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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 27: John Elway," General Manager of the Denver Broncos, on the field before the (2-5) Denver Broncos take on the (4-2) Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 27, 2019. (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post)
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Mile High Monday: The GM candidate who makes the most sense

(Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos have made some big changes over the last week. After 10 years as Broncos general manager, John Elway is taking an elevated role with the team. He is now in a committee of top-level executives with the Broncos to hire a GM. Elway is going to stay on as president of football operations, while the GM works closely with head coach Vic Fangio.

The Elway era is over. He’ll have one more year working for the team, then he will be off to the next chapter of his life. It will be interesting to see if the new regime, or new GM at least, will be able to get this team back in the postseason conversation.

The NFL playoffs kicked off this weekend with the Wild Card round. For the fifth year in a row, the Broncos were watching at home rather than playing.

I like the fun of the playoffs, and this year it seems like that energy has ramped up around the league. I hope one day soon the Broncos are back in the postseason to compete in the ultimate tournament.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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My Favorite Candidate

I’m embedded in the scouting community and have been for more than a decade. I know a lot of people around the league, and it’s great to see when good people get greater opportunities. That’s how I feel about Champ Kelly. A former Broncos area scout, Kelly worked his way up to the assistant director of player personnel with the Chicago Bears.

He’s had a great reputation in the scouting world, mainly due to his eye for talent and his incredible work ethic. I believe the eye for talent is the greatest difference maker in what makes a good scout and an average scout. People with football knowledge who see the same tape on a player can see different things. It’s off-putting how much different these things can be – unless someone has the natural eye for talent. I think that skill is something that is natural and cannot really be learned. Kelly has that eye for talent.

An area scout is a thankless job. These guys travel across the country for 250-plus days per year and write up scouting reports on players who may or may not be drafted by the team. They spend long hours away from their homes and families, and don’t make that much money as an entry-level position in the NFL. To come up from the ranks of area scout mean you have to be good and you must have a love for this game that others do not possess.

Kelly is my favorite of the candidates the Broncos have interviewed. He’s worked his way up the ranks in the NFL and has a sterling reputation. Kelly would be a fine general manager for the Broncos that fans could trust to get this team back on track.

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He’s Out and That’s Okay

The Broncos GM search went from five candidates to four candidates in just a few days time. Dave Ziegler, the assistant director of player personnel for the Patriots, has backed out of the race. He’s decided to stay with the Patriots as they move to replace former director of player personnel Nick Caserio who accepted a job with the Texans to be their general manager.

Ziegler worked for the Broncos from 2010-12 as player personnel assistant then area scout. He came to the Broncos with former head coach Josh McDaniels. In fact, Ziegler is very close to McDaniels and it was a bit surprising to me that he stayed with the team even after McDaniels was relieved of his duties with the team back in 2010.

He’s a good man with a fine resume, but hiring Ziegler would have had some in Broncos Country questioning what the team is doing going down the Patriots path. Years ago, when McDaniels was hired to be the head coach, we all heard how he would bring the “Patriots Way” to the Broncos. Instead, he was bounced before his second season was up and the Broncos were an embarrassment when McDaniels was the coach. Broncos president Joe Ellis fired Mike Shanahan to make way for McDaniels, perhaps the worst decision in team history.

I don’t give a darn about the “Patriots Way,” as I want the Broncos to get back to the standard they once had as one of the most-historic franchises in the NFL. That means they don’t need to follow the blueprint of another team, which doesn’t work without Bill Belichick or Tom Brady. Instead, the Broncos need to reach back in their history to find that special energy that made them one of the best in the league. I don’t think Ziegler would have been the guy to do that.

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What About the Kids?!?

The NFL tried something different on Sunday – and it worked. The league is slow to change and doesn’t do many things outside of the norm. However, in this year of COVID-19, the league had to find a way to shake things up for the playoffs.

The NFL’s first broadcast on Nickelodeon was fun, and it was better than most any could have imagined. The kid-focused broadcast was all about getting a younger generation into the NFL. However, even if you’re a grizzled old veteran of football watching (like me), you could find enjoyment in the broadcast.

Nate Burleson is a rising star in the broadcast world. He was a good player, but he’s even better as a football analyst. He brings credibility to whatever TV show he’s on, but Burleson also knows how to have fun with what he does. The NFL takes itself seriously, but in the Nickelodeon broadcast, the often too-serious nature of calling a game was replaced with optimism and analogies that was hilarious.

Nickelodeon added graphics to the game, like sliming the end zone when there was a touchdown. Players were also put next to cartoon characters on in-game graphics in a “Space Jam” like feel. After the game, Saints coach Sean Payton was slimed as part of the victory celebration.

The only thing Nickelodeon got wrong – although it was brilliantly wrong – was the voting of Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky as the “NVP” of the game. Trubisky was awful in the game against the Saints, yet viewers voted him as the Nickelodeon Valuable Player. I couldn’t watch every game like this, but this boring and bad playoff game was made better by the Nickelodeon broadcast.

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New Format Changing My Mind

I was not a fan of the NFL changing their playoff format for the 2020 season. I didn’t like the watering down of the playoff scenarios in the league by allowing one more team into the postseason from each conference. After one day, my mind was changed.

Saturday was the first triple-header in the Wild Card round in NFL history and it was glorious. The games were all entertaining, and it was fun to have a full day of football where it’s win or go home. Playoff football is just a different animal than regular-season football. On Saturday, it felt like things were taken to an even different level.

On Sunday, things came back down to Earth with a couple of bad games to wrap up the weekend of football. Overall, I enjoyed the product on the field. The NFL is going to have this format going forward and I’ll be happy to watch more triple-headers in the Wild Card weekends of the future. Now, if I could only bring myself to write about the Steelers game!

What did you think of the triple-headers on both Saturday and Sunday? Hit me up on social media and let me know!