John Elway

AFC West Notes: Broncos, Brown, Chiefs

Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell required hospitalization after contracting the coronavirus, according to the team. The second-year Denver DC was hospitalized last week but discharged Sunday, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. He remains away from the team, recovering at home. Donatell, 63, has been battling COVID-19 symptoms since Oct. 31 and has missed the past three games. Donatell, who is in his third stint with the franchise, one of a few Broncos staffers to have contracted the virus. Running backs coach Curtis Modkins did so in October, and offensive line coach Mike Munchak was in the team’s COVID protocol. GM John Elway and team president Joe Ellis tested positive for the virus. Elway announced he has recovered, while Ellis has been in quarantine for nearly three weeks and has yet to be cleared to return, Klis notes.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • The NFL has expressed “serious concern” about the outbreak among Broncos staffers, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. The league and the NFLPA have continued to stress the importance of non-players adhering to the evolving COVID-19 protocols, per JLC.
  • The Raiders have been the league’s chief culprits at violating the NFL’s coronavirus policies, and their latest issue — Clelin Ferrell‘s positive test causing half the team’s starting defense to land on the reserve/COVID-19 list — could conceivably prompt the NFL to move another Las Vegas Sunday-night tilt off of primetime. As of Wednesday evening, however, the league has no plans to change the start time for Week 11’s Raiders-Chiefs rematch, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The NFL moved Week 7’s Buccaneers-Raiders game to a Sunday-afternoon window after Trent Brown‘s positive test caused Las Vegas’ starting O-line to miss a week’s worth of workouts.
  • Speaking of Brown, the mammoth right tackle remains on the Raiders’ COVID list. However, a hope exists Brown can receive clearance to resume workouts next week, Schefter tweets. Brown is naturally at higher risk of developing severe symptoms from the virus compared to most players, due to his weight (380 pounds), but he wants to play again this season. The Raiders have placed Brown on their virus list twice this year, the second time due to a pregame issue in Cleveland resulting in the 27-year-old blocker being hospitalized.
  • While Justin Simmons has not made an issue of his contract since he and the Broncos failed to come to an extension agreement in July, he would prefer to stay with the team, per the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran. The floor for the standout safety will likely be $14MM per year on a long-term deal, with five safeties signing deals worth $14MM AAV or more since March 2019. Simmons has played every snap for the Broncos this season and ranks as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest-graded safety, a year after he landed second on PFF’s list. Citing the pandemic, Simmons said, via O’Halloran, he is grateful for his setup (an $11.4MM franchise tag salary). This comes after he expressed disappointment no deal emerged this summer. If the Broncos tag Simmons again, he would be entitled to a $13.7MM 2021 salary.
  • Former Simmons secondary mate Chris Harris will return to action soon. The Chargers designated the All-Decade cornerback to return from IR on Wednesday. The team has three weeks to activate him. Harris, who signed a two-year deal worth $17.5MM in March, has been out since Week 2 because of a foot injury.

Broncos GM John Elway Tests Positive For COVID-19

Broncos GM John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis have tested positive for COVID-19, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Both execs believe they contracted the virus outside of the team facility and they’ll now stay away from the building, per protocols. The Broncos have since confirmed the news via press release:

[RELATED: Packers’ AJ Dillon Tests Positive For COVID-19]

[Ellis and Elway ]were informed this morning they tested positive for COVID-19. After not feeling 100 percent on Sunday morning, Joe promptly reported his symptoms to our medical team and watched Sunday’s game at home as a precaution. He continued to work from home on Monday before receiving a positive test result this morning.

John immediately left UCHealth Training Center on Monday morning after experiencing minor symptoms that he quickly brought to the attention of our medical staff. Other than mild symptoms, both Joe and John are doing well. They will continue to work from home in self-isolation and participate in virtual meetings while their health is monitored.

“Based on a review of contact tracing data with the league, we are confident these cases originated independently outside team facilities. There were minimal close contacts identified for each (no players or coaches), and those individuals have been notified.”

