This is not the story I want to be writing about the Denver Broncos legendary quarterback, but here we are. Let me start by simply stating that for as long as I can remember, John Elway has been my favorite football player. Like a lot of people of my generation in Broncos Country, he was my childhood hero.
I’ll never forget the absolute relief that I felt when John Mobley knocked away that 4th down pass from Brett Favre, sealing the elusive Super Bowl title for the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. Elway finally had the last great accolade for his Hall of Fame career.
And in his return to the team as an executive, it was the great John Elway who lured Peyton Manning to Mile High. A new era of greatness had begun, and Elway was the architect. Manning’s career ended in the same way Elway’s had, with a second Super Bowl and the proverbial ride off into a gorgeous orange and blue sunset.
What I want to do is end the story here. Imagine if at this point Elway and Manning had stepped away together. Elway, a god among men in Denver, and Manning the legend who followed him.
Sadly, that is not the story we have to tell. The Pat Bowlen Trust was now in control. John, as we are wont to call him in my house, joined forces with the villain of our story, Joe Ellis, and embarked on a feeble attempt to maintain the Broncos’ status as an elite franchise.
If you are reading this, you already know the football story. The fruitless search for a QB, the carousel still filling up. And speaking of carousels, the coaching carousel just added its fifth passenger since Elway started, going all the way back to the John Fox hire (I know this is George Paton’s hire, but it’s the moving on from the last vestige of Elway that counts).
And since that incredible Super Bowl 50 win, the wheels have come off. Not just the football wheels, either. The recent allegations from Brian Flores, if true, shed light on an unprofessionalism that darkens the cloud that already hangs over Dove Valley.
What really angers me is that this is a franchise that is a part of who I am. My identity, in a way, is tied to this dysfunction. They say never meet your heroes. This falls into that category. If I could just have the memories of The Drive, and The Drive II, and The Helicopter, and “This one’s for John,” and the Super Bowl XXXIII MVP, and ultimately culminating in “This one’s for Pat!” I would be happy.
But it doesn’t end there. We got Paxton Lynch v. Trevor Siemian. Case “Keesum” and “Joe Flacco is still in his prime” and tree shaking.
Now we get to add allegations of being disrespectful to a process meant to raise all boats. Making a mockery of my fandom, and damaging the reputation of one of the QBs on NFL’s Mount Rushmore.
The Brian Flores lawsuit is one that could end up impacting the entire league. It goes beyond the Denver Broncos. Elway’s alleged role is just a small one. But the damage is done. The image is muddied. I know plenty of fans who had already moved on from Elway, and sadly, it’s time for me to do the same.
The business of what happened with the Bowlen family, and the Pat Bowlen Trust, feels dirty. The sale of the franchise can’t come soon enough. It seems unlikely at this point that Elway will be able to convince any of the bidders to include him in their attempt to purchase the team.
A new era in Broncos Country is needed. John Elway need not apply.