What's the old saying? You either retire a hero or stick around long enough to get fired?
That bit of Harvey Dent wisdom is currently floating around the head of John Elway after the Denver Broncos' 30-6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. That loss dropped Denver to 2-5 on the season, which follows a 6-10 season and a 5-11 season before that. You can't pin the losing on the coach, because the coach responsible for the 11-21 seasons of 2017-18 (Vance Joseph) has already been hired, and it would be insane to blame this year's 2-5 start on the current coach (Vic Fangio), because he inherited a team that won 11 games in two seasons.
All this means the ire that would normally be aimed at the head coach is now pointed one level higher, to the GM. Except in this case the GM is John Elway, the man who is more singularly responsible for his town's football glory than any individual in any city in any sport.
Look at it this way: the Denver Broncos have existed since 1960, and in that time the club has won three Super Bowls, eight AFC championships and 15 AFC West titles. Elway has been responsible for all three Super Bowls, seven of the eight AFC titles and 12 of the 15 division title banners.
Simply put, there's no way to lightly call for Elway's firing, and that's what Denver Post columnist Mike Kiszla did in his column after Thursday night's 30-6 loss:
If Brittany Bowlen wants to return the Broncos to the glory established by her late, great father, her first major move after joining the franchise full-time will be to sit down with (Peyton) Manning and convince him to return to the franchise in a major leadership role.
If that means the end of John Elway‘s nine-season tenure as the director of football operations, so be it. While he deserves full credit and eternal thanks for shaping a roster that won Super Bowl 50, the team’s 13-26 record since the outset of the 2017 season is a strong indicator Mr. Elway is fresh out of winning ideas.
Elway and the Broncos' former owner, the late Pat Bowlen, were extremely close. Bowlen memorably declared "This one's for John!" after the Broncos' first Super Bowl victory, and Elway returned the favor after Denver's most recent Super Bowl win.
Now, it's not the 1990s anymore; the local newspaper columnist doesn't swing nearly as big a stick as he did back then. Still, it's the No. 1 writer at Denver's biggest paper calling for the removal of Denver's No. 1 icon at the city's No. 1 civic institution.
Obviously, a conversation between Brittany Bowlen and John Elway leading to Elway's ouster as general manager and executive vice president of football operations -- whether it was sold as his idea or the team's -- would be among the most difficult in team history.
Kiszla thinks it's time the two of them have that conversation.