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Sundays with Sacco: Ellis and Elway deserving of recognition

This past week, Denver Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis and Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway both were honored by being added to prominent National Football League committees.

Ellis is now a member of the NFL Stadium Committee, and he brings a unique perspective to that role as he was Vice President of the NFL regarding new stadium construction prior to returning to the Broncos in 1998.

Deepest congrats to Joe Ellis, who carries on every day in the exact spirit of the great Pat Bowlen.

Elway was named to the highly prestigious Competition Committee, and he becomes the first Bronco employee ever selected to this committee.

He got the phone call informing him of his selection directly from Commissioner Roger Goodell, and anytime the commissioner himself is delivering good news, it is quite an honor indeed.

Former head coach Tom Coughlin and Bruce Arians join Elway as new members. The existing members of the Competition Committee are Rich McKay of Atlanta (Chairman), Stephen Jones (Dallas), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati), John Mara (New York Giants), Mark Murphy (Green Bay), Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore), Rick Smith (Houston), and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh).

Elway is perhaps the highest profile ex-player ever to be appointed to the committee, and it just shows once again how far John has come in the boardroom, having already reached the Hall of Fame as a player.

When he was first hired by owner Pat Bowlen, there were the usual pundits who chuckled and called it a publicity stunt, but they could not have been more wrong.

The first time one ever saw John Elway walk down the hall with a cup of black coffee, the requisite beverage for personnel people everywhere, he just looked so perfect in the role.

He learned most from his father, Jack Elway, and Jerry Frei, both of whom passed on but not before leaving their marks. John Elway was the son of one and listened to both. 

Every player, coach and fan deserved to know Jack and Jerry. Those of us who did learned so much from them and will respect them forever.

So when his time came to direct the Broncos' football operations, John Elway understood the hard work and time required to succeed, and the dignity which you give the game by putting in the time it demands.

Elway embraced the work and showed an immediate passion for the role, developing as rapidly on the second floor of UCHealth Training Center as he had as one of the game's greatest quarterbacks. 

He brings 21 years of playing and executive experience to his new position, and he also served on the Competition Committee of the Arena Football League when he owned the now-defunct Colorado Crush.  This appointment shows the respect that his peers and NFL executives, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, have gained for him in his six years as Broncos General Manager.  

The Competition Committee was formed as a brainchild of the brilliant Commissioner Pete Rozelle in 1968 after the NFL and American Football League had merged. This committee showed the growth of the game in replacing the NFL Rules Committee.

The Rules Committee began in 1932 (the first season in which official statistics were kept) but really became active in 1933, as they attempted to maintain competitive balance and consistency throughout the NFL. 

The Committee was heavily impacted by Chicago Bears owner George Halas and always worked on rules, roster regulations and game day operations, but it took a gigantic leap forward as one of the most prestigious and influential groups in the NFL when it was transformed into the Competition Committee under Rozelle.

All teams get to have input in writing annually and any team can propose changes.

Its greatest growth arguably came in the 1970s, when Tex Schramm of the Dallas Cowboys was the Committee Chairman and ruled with a gentle, velvet hand that was capable of becoming an iron fist. 

While leading the Competition Committee, Schramm oversaw rule changes such as overtime in regular season games, putting the official game time on the scoreboard for all to see, moving the goal posts from the front of the end zone to the back and making the earliest attempts at protecting the quarterbacks through the "in the grasp" rule.

Most recently, the Competition Committee has dealt with player protection issues, including the new rule that has the 25-yard line as a starting point for kickoff touchbacks, the extra point, and ongoing issues such as new technology, sportsmanship and of course instant replay.

These are all significant issues in the game, but they are new issues for old school people, football people.

So this is a highly powerful and prestigious Committee that Elway is joining, one that features fellow Hall of Famers Don Shula, Tony Dungy and Bill Polian. 

There were just seven members in 1995, and now there are more members and executives, some of whom are former players and coaches. This reflects more diversity of experience and opinion.   

Membership in the prestigious NFL Competition Committee is a major honor, and it is one that John Elway has been preparing for since he sat at the breakfast table and talked football with his dad. 

He's succeeded so far. And should he thrive again, it should surprise no one. That's always been John Elway's way of doing things: both on the field and off.

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