The Broncos have had a few recent cases, including defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and offensive line coach Mike Munchak. Right guard Graham Glasgow also tested positive on Thursday. So far, contact tracing has indicated that the coronavirus has not spread any further in the organization.

Elway wasn’t in attendance for the Broncos’ 31-30 win over the Chargers, and he won’t be on hand as they prepare for the Falcons this week. Elway can still work the phones between now and 4pm ET/3pm CT to explore potential trades, but the 3-4 Broncos aren’t expected to make any major moves.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.

Broncos Won’t Retain Executive Mike Sullivan

The Broncs are moving on from one of John Elway‘s right-hand men. Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reports (via Twitter) that director of football administration Mike Sullivan will not be retained. The executive’s contract expired following the 2019 season.

Sullivan had spent eight years with the organization, and as Klis notes, he served as the front office’s “salary cap guru/contract negotiator.” The former agent played a role in Peyton Manning‘s move to Denver, and he also guided the organization to their 2014 free agent haul (DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Emmanuel Sanders, and T.J. Ward).

Klis makes it clear that Sullivan isn’t retiring (Twitter link). The executive’s experience means he could catch on with another organization or the league office. The reporter also suggests that Sullivan’s insight could lead to a career in media.

Meanwhile, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets that the Broncos wouldn’t have made this decision without a plan to replace Sullivan, and the reporter expects the front office to hire someone quickly. After all, the Broncos are flush with cap space and have a number of important decisions to make when it comes to handing out contracts to current players. Whoever’s hired to replace Sullivan will immediately make their mark on the organization during the offseason.

Broncos Notes: Free Agents, Simmons, McManus

Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback turned president of football operations John Elway has not needed to break the bank retaining the team’s free agents over the past few years. Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post opines that this offseason may force Denver to change that approach. O’Halloran looks at every Bronco set for free agency and analyzes whether the team should try to resign them.

Veterans Chris Harris and Derek Wolfe highlight a crop that includes multiple starters and a number of main rotational pieces. At just 3-8, Denver has a lot of holes to fill, but they will have over $70MM in cap space to target more outside talent and retain the internal players they want to keep.

Here’s more from the franchise in the Mile High City:

  • Regardless of how Denver handles the rest of their free-agent crop, the Broncos need to retain safety Justin Simmons, opines Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. While the team obviously hopes to return to contention as soon as possible, the team has to wonder whether players like Harris and Wolfe will still be playing at a good enough level by the time they turn it around. Just 26 years old, Simmons fits for the franchise regardless of how long it takes them to rebuild.
  • While it had little impact on the outcome of the Broncos 20-3 loss on Sunday against the Bills, kicker Brandon McManus told reporters postgame that the weather conditions in Buffalo resulted in the most difficult kick of his career, according to Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post. With seventeen mile per hour winds at kickoff, McManus managed to make a 45-yard field goal kicking against the win, accounting for the teams only points. However, his two kickoffs against the win failed to reach the Bills ten-yard line.

Broncos GM: No One On Trade Block

According to multiple reports, the Broncos are ready to deal before the trade deadline. According to GM John Elway, there are no players being shopped. 

“You guys bring all those names up. I have not brought any names up. We’re trying to win football games over here. So, no one from our side is in the trading block. ” Elway said (Twitter link via Troy Renck of Denver 7). “We’re going to try to win football games.”

Among the names brought up in recent days: star linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Chris Harris, defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. With less than three weeks to go before the deadline, and a 1-4 record, Elway’s denial might not too much to stop the speculation.

Miller is reportedly open to a change of scenery and all of his major bonuses and guarantees have already been paid, so he would be a logical trade chip. Still, last we heard, the Broncos are not interested in parting ways with him, and Elway says the same.

The Broncos will face the Titans, Chiefs, and Colts before the trade deadline on Tuesday, October 29. If Elway is to be believed, the roster will be largely the same heading into the following game against the Browns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mike Shanahan On Broncos’ Interest, Coaching Plans

Mike Shanahan revealed his side of the late-2017 discussions centered around the Broncos bringing him back as head coach. The two-time Super Bowl-winning HC said he was “close” to taking the job, had it been offered.

