ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Two seasons and two division titles later, it's easy to forget the degree of skepticism among some observers over the Broncos' hiring of John Elway as executive vice president of football operations.
Rarely had so much power over a football team's future been placed in the hands of someone with so little NFL experience, whose primary asset on the surface appeared to be his name and his accomplishments as a player. But Elway had successfully parlayed his playing wealth into a substantial business portfolio and spent six years running an Arena Football League organization on a day-to-day basis. Those experiences ensured that neither Elway nor the Broncos went into their arrangement blind.
Elway's success -- and that of the organization as a whole since his arrival -- doesn't surprise Team President Joe Ellis, who said Elway has done a "great job," but that his growth in his role has been "as I expected."
"Somebody asked me, 'Are you surprised at how well he's doing?' My answer to that would be I'm surprised that people are surprised that he's doing that well, because he brings a lot to the table," Ellis said.
"He brings leadership, competitive fire — he's one of the most competitive guys you know — wants to win in the worst way, a lot of intelligence, knowledge, and he brings an outside business perspective to it, which is very, very rare."
Because Ellis and Owner Pat Bowlen trust Elway, they're free to focus on other aspects of the organization, leaving player procurement and contract issues -- like those involving left tackle Ryan Clady -- to Elway and his department.
"I don't really meddle in that at all," Ellis said. "I'm eager to know what's going on, but they're doing their job shaping the roster. I will say this: John's really done a great job in his role here. He understands the vision of what we need to do this year to win and hold the roster together three years and for five years so that we can have sustained success."
That is an advantage of having the "final say" authority over football operations resting in an executive like Elway -- or a general manager, as with many other teams -- as opposed to with the coach, which was the case during the Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels eras.
An executive with final say is more likely to consider the long haul in his decisions. That leads to more patience with young players -- all but one of the Broncos' draft picks since 2011 are still with the organization -- and to individual selections like last year's second-round selection of quarterback Brock Osweiler. His chances of helping in 2012 were negligible, but his potential value to the franchise is massive if he develops well behind Peyton Manning; if he progresses as hoped, he can help prevent a painful post-Manning transition.
Long-term salary-cap management and an unwillingness to pay above proper value has also helped Elway and his staff whip the Broncos' cap into shape. There were difficult decisions involved in reaching that point, but the Broncos have enough wiggle room to have a chance of keeping together a young core of two- to four-year veterans whose contracts will expire in the next three years.
"He sticks to his plan," Ellis said. "He stays disciplined. Teams get in trouble in this league when they sway from their plan and sway from what is their discipline. I know Pat (Bowlen) feels very, very confident that John will not do that. We're lucky to have him here."
Elway's long-term plans also extend to his own job, and Ellis expects him to become a mainstay in the big office overlooking the practice fields.
"He's dug in," Ellis said. "I don't see him wavering with that at all. I think he's very good about delegating and listening, but also strong enough and confident enough in his knowledge and his opinions to have the courage of his convictions and make good decisions on behalf of the organization, as I said, short-term and long-term. I believe he's going to be here for a while."