Five years ago was not a great time if you were a fan of the Denver Broncos.
They just had one of the worst seasons in franchise history. One could make the argument it was the worst.
The Broncos finished 4-12.
They were embarrassed at home against division rivals Oakland and Kansas City.
Head coach Josh McDaniels was accused of following the Patriot Way and cheating when Denver played in England against the San Francisco 49ers.
That all came after he transformed into a bull moose in a China closet with the Broncos' roster the two offseasons he was in Denver.
The "Boy Genius," as he was labeled when Pat Bowlen and Joe Ellis hired him, was fired before the 2010 season even ended.
The Broncos were in desperate need of life.
They needed a savior.
Enter the guy who did it once before when he arrived in 1983 with a pigeon-toed walk and rifle arm. Could he do it again?
The consensus in NFL circles wasn't just no, it was hell no.
Whoever that "AFC executive" is -- unless he/she works for the Pats -- hasn't gone to as many Super Bowls since '11. https://t.co/eJInP6maPn— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) February 21, 2016
As Mike Florio with Pro Football talk wrote in December 2010 when the Elway rumors started to gain steam, "Meanwhile, a buzz is emerging in league circles regarding the possibility that Elway will waltz into the Broncos front office, Matt Millen-style, and potentially run a team without the experience or, possibly, the skill to do so.
‘Please let the Elway rumor be true!' an executive with another AFC team told us via text message earlier this week."
Even I was part of that crowd when I said it was unwise to put the franchise in the hands of a guy who didn't have the experience.
Shame on me, and shame on those who questioned Elway.
Shame on those who still fail to recognize he's been the best executive in the NFL over the last five years. No one has done it better. No one has been as consistent. No one has been as successful.
Before we list off Elway's accomplishments, let's look at where this franchise was in 2010 when he was hired.
From 2007-2010, the Broncos didn't finish with a winning record. Two times they finished 8-8, once 7-9 and it was all garnished by the 2010 4-12 cowpie.
This was as close to the 1960s and early '70s level of stank that modern-day Denver fans have seen. As a Broncos fan, it was a jolt to the system. Under Mr. B, this just didn't happen. It wasn't supposed to happen. Denver competes for Super Bowl wins, not the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
Once again, Elway set out to save the Broncos.
.@johnelway's 21 yrs w/Broncos as player/GM: 3 SB wins, 7 SBs, 15 playoff berths, 12 div. titles, 2 losing seasons. pic.twitter.com/NYMLmrwpmi— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) February 10, 2016
Five years later, the results speak for themselves.
Super Bowl win. Check.
Two Super Bowl appearances. Check.
Five-straight division titles. Check.
A defense he built is in the discussion for the best ever. Check.
Signed Peyton Manning. Check.
One would think those accomplishments would warrant an Executive of the Year award from the Pro Football Writers of America. As noted earlier, no one in the NFL has done it better.
To the surprise of no one, Elway has not been given the recognition he deserves and earned.
Instead, since 2012, the PFWA has given this award to:
Ryan Grigson, Indianapolis Colts, 2012
John Dorsey, Kansas City Chiefs, 2013
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys, 2014
Mike Maccagnan, New York Jets, 2015
Hey @Jeff_Legwold - how is Elway not getting any sniffs for NFL Executive of the Year? I mean, what else does he have to do? lol— Tim Lynch (@TimLynch1978) February 9, 2016
Do these people watch football?
That's a rhetorical question since most of them make up the 46 people who select the Hall of Fame, and we all know the love they share for the Broncos.
Here is a serious question: Do they think Elway is lucky? That it hasn't taken serious ability to do what he's done?
It's hard to admit when you were wrong.
Crow is not a dish most savor; especially sportswriters, but even more so executives in the NFL. From the second Manning signed in Denver, I've found new ways to eat mine.
Five years later there is no doubt: For the second time, Elway saved the Broncos.
Let's check in with that anonymous AFC executive for a follow up.