It won't always be easy to rate Elway's impact on where the current Broncos are headed, but we are going to give it the ol' college try (and no that doesn't mean a bunch of pizza and beer and choosing to do something else instead...).
Elway is basically tasked with returning the Broncos to their former glory, presumably by embracing the watershed moments of their past, things like the Orange Crush Defenses, the most successful running game in the NFL, offensive trickery and league leading QB play. It should also take into account Denver's relationship with its fans, fielding a fan friendly product and re-establishing home field advantage, which may have been the single greatest strength of the Broncos over the years (and which appears to be buried under a parking lot outside Invesco).
Now, all teams will pursue these goals to some degree, but you have to admit there is a decidedly "Bronco Way" of going about achieving the goals outlined above. And that is what Elway is all about, I think. Making sure we are striving in that direction in a "Bronco Way." So how has he been doing?
Great Defensive Play: The heart of the Orange Crush defense was its hall of fame LB talent (whaddya mean they aren't in the HOF?), and in some way shape or form, that DNA has always been well represented in Denver, even during our offensive powerhouse years of the Early Shanahan Era. Whether it was bringing in a Neil Smith for a Super Bowl run, or having a fiery and intimidating leader like Al Wilson manning the mike, Denver has always had special LBs. Except recently. Somewhere around the time Al Wilson fell, we discovered that the LB talent cupboard was relatively bare... DJ was a talent, but chronically misused, and over time speed, leadership, coverage ability and backfield pressure have all been trickling out of the Denver defense like the loss of some all-important lifeblood. Under Elway we have seen a defense-oriented draft, and the addition of multiple LBs, including one considered to be the top pass rusher in the draft, as well as a defensive minded head coach and a "scoring defense" defensive coordinator. Do you think Elway is guiding this defensive overhaul in accordance with Broncos principles?
- Elite Running Game: From a personnel standpoint, Denver has really done nothing on this front since Elway joined the ranks. Free Agency should give a clearer look at what he is thinking, but outside of a tender to Harris that no one thinks will stick, and a promise of a top RB in free agency, this front office seems willing to plow forward with what it has, and what was used under the McD regime, which was, to put it bluntly, not elite. But Fox's hiring of a new OL coach has to be considered an upgrade, but is it the right kind? Is Elway headed in the right direction offensively, in particular with the running game?
- Top shelf QB play: Denver fans are simply too spoiled to get around this particular dynastic element to any great team, so progress in this area is simply a must to maintain a positive relationship with the fans. Elway inherited a particular scenario, and needs to make the best of it. Right after Tebow was drafted Elway noted that it would benefit Tebow to sit behind an established starter like Orton, a luxury he lacked in '83 when only Steve DeBerg was around to provide any challenge (and despite this Elway was still benched 3 times in favor of DeBerg over the course of that disastrous season.) the team has since sent out mixed messages regarding the QBs, putting a price tag on Orton's trade value, naming him a starter and stating that they look forward to all 3 QBs competing in camp. Add in the complexity of a possibly reduced offseason and the signal's from Elway and co. are significantly murky regarding what kind of progress we can expect on the QB front. Are you happy with these developments, or would you rather see these things shaking out differently, with a different message from the top?
- Home Field Advantage: Personally I feel Elway has his heart in the right place here, and highly values this concept, having recently said that anything less than 6-2 at home will not be reaching the goals they have set for themselves. On the other hand, it wasn't long ago when anything less than 8-0 at home was considered a bit of an abberation. He mentioned the strategic nature of a defense getting off on third downs and sustained offensive production in the same breath as being critical to sustaining that fan enthusiasm throughout a game, and keeping the 12th man relevant, but on the other hand, maybe 6-2 isn't what they should be striving for? What do you think, has Elway's standards dropped a bit?
Please add anything else relevant to grading his current tenure in the comments below, and thanks for voting! (also, due to popular request, the third option has been renamed.)