ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **The Broncos want quarterback Peyton Manning back, and John Elway made that clear Tuesday.
But no matter what the league's all-time leader in touchdown passes chooses, the executive vice president and general manager of the team believes that he has an attractive job with a stacked roster to offer its next head coach.
"The next guy, what do I look for? I look for a guy that's very smart, that's competitive, that is aching to win world championships like I am," Elway said. "And I think there are a lot of things. You want to get like-minded people. I think that helps a lot, or even to have a great conversation, (to) agree to disagree, but come out with the right decision for what's best for the Denver Broncos, which is our main goal."
Never has the Broncos' head coaching job opened in circumstances quite like this. The last time the Broncos hired a head coach after a winning season was in 1977, after John Ralston was forced out following a 9-5 season that was the best in team history to that point.
That 1976 team was perceived to have underachieved, and a year later, a 12-2 finish and a run to Super Bowl XII revealed that there was more in the team's reservoir.
What Elway hopes to find now is what then-general manager Fred Gehrke unearthed in Red Miller 38 years ago: the man to provide the final push to allow the team to reach its ceiling.
With nine Pro Bowlers -- all but two of whom are under contract for next year -- a core of emerging young players and a personnel department that has mastered the art of finding key players through late rounds, the undrafted ranks and the discard pile, the Broncos believe that ceiling is a Vince Lombardi Trophy.
To get there, the next coach must have something more -- something that Miller had, so many years ago, when he was willing to go one-on-one against offensive lineman Claudie Minor in practice to illustrate technique during a practice. Miller emerged from the collision with a gashed on his face and blood streaming down to his chin, but he kept on coaching.
Elway wants the whole package: passion and intensity, the ability to bring that out in the players and, perhaps, past experience along the title path.
"You always say a competitive fire, but I think John Fox had a competitive fire," Elway said. "To me it's that ability of a guy, somebody that's had that experience, maybe that's won a world championship, and understands how to get there."
And Elway said that in a Monday morning, it was clear he and Fox did not find accord on how to take those final steps.
"I think the main thing between John and I was we disagreed how to get to the next level," Elway said. "We accomplished so much -- four AFC West championships -- but I think the biggest miss between us was how we can take that next step and what is was going to take to get to that next step. I think that's where that disagreement came from."
So now Elway looks for a coach who can guide the Broncos the rest of the way -- and, if they do fall short, ensure that the team never again goes gently into that good night.
"I think if there is one thing that you would like to have and you want to feel -- at least in the last game you want to feel like you go out kicking and screaming," Elway said. "I think two years in a row it didn't feel like we went out kicking and screaming because of the fact the way we played the last game."
In those playoff losses, the Broncos were browbeaten, physically dominated up front and unable to get yardage after the catch as aggressive safeties and linebackers met receiving targets as the football arrived. As Colts cornerback Vontae Davis told The Indianapolis Star, "Seattle gave us the blueprint in the Super Bowl."
Preventing that is a priority, and Elway's search will be comprehensive.
"There are a bunch of growing, top candidates out there so we are going to go through the process, we are going to look at everyone, look at everybody's run and whether or not they will fit and make the best decision for the Denver Broncos," Elway said. "It's hard to say anything right now."
And as of Tuesday at midday, Elway had not reached out to other teams -- for a simple reason.
"You know why? Because the last thing I would ever want to do is lie to the media people," Elway said with a laugh. "I have not contacted anybody about the job so I can be dead honest to you when I say, 'No we have not talked to anybody yet.'"
By the time you read this, that may have already changed.
The Broncos will be patient if they need to be, and must go through a proper process and search, but when Elway finds his candidate, you can expect him to strike, just as he does in free agency.
"Obviously we have done some things that we have to do before we can make contact," Elway said. "So we will do that."
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