Gil Brandt, the Cowboys’ former vice president of player personnel, was in Denver on Thursday as he and the Sirius XM NFL crew made a stop during their 2018 training camp tour. DenverBroncos.com caught up with the legendary executive about John Elway, this year’s Broncos team and Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen.
Aric DiLalla: As you make your way across the country on your training camp tour, what is it about Denver that is enjoyable for you?
Gil Brandt: “Well, I think first of all, they do a great job as an organization. When you talk about elite organizations, this is one of the tops. The facility that you have here, your press book — I don’t think there’s a team in the league that’s as thorough as they are — everything is first class. I think it reflects the reputation that they have around the league with both fans and people with clubs.”
AD: You got the chance to speak with John Elway earlier. With your experience as a personnel executive, what did you think about how he handled the offseason as he aimed to rebuild the roster?
GB: “Well, you know, you don’t go to Stanford and come away dumb. I’ve known John since he’s been 4 years old. In fact, I asked him this morning, I said, ‘John, do you still have the Roger Staubach jersey I sent you when you were 4 years old and your dad was an assistant coach at the University of Montana?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ I’m an Elway fan. I tried very hard to make a trade to get him when he came out of Stanford. We were unsuccessful, but he had a great career and he brought lots and lots of joy to this year.”
AD: When you ranked the top quarterbacks of all-time, you had two Broncos in the top five, with John and Peyton Manning. What about those guys stood out to you as you were putting that list together?
GB: “Peyton’s kind of another guy I’ve known since he’s been a little boy, because of his father. It’s highly unusual that you have two such great quarterbacks in one place. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if someday when they establish a list — and I don’t know how you can do it — of the top 15 quarterbacks of all time, that those two will be in it. What Peyton brought to this team on the field and off the field is something special. John is something special, and I think he made a great pickup in Case Keenum.
“I think Case Keenum is a guy that you go back to his high school days, and he won a state championship at Abilene’s Wylie High School because he brought the team from behind to win in the last 30 seconds of the game. Every place he’s gone, he’s been pretty successful. He went to the Rams, and they really were 6-2, and for some reason they changed quarterbacks. I don’t know why. Incidentally, he’s coming out with a new book. And it’s going to be very good. I think they made a great pickup in Case Keenum.
“And I think some of the coaching changes [will help]. I really like [Offensive Line – Guards/Centers Coach Sean] Kugler. I think he’ll help them a lot. Not that they didn’t have a good coach there, but they’ll have two there. And sometimes I think this league’s competitive balance is so good that you’ve got to be sure you have the best coaches.”
AD: With Keenum and with some of the rookies standing out, where do you see this team fitting into the AFC West this year?
GB: “I think three teams have a chance to win the West. I’m not sure about Oakland — a new coach, a team that’s having trouble getting all their players in camp. I think that this AFC West is very tough. And it would not surprise me if any one of the three win it.”
AD: When you were with the Cowboys, how much did you allow yourself to count on a rookie class? Between Bradley Chubb and Courtland Sutton and Royce Freeman, the Broncos have some guys that people think can make an impact, but what should the expectations be?
GB: “Royce Freeman, coming out of high school in California, was one of the most sought-after players and went up to the University of Oregon. [He] had a good career, but not a great career. Courtland Sutton is a young man that I know very well. In fact, I was very instrumental — I like to think I was anyway — in keeping him in school another year. He has everything ahead of him. He was a defensive back in high school. He is not a route runner. He will be. The one thing is, when he catches the ball, he has great explosion and he can make things happen. Bradley Chubb, from Chubbtown, Georgia, I don’t know if you can get a better player. I was shocked when he fell to where he did. We’ll have to see how the corner that Cleveland took turns out, but I thought Chubb was one of the top three players in the draft.”
AD: You’ve been vocal on the radio about Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen and his contributions to the game. Do you expect him to be nominated for the Hall of Fame here in a few days?
GB: “In my mind, he belonged in a long time ago. He’s done so much. He’s not a guy that campaigned for it. He’s an individual that took a last-place, down-ridden organization and made it what it is today. I think if anybody would have told you in 1970 they would’ve had this [facility], you wouldn’t have believed it. I just hope he gets in. He deserves it. He’s done a lot for the league.”