INDIANAPOLIS — Now the task of fixing the Broncos is becoming a little bit more real for John Elway.
Since he was hired as the team’s executive vice president of football operations last month, the Hall of Fame quarterback has logged a lot of time behind a desk, working with new coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders. They’ve watched a great deal of videotape of players on the team and college prospects.
But here, at the NFL Scouting Combine, Elway is doing something he has never done before: Get up close and personal with numerous players the Broncos might consider drafting.
“Everything’s kind of new for me,” Elway said. “I’ve heard about the combine, but I’ve never been here, so it’s kind of (a matter of) going through this process and understanding it. Obviously, there’s a lot of information that’s gained from here and getting to see these guys up front and personal.
“And it’s also nice to kind of see everybody, to get back connected to the guys that are in the league that I haven’t seen for awhile.”
Elway never experienced the combine as a player after his standout career at Stanford led him to become the top overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. He was in Seattle, where one of three combines was held that year, but only to attend a banquet that happened to be in the same place.
Elway arrived at this combine Thursday, then spent his first night interviewing eight to 10 prospects. His first observation was that combine organizers knew what they were doing by limiting each interview to 15 minutes. “I thought it was going to be short, but it’s actually just about right,” Elway said.
Elway said he doesn’t follow any organizational template for assessing players, the way a scout or other members of the Broncos’ player-personnel staff do. That is particularly true when it comes to studying quarterbacks.
“Having the perspective of being where they are, the one thing that I’ve found since I retired is that the game is a heck of a lot easier sitting 20 rows up,” Elway said. “In that end-zone box, you see everything and you don’t have those 300-pounders breathing down your neck. I think the perspective of me having been in the pocket and played that position, I guess I can look at it and try to understand what they’re thinking — what they do think about and what they don’t think about as far as reads, progressions and different offenses that they’re coming out of college (from) — rather than just looking at them as a pure player.”
Fox, for one, has been highly impressed with Elway’s work ethic as an executive.
“He’s all in,” Fox said. “This isn’t a PR move, although he’s very big in the community in Denver. He’s burning the midnight oil, he’s working hard, he’s very willing to learn. This isn’t rocket science; I don’t think anyone’s going to find the cure for cancer. But he understands what a football player looks like. Standing in the huddle and doing the things he did as a team leader and football player at the quarterback position, I think he understands what a football player looks like. I’ve been very impressed. He’s got a great willingness to learn the things he doesn’t know. But he knows football.”