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What John Elway wants in an offense and a quarterback

INDIANAPOLIS -- President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway knows what he likes in a quarterback -- and the offensive scheme that passer will run.

He wants an offense that is balanced. He believes that the ability to operate under center helps to create that balance. And he likes the fact that Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello's system finds its evolutionary roots in the scheme that Elway executed well in the 1990s under Mike Shanahan, whose son, Kyle, hired Scangarello as quarterbacks coach in San Francisco two years ago.

"I like the system. It's a system that I'm familiar with. Obviously Mike started it, and Kyle has taken it to the next level and evolved it," Elway said at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday.

"The success that Kyle has had wherever he's been offensively, and to have Rich studying with Kyle I think is tremendous. I'm excited about the system, and excited about them as coaches. 

"So I think that combination hopefully gives us a chance to be a lot better on the offensive side."

The system the Broncos will run likely means executing more plays from under center than last year. According to SharpFootballStats.com, the 49ers ran 56 percent of their snaps from under center, the second-highest percentage in the NFL. Only the Los Angeles Rams were under center more often, working from that alignment on 63 percent of their snaps.

The league average for under-center snaps was 38 percent. The Broncos worked under center 46 percent of the time, the seventh-highest figure in the NFL. But with this scheme and what Elway wants to do and wants from his quarterback, that percentage should increase.

Elway wants to see his offense work under center because of its impact on the ground.

“I think it helps the running game," he said. "I think you can only do so much in shotgun in the running game, and I think being underneath the center, if you want to run the football and have balance, you’ve got to be able to be underneath the center. Because when it comes down to the running game, that’s where it helps you.

"So, that’s why to me, it’s important if you want to have balance, you’ve got to be able to go under the center, too."

Thus, the right quarterback for Elway for the long term is one that can operate under center. That would work against shorter quarterbacks such as Oklahoma's Kyler Murray.

Elway acknowledged that Murray is "a great athlete and has had a great career" in college.

"The one year he played at Oklahoma was great there and shows he’s a great athlete," Elway said. "Obviously, the size is always the question, but we’ve seen guys that have had success in the league that are not necessarily the prototypes as far as when it comes to height. He’s got the ability to be a great player."

But Elway's playing experience has taught him that with a shorter quarterback, a team would have to emphasize the shotgun offense.

"The height from shotgun doesn’t matter nearly as much as it does if you’re coming out from underneath center all the time because by the time you get back there the pocket a lot of times is caving on you. That’s where height does matter a little bit more," Elway said. 

"But if you’re playing in shotgun every down like a lot of these guys, then the height, to me, does not have nearly the impact that it normally would if you’re coming out from underneath."

Given that three of the four offenses that led the league in under-center snaps were in the league's conference championships -- the Rams (63 percent), New England (55 percent) and New Orleans (51 percent) -- there is rationale for Elway's perspective.

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