I was close. I was close,” Shanahan said, via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala (subscription required). “But one thing that has to happen: You all have to be on the same page. And one thing you have to make sure of when you are a head football coach is the owner, the GM, the quarterback are all on the same page. If it doesn’t happen, the chance of you winning a Super Bowl aren’t very good.

So, anyway, if that situation had happened, I was going to take it. If not — but anyway, I had a great conversation with John as everybody knows and it didn’t work out. Sometimes it works out for the right reasons.”

John Elway made the initial contact regarding the short-lived reunion, Jhabvala reports, and the Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-GM discussed the job — which then belonged to Vance Joseph — with his former coach. But at the time, Broncos CEO Joe Ellis informed Elway his firing Joseph after one season would have required him to conduct a thorough search — rather than earmark the job for Shanahan. The Broncos would have obviously needed to comply with the Rooney Rule as well.

As for the quarterback component of this, Kirk Cousins may or may not have been part of the equation. Conflicting reports emerged on then-free agency-bound passer following Shanahan to Denver. But the Shanahan process did not progress too far, and the Broncos made other plans. They retained Joseph for the 2018 season and signed the player Cousins wound up replacing in Minnesota, Case Keenum. They are now on another HC-QB combo in Vic Fangio and Joe Flacco.

Shanahan’s greatest coaching moments came in Denver. He helped the Broncos to two Super Bowl titles and four playoff byes. His Raiders and Redskins tenures did not go as well. The 66-year-old coach has not ruled out a return to the sidelines.

You always miss coaching,” Shanahan said. “But it’s been five years. I made the decision a long time ago, right when I got fired. I said if I didn’t get the right job right away where we had a chance to win a Super Bowl that I was probably going to do what I’m doing, which is kind of being a dad and following (my) son and the organization and being a part of it.”

Elway did enlist Mike Shanahan’s help while securing a deal with new OC Rich Scangarello, who worked for Kyle Shanahan for two seasons. Scangarello’s offense will look somewhat similar to what the Broncos primarily ran under the elder Shanahan.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos’ John Elway Talks Retirement, Flacco, Rookies

Things haven’t necessarily gone as planned for the Broncos since they won the Super Bowl during the 2015 campaign. The organization hasn’t made the postseason in three years, and they’ve combined for only 11 wins over the past two seasons.

Fortunately, there’s reason for optimism. The Broncos got some solid production from their 2018 draft class, including defensive end Bradley Chubb, wideout Courtland Sutton, and running back Royce Freeman. The front office loaded up in talent once again during the 2019 draft, and they also added a number of veterans with the hope of making the postseason.

SI.com’s Albert Breer recently sat down with general manager and president of football operations John Elway to discuss his future in the NFL, his team-building philosophy, and his team’s chances in 2019. The whole article is worth reading, but we’ve pulled out some of the notable soundbites below:

On whether he’s thought about retiring:

“You know, I haven’t. I’ve got two and a half years left on my contract, I’m getting close to 60, which is hard to believe. At that point in time, you start to kind of look at it day-to-day and week-to-week. I’m still enjoying what I’m doing. I want to be able to put a quality product on the field and compete for a championship. I think we’re headed in that direction. I’m excited about Vic [Fangio].

“So we’ll take it a year at a time and see how it goes.”

On the Broncos ability to mix young players with veterans:

“You’re building with youth, but also trying to be competitive in the year that you’re in. If you had the success that we had back in 2013, ’14, ’15, it’s hard to keep the whole band together—and then you lose the quarterback. Our goal is always to be competitive, and improve, and add youth to that too. That’s always the tough thing to do, while you try to get the right mentality that you better win football games.”

On the acquisition of quarterback Joe Flacco:

“That position is so important, not just in the player you have there, but also the confidence it adds to the rest of your team. And I think our players know, the young guys as well as the veterans, that [Flacco] has been in battles, he’s won a championship, and he know what it takes. So just the confidence that the rest of the team has in that position and the player that’s playing that position is extremely important.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

John Elway Not Eyeing Broncos Ownership

Pat Bowlen‘s death will bring the situation regarding his successor to the forefront. But the player most associated with the franchise since Bowlen bought the team in 1984 does not have interest in becoming its owner.

