Elway are actively pursuing a closer, more cooperative relationship:
The Broncos and Elway have agreed that the Hall of Fame quarterback will be an asset with the team's business operations in "marketing initiatives," particularly in advance of the team's game in London, and will observe practices and consult with McDaniels on football matters. . . .
"It's easier to be involved now. I don't need a job title. I don't want to call shots. It's not necessarily day-to-day, but if I can help Josh, Pat and Joe get this franchise back on track, that's important. It's just a matter of being the guy there who if you wanted a different point of view, I can give it."
Would he want to coach? "Oh, yeah. Being off to the side and working it that way . . . spending time with the quarterbacks and the offense."
McDaniels, without his ego being threatened, has made Elway and Smith and no doubt other Broncos greats feel welcome at Dove Valley. This can only benefit, can only inspire the young players who will be representing the Broncos on the field in years to come. McDaniels knows this, and evidently is more interested in winning than in being raised up on a pedestal which, come to think of it, is exactly the kinds of players he wants playing for him. Does reading an article like this make me feel not only warm inside but hopeful for the future? Hell yes!