ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway knew the time would come.
He knew at some point, he would step away from the day-to-day responsibilities of being the Broncos' general manager and transition to a new role within the organization.
After 10 years, five AFC West titles, two Super Bowl appearances and a Lombardi Trophy, he made the move on Monday.
It was time. It was the right time.
Elway announced Monday that he would hire a new general manager as part of a restructuring of the team's football operations. The Broncos' search for a new GM is expected to begin quickly.
"I knew that there was going to be a time at some point in time that this is the position I was hoping to move to," Elway said Monday, who will remain the team's president of football operations for 2021.
"[President & CEO Joe Ellis] gave me the opportunity to move up, and I think it's the right time for me with everything that's gone on this year and being 60 years old. There are some other things in life that I'd like to do, but I'd still like to be involved in football. It's a great opportunity for me to be able to move up still, talk with [Head Coach] Vic [Fangio] as well as the new GM, be a part of the big decisions and be able to give my thoughts and my experience and hopefully come out with the best decision there."
Elway, whose seventh grandchild was born Monday, said he will remain involved with the Broncos and will help oversee big-picture decisions. The day-to-day decisions, though, will fall to the team's new general manager.
Elway's role beyond 2021 is not yet clear.
"We'll have to wait and see," Elway said of remaining with the team beyond 2021. "We haven't had a chance to talk about that. Selfishly, yeah, I think that'd be something that I'd be interested in, but I think we'll take a peek at that and where we are. Obviously, that's not been talked about. So, as I said, it's a world that I can look forward to being able to still be involved at that level, but just not the day-to-day. We'll see how that goes."
The team's new structure was shaped, in part, because of the Broncos' desire to gain a new perspective in the front office after four consecutive losing seasons. Elway said he also considered his goals for the future, though he indicated his decision to step into a new role was not health-related.
As Elway and Ellis made the decision, the pair looked at the Broncos' current outlook and how they imagine the team can move forward.
"We started looking at the big picture," Elway said. "We had to figure out where we were as an organization and look at the last years of what we've been through and the different things that we've done. But I think that as we talked about it, it was not something that was on my mind of thinking that I wanted to move up at this point in time. I think as we talked about it — and I really had the two weeks to kind of lay out the pluses and the negatives and look at where I am in my life and really kind of step back and get a good viewpoint of it — it was the right time. It was more getting the thought going in my mind and then kind of come to really go through it and evaluate where I am in my life and what we can also do to help the Broncos get better, because we got to get better. Our expectations are still the same. ... If we hire the right guy, that's going to give us a good perspective of where we are and give us chance to get better."
Elway said the team's new GM and Fangio will both report to him, but the team's general manager will hold control over the 53-man roster, the draft and free agency. Elway, though, said the GM would work collaboratively with Fangio to make decisions.
"He's going to work hand in hand with Vic, as I did in the same role," Elway said. "They are going to work things out and come to a decision of which direction they want to go. I plan on being involved in some of those discussions, especially the big ones, to where I can be helpful. Ultimately, the GM is going to have that control and being able to come in here and do what he sees fit with the roster."
The new general manager will also be free to choose his own staff, though Elway said he would "advocate" for the team's existing front-office employees. At the very least, the Broncos will be without Vice President of Player Personnel Matt Russell, who will retire after 10 years working alongside Elway. Russell was given the opportunity to interview for the job, but chose to spend more time with family.
"He was my right-hand guy," Elway said. "I look at him as a good football man, a good evaluator, [who] had a lot to do with the success that we had while I was here and his history in this league was tremendous."
Elway said the team's search will begin quickly and will involve himself, Ellis and Fangio and also rely upon information from Russell.
"We want to get on it," Elway said. "Obviously, there are a lot of jobs open, so we want the opportunity to talk to the best people. The idea is to jump on this fast and get the list together and start to put together the people we want to talk to first. Now, with all the protocols, we'll still have to figure out the protocols and how that works and whether we do a first interview Zoom-wise, and as we narrow it down, bring people in. Depending on what the protocols are, we'll live by those protocols. The idea is to get started rather quickly."
Before Elway moved forward with the hiring process, though, he took a moment to look back at the success he and the team enjoyed, particularly in the early part of the last decade.
"I'm proud of what I did," Elway said. "I'm not proud of what happened the last four years and the fact of the way things have gone, but this league is getting tougher and tougher and tougher. There's so much to it. It's competitive and there's just so much work that goes into it. I've always worried about my competitive side because I think I always thought it might get a little easier the older I get, but it doesn't. That never goes away, and it still hasn't gone away. That's why I'm excited about moving to the position I am and being able to still be involved and give my advice and experiences that I've had, and hopefully those are useful. But I'm proud of my career as a GM. It's what I wanted to do. I appreciate Pat Bowlen and Joe Ellis for giving me the opportunity to be in that position.
"I loved it and it's just time for me to make that next step, and I'm excited about that too."