By Julie Buehler
Kinda bored of retirement from your Hall-of-Fame playing career?
Looking to get back in action? Looking to make your presence felt by a fan base that thinks you can do no wrong?
Turns out, perhaps the biggest challenge for a living legend is showing a fan base that thinks he can do no wrong that THEY were wrong.
It’s time to ruin an NFL franchise.
And John Elway has done so brilliantly.
He just followed the How To Ruin A Franchise In 5 Easy Steps manual.
Step 1: Experience doesn’t matter. Be the guy with no experience in charge of EVERYTHING. It’s awesome. And for good measure, make sure if people question you or offer reasonable analysis to augment the conversation or create alternative views, that they are immediately silenced. Under no circumstance can you ruin a franchise if people question your illegitimate authority, so you have to have a powerful name but no experience.
John Elway’s resume boasted experience in the Arena Football League as a co-owner of the Denver Crush and as a consultant in marketing for the Broncos.
Great. He knows how to catapult his incredibly successful playing career into being one of a billion owners of a defunct AFL franchise and getting people’s attention. How does that qualify him to know which under-the-radar players would be perfect additions to a team that just needs a few tweaks to be great? It didn’t, which is why it was so easy for him to venture into the next step.
Step 2: Plan on building the team in free agency, but avoid drafting well. If anything happens to Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler is the Denver Broncos quarterback. That fact have you sleeping well at night, Denver fan?? Congrats to the Broncos front office on executing this step brilliantly. And, this one is fun, because it not only ruins a franchise in real time, but also sets one up for a solid 5-10 years of futility! And that’s when a true franchise wrecker knows they’ve done their best work. You can see it too, because the best players on the team all have more history with other teams and get more playing time than franchise-developed talent. But it might also be because the next step was perfectly executed.
Step 3: Go out and get BIG names to play on a team regardless of system fit. If Lombardis were handed out for the off-season, the Elway-led Broncos would have 3 new trophies. Before the 2012 season, they landed Peyton Manning. Backed up the Brinks truck for him, which was risky as his neck had not been proven, but they structured the contract well so they had an out if he didn’t hold up. Win-win there. And then 13 wins and an improbable loss to Baltimore later, looked like Elway was right. And in the 2013 offseason, they won again, adding coveted free agent Wes Welker and made it to the Super Bowl. Team still not good enough to win it all? Just win in the offseason one more time… Elway picked up almost every important free agent in DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib, TJ Ward AND Emmanual Sanders.
Only problem is football is a unique sport in that the sum of the whole is NOT equal to the sum of the parts. Just watch the ProBowl for proof. The key to a great football team is communication, cohesion and trust and when a bunch of high-priced, alpha-male stars collide on one team, that cohesion and communication requires time to iron out. And that becomes really tough as you apply the 4th step in this How To.
Step 4: Maintain unrealistic expectations. The bigger the better. The more unrealistic, the faster you can demolish your franchise. So, you must declare your season an abject failure if you can’t be the ONE team to hoist the Lombardi. You must decide wholesale changes are needed because your 4th consecutive division title isn’t good enough. And you must certainly conclude 38 wins in 3 seasons to be meaningless because the playoff chase ended the same way 10 other franchises saw their playoff chase end. And the more public these ridiculous expectations are, the more the fan base will believe they can be achieved and the more you’ll upset them when they are disappointed. Perfect way to get support for your final key in ruining a franchise.
Step 5: Punish the wrong guys for franchise mistakes. Start firing the wrong guys and keep the wrong guys.
This takes real talent because if you fire the actual people who are making mistakes, you can save a franchise (see Kansas City Chiefs rebound from 2-14 under Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli to revitalized under Andy Reid and John Dorsey), but to ruin one, you have to get rid of steady-handed, commonsense-wielding types.
So you have to know who’s doing well and who’s not. ALWAYS fire the guy with the most experience and stability. I.E. the head coach who’s known in the NFL as being one of the most consistent and reliable minds in the game. Get rid of him and let some young, inexperienced head coach take over. He’ll make sure your plan is never questioned and your hodge-podge group of over-priced, high-egoed talent never plays to its capabilities.
It’s really that simple.
Just a little knee-jerk, reactionary decision making and short-sighted, tunnel vision, and you too can ruin a perfectly functioning NFL franchise.
Welcome to 4-12 again Broncos fans.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 3-6 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She can also be seen every morning between 6-7am on KMIR sharing the coolest stories in sports. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 3-6 pst at www.team1010.com or watch “Buehler’s Day Off” on Ustream and KMIR.com for her sports reports.