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Elway gets snubbed in USA Today’s latest NFL GM rankings

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Now that the bulk of the NFL offseason is in the rearview mirror, at least the portion that involves the majority of major roster moves, USA Today decided it was the perfect time to rank every general manager in the NFL from worst (32nd) to first. Based on their most recent work in the front office, Steve Ruiz dropped his latest 1-32 list of GMs on Thursday.

And while a change at the top – with Bill Belichick getting supplanted as the best in the business – made the biggest splash nationally, John Elway’s spot on the list is what made waves in Denver. Heading into the 2019 season, the publication placed the Broncos GM right in the middle of the pack, at No. 16, when it comes to running a franchise.

That seems like a lack of respect for an executive that has led his team to a pair of Super Bowl appearances and hoisted one Lombardi Trophy during his tenure, even with the back-to-back losing seasons in 2017 and ’18. According to Ruiz, the biggest blemish on Elway’s resume is the former quarterback’s inability to find a replacement for Peyton Manning at QB.

John Elway gets a lot of crap for his total incompetence when it comes to Denver’s quarterback situation — and deservedly so! — but the Hall of Fame QB has done a fantastic job building up the rest of the roster during his time in charge of the front office. Unfortunately for him, quarterback is the most important position to fill.

That’s fair. Elway’s choices of Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum to lead the team in the years since the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 have been subpar, to put it mildly. But Ruiz seems to gloss over the other portion of his review, not giving enough credit to the rosters Elway has built outside of the QB position.

In 2013, the Broncos had the best offense in the history of the league. Two years later, they won a championship behind a historic defense. That’s some impressive versatility.

And now, he’s transformed the team again, building what looks on paper like a suffocating defense and retooling an offense around former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco at quarterback. This is another example of Elway’s ability to adapt his plan on the fly, as he’s used a strong free agency class (which included two cornerbacks and a right tackle) and back-to-back solid drafts to rebuild in real time.

Obviously, Elway’s last few seasons havent been great; there’s a reason the Broncos have gone 11-21 during the past two seasons combined. But he’s still done plenty of good work, certainly enough to put him higher on the list than the likes of Duke Tobin in Cincinnati.