The Colorado Rockies Have A John Elway Problem


Denver Broncos fans are quite fortunate. It was less than two years ago, in 2010, that the team finished an abysmal 4-12, with controversial head coach Josh McDaniels being removed from his post mid-season. What’s easy to forget is that the team started the following season (2011) with a  1-4 mark. They appeared to be headed for another awful finish and another top 10 draft pick as they entered week 6 (their bye) last season.

Last season! That was one year ago.

Just look at this guy. Image: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

You know the rest of the story. Tim Tebow got his chance and did Tim Tebow things, leading the team to an inexplicable 8-8 record and an inexplicable division title. Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway enjoyed the Tebow ride, but also recognized the utter lack of sustainability that was dripping all over the team’s 8 wins that season. He quickly identified the key holes on the roster, filled them, put his faith in the steady hand (John Fox) he had hired as a head coach, and now the team is 13-3 and the number one overall seed in the AFC Playoffs.

Oh, and he signed that Peyton Manning guy, too.

I do believe that Broncos fans appreciate how fortunate they are. Even with this relative lack of a sense of entitlement (and yes, I am biased), it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget just what a mess this team was and just how recent that was. I honestly believe that the Josh McDaniels “era” should still be remembered as one of the low points in franchise history. He made the team a laughing stock, gutted it in key areas (the entire defense, QUARTERBACK), and removed any roster depth whatsoever. Other than an admittedly strong offensive line and some skill players, Elway was almost starting from scratch.

The astounding turnaround that Elway has engineered, in less than two years, will earn him NFL executive of the year.

That turnaround also makes things just a little bit worse for the Rockies, who are coming off of their own franchise low and last place finish. If nothing else, it is a problem from a public perception stand point. Most reasonable fans know that it is not reasonable to hold the Rockies to such a high standard…especially because there is no equivalent to “adding Peyton Manning” for them…but…it is hard not to at least wonder: “The Broncos got back on track, why can’t the Rockies?”

It is fair to compare the current nadir in which the Rockies find themselves with the state of the Broncos when McDaniels left town. They have personnel problems and they have a general identity problem. They have to rebuild their minor leagues, figure out if they can ride their superstar players, start with a new coaching staff, and discover their identity as a franchise. That process, in any major sport, is supposed to take a long time.

For the Denver Broncos, it did not take a long time, and that’s not helping the floundering Rockies one bit.