broncosMillen hopes Elway succeeds where he failed
By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
Posted: 01/05/2011 01:00:00 AM MST
John Elway will be the third to try.
Only twice before in the modern era has a former NFL star player taken the top executive role of a team's football operation with no previous league experience in coaching, scouting or personnel.
The first two went 0-for-2.
In 2004, Hall of Fame Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino was hired to become the team's senior vice president of football operations.
After three weeks, Marino quit. He said the job was too much as he tried to maintain balance with his family.
Then there was Matt Millen, who failed miserably running the Detroit Lions.
The Broncos are counting on Elway to break a trend.
"I hope John does better than I did, because I stunk at it," Millen said.
At least Millen has maintained his sense of humor after his unfortunate, eight-season run overseeing the Lions. Elway, the greatest player in Broncos history — and a player Millen said is the best to ever play the game for any team — will be welcomed by owner Pat Bowlen and chief operating officer Joe Ellis as the head of the Broncos' football department during a 1:30 p.m. news conference today.
Elway has front-office experience. He oversaw the now-defunct Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League, so he will have a slight head start on Millen, who went from the broadcast booth to become the Lions' president and chief executive officer in 2001.
But Elway is vastly inexperienced compared to Ozzie Newsome, another former great player who spent 11 years in scouting and player personnel before becoming the Baltimore Ravens' general manager in 2002.
Millen? Even if he became arguably the most reviled executive an NFL team has employed when he was fired early in the Lions' 0-16 season of 2008, he does understand the challenges confronting Elway."The first thing John has to do is learn the culture of the building," said Millen, who is once again an NFL color analyst. "He should be ahead of the curve, because he's been around it. And then he has to learn the culture of the league. There's a lot of red tape, and there's a lot of politicking. And that's fine; you have that everywhere. Pat will help him. Joe Ellis will help him a lot too. Joe is really good at what he does."
Next, Elway will have to learn the people inside the building. He must become familiar with general manager Brian Xanders, who will join Elway and the not-yet-known head coach in shaping the Broncos' roster."There's a misconception about the job," Millen said. "It's less about the game of football. It's less about X's and O's. It's less about personnel decisions. It's a job about managing people. It's about building a consensus when you pick the right head coach. You can't go in and be this football czar and say this is how it's going to work. If you pick somebody that a coach doesn't like and doesn't coach, that's a bad situation.
"Scouts all have certain types of players they like and don't like. Some guys are good at evaluating backs, some guys aren't good with safeties. Some guys are quarterback guys, some guys aren't. Some guys like athletes, some guys like tough guys.
"John has to get to where he can read all these things in his guys."
Among Newsome's best decisions was to hire John Harbaugh as the Ravens' coach in 2008. Elway seems to be making a concerted effort to make Harbaugh's brother Jim his first coaching hire.
Once the coach is settled on — interim coach Eric Studesville and Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey will also be among the candidates interviewed — perhaps Elway's next big decision will be to oversee the evaluation of Broncos current quarterback Tim Tebow.
"There's no question," Millen said. "Any player who's making any cash, anybody who they've invested in, has to be evaluated. They have people there who have already formed their own opinion. But John is going to have to get his own opinion. Absolutely, John has a shot to be successful."
Mike Klis: 303-954-1055 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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