The Broncos spent the offseason trying to replace Peyton Manning under center, no easy task even with Manning suffering through his worst season as a pro in 2015. John Elway was beyond patient and always looked cool, calm and collected.
But he admitted, while speaking with Bleacher Report's Jason Cole, that it was a "big surprise" when the Broncos lost Manning and Brock Osweiler in quick fashion this offseason.
"There are challenges every year. That's why this year in free agency and all that, there are challenges every year trying to keep things together. So that's always a challenge," Elway said. "Was it a big surprise that we were in that situation? Yeah, because I thought ... we drafted Brock [Osweiler] when we got Peyton [Manning] because we didn't know exactly what Peyton was going to be. But also, if [Manning] wasn't in good shape, we were going to a guy who was going to be here for a long, long time.
"Now, that didn't work out, so it was a matter of, you have to fix the issue. There are going to be issues every year."
It's hard to imagine Manning retiring was a surprise, and that's the most curious thing about all of this. Elway was tremendously respectful to the legend by letting Manning take his time trying to figure out what the plan for 2016 was. Borderline too respectful, really, but Elway knows what it's like to make the decision and pressuring Peyton publicly would've been a bad look.
The Osweiler thing was a stunner, though. Not just because he bolted, but because the Texans were willing to give him $72 million on a four-year contract. (Although it wasn't all about the money either -- there were other issues surrounding Osweiler's departure.) Read between the lines and you can tell the Osweiler thing feels a little personal to Elway, who expected the 2013 second-round pick to be there a "long, long time."
This may explain why Elway put Osweiler on blast after the defection to Houston.
Left with no quarterback, Elway could've panicked and caved in on the demands from Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers necessary to facilitate a trade. He could've overpaid for Sam Bradford.
Instead he stayed calm, picked up Mark Sanchez from the Eagles and then drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round. For Elway it was all about finding a "difference-maker."
"Well, the first thing we did is we got Mark [Sanchez] and I feel good about Mark. So by getting Mark -- and we're a lot higher on him than a lot of people are -- so once we landed Mark and he was here, we felt better about the situation," Elway said. "It was a matter of bringing somebody in for competition. But