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Broncos back in Elway's hands

End Zone



Perhaps the most noteworthy sign of what's happening inside the Denver Broncos organization isn't what took place this week — but instead, what didn't.

Obviously, everyone wants to move quickly in setting the franchise's course. Everyone wants to know all the answers now, such as who'll be the next head coach, exactly what John Elway's role will be, whether the team will rebuild around quarterback Tim Tebow, which free agents the front office might pursue, what trades might come about, what Denver's draft strategy will be, and on from there.

It would be wrong to expect a smooth process over the next few months. But it's clear that one word defines the Broncos operation entering this period of massive change.

Patience. Nobody is moving fast yet, because there is no pre-determined plan. The first move has been bringing Elway aboard as the top football executive, but even that has gone slowly. Already, the Broncos missed an opportunity to generate fresh public excitement. That was last Sunday, with 70,000-plus loyal followers at Invesco Field for the season finale against San Diego. That could've been the moment, just after the usual recitation of lineups, to introduce Elway and announce his return, with old No. 7 donning a jersey to trot onto the field.

Just imagine how the networks would have played that over and over. But it didn't happen because nobody was in charge to even think about orchestrating such a grand entrance. Soon, though, the Broncos will need that kind of guidance.

Elway will not have the luxury of time to ponder critical decisions. Surely he already has opinions about Tebow, and Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, as well as what coach or coaches might fit. It starts with the players, because Elway has to tell prospective head coaches what he thinks about personnel. If he believes in Tebow, he must find somebody who agrees and will make sure Tebow gets the best supervision. Elway won't allow a repeat of what happened to him, having a headstrong coach (Dan Reeves) who never got the most out of his Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback.

Many Denver followers were hoping the new head coach would be Gary Kubiak, Elway's former backup and quarterback coach. But with Kubiak staying in Houston, that apparently means Denver's next head coach will not be someone with previous Bronco ties. (Prediction: Denver's next offensive coordinator could be Jim Fassel, who recruited and coached Elway at Stanford and early in Denver.)

You have to assume Elway will want someone who has coached in the NFL, with the possible exception of Stanford's Jim Harbaugh. But Denver can't afford another rookie learning on the job. The new head coach must come with proven ideas to mix with Elway's style and historical perspective. If that person has no history with the Broncos, it would help to have some AFC West background.

Something tells me that Elway will want somebody who has known success but wouldn't be coming to Denver for a victory lap before retiring. Also, somebody with personality and fire, not a yes man.

One name keeps rising to the top for me: Jon Gruden. He's only 47 (Elway is 50), and yet he has coached throughout the league and won the Super Bowl with Tampa Bay. He's also smart enough to realize what the Broncos need most: better coaching on offense, and better players and coaching on defense.

There's not a better match for the Broncos — or for John Elway.

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