John Elway has been in place as the Broncos’ top front office executive since 2011. While rumors have persisted about Elway one day buying the team or organizing a group to do so and becoming the franchise’s controlling owner, the Broncos’ current GM attempted to shut that talk down.

No,’’ Elway said, laughing, via 9News’ Mike Klis when asked about one of these scenarios coming to fruition. “No. 1, I don’t have the money. I wish I did. I wish that wasn’t an issue.”

Elway is one of the NFL’s highest-paid GMs and has other income avenues in Denver. Forbes, however, valued the Broncos at $2.7 billion. The Broncos gave Elway a five-year contract two summers ago, and he plans to continue serving in the same capacity.

It’s a different galaxy,” Elway said on the difference between front office money and ownership capital. “I’m happy with where I am. I’m proud to work for the organization and the opportunity they provide and so we’ll continue to work our tail off.”

The current battle between Beth Bowlen Wallace and the Broncos’ trustees, who have been running the team since Pat Bowlen’s Alzheimer’s struggle required him to step away, featured the latter party regarding the late owner’s daughter as unqualified at this time to serve as the franchise’s controlling owner. That fight continues, with former 49ers executive Carmen Policy serving as the NFL arbiter.

Pat Bowlen’s brother, Bill, has also filed suit to remove Broncos CEO Joe Ellis and two other trustees from the Bowlen Trust. The trustees believe Bill Bowlen is suing on Bowlen Wallace’s behalf, Klis writes. But Brittany Bowlen, 29, has been viewed as the favorite to one day take the reins. Brittany Bowlen is expected to take a business-side job with the Broncos this year.

Broncos Notes: Munchak, Paradis, Modkins

Gary Kubiak went from Broncos front office exec to impending Denver OC to Vikings assistant head coach. We heard the Super Bowl-winning head coach wanted to bring back former Broncos assistants Rick Dennison and Brian Pariani to be part of the next Broncos offensive staff, and that led to the breakup between the coach and the team with which he is most associated. But John Elway‘s HC interview with Mike Munchak, while not being enough to deter the GM from offering the position to Vic Fangio, went well enough he wanted the Pittsburgh offensive line coach to come to Denver as an assistant. That was a deal-breaker for Kubiak, who sought Dennison to oversee his offensive line concepts, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The Broncos fired Pariani in 2017, and the franchise was not ready to rehire him, Klis adds. Pariani will now coach tight ends in Minnesota. Rich Scangarello is now the Broncos’ OC.

Here is the latest from Denver:

  • On the subject of Scangarello, it looks like the former 49ers quarterbacks coach will be hiring someone to serve in that role in Denver. Previous QBs coach Mike Sullivan, as could be expected following the dismissal of 2017-18 Broncos OC Bill Musgrave, is not expected to be part of the 2019 staff, according to Klis (on Twitter). Sullivan had two NFL tours as an offensive coordinator, with the Buccaneers from 2012-13 and with the Giants from 2016-17.
  • However, the Broncos will retain one of their other offensive assistants. Running backs coach Curtis Modkins will be back, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. The 2016 San Francisco OC who then worked with Fangio in Chicago as the Bears’ 2017 running backs coach, Modkins succeeded longtime Denver RBs coach Eric Studesville and oversaw the stunning development of Phillip Lindsay. He will have a chance to continue working with the Pro Bowl back and third-round pick Royce Freeman in 2019.
  • Perhaps the Broncos’ best center since Tom Nalen, Matt Paradis is not a lock to return to Denver as a free agent. The Broncos would like him to come back, but Klis notes he will test the market. This could be a significant development, as the 29-year-old blocker will probably be the top center available come March. Denver brass and Paradis entered into extension discussions last year, but the sides could not reach an agreement. Paradis’ ironman streak ended in November as well, with a broken fibula ending his season. The Broncos stand to hold $40MM-plus in cap space and have some cap-casualty candidates, but Paradis going to the market may well mean it will cost a team eight figures annually to sign him.