John Elway provided the Denver Broncos with their most memorable moments and both of their Lombardi Trophies. Now, he's being tabbed to direct yet another comeback.
The Hall of Fame quarterback is expected to rejoin the Broncos as their chief football executive by midweek, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Sunday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal to bring Elway back to the franchise hasn't been completed.
Team spokesman Patrick Smyth said reports that the team had already reached an agreement with Elway were premature: "Talks with John are progressing, but nothing has been finalized at this point," Smyth said.
Brian Xanders, who will go from the GM in name only to one who's empowered in the new organizational chart, said he was excited about Elway's impending return "because he's a winner, he knows football, he's going to hold people accountable and he knows where we want to go and he'll be a great leader for our organization."
Attempts to reach Elway and his agent, Marvin Demoff, were not successful.
The Broncos have won just one playoff game since Elway retired in 1999 following his second straight Super Bowl title and haven't reached the postseason in five years.
"You know he has the experience of being a football player for one, and being a Bronco for two," safety Renaldo Hill said. "He's just knowledgeable of the game. Anytime you have all of that right here in the city of Denver, I don't think you could ask for anything better than that. You know he's going to work his butt off because he put so much into this team when he was here. It's not going to change even though he's upstairs."
Rookie cornerback Perrish Cox said he thinks Elway can still work his magic even at age 50.
"He's a great dude, gives great speeches, gives great motivation. Everything that comes from him is positive," Cox said. "He can help in all kinds of ways."
Including repairing the team's tarnished image.
"I think it will be a good situation to have that energy, that knowledge of what it takes to build a team from the ground up," receiver Brandon Lloyd said. "Growing up in Kansas City, I know all about John Elway and what he accomplished on the field. And his aura and the level of respect that current players have and should have for a legend, it should carry over."
Elway's first order of business will be to search for a coach. The Broncos (4-12) fired Josh McDaniels last month in the midst of their worst skid in four decades and in the wake of the Spygate II videotaping scandal.
ESPN reported that Elway would discuss the head coach opening with Stanford's Jim Harbaugh. A former Stanford star, Elway is serving as honorary captain for the Cardinal on Monday night at the Orange Bowl.
First in line for an interview will be Eric Studesville, who was promoted to interim coach from running backs coach when McDaniels was fired Dec. 6 and went 1-3.
Elway, who once ran Denver's arena league team, has said on his Denver radio show the last couple of weeks that he's eager to get back into the NFL.
"I love the game of football. That's what I'm excited about. The game is something that's in my blood," he said on 87.7 The Ticket in Denver.
Elway will rejoin a franchise that needs a major makeover.
The Broncos acknowledged upon McDaniels' firing that they had given him too much power too soon when they hired him away from Bill Belichick's staff in New England and made him the head coach and de facto general manager with final say on all personnel matters — two jobs the then-32-year-old never had before.
McDaniels traded away Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler and Peyton Hillis, and failed to use any of his 19 draft picks on an inside linebacker or defensive tackle. The Broncos ranked among the lowest in the league in every defensive category.
The Broncos have just a half dozen picks in April's draft, although their loss Sunday to San Diego was their 12th, securing the No. 2 overall pick.
Elway has served as a business consultant to the Broncos this year. He was an ambassador for their game in London, attended some practices and even gave the team a pep talk midway through the season.
"You think Broncos and you think Elway and Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey and Terrell Davis," receiver Eddie Royal said. "That name is the first name you think about and he put his heart and soul into this organization, so it's great that he's coming back. And he's going to help us out. You know that he's a winner. You know that he knows the game. And he's been to Super Bowls, so he knows what it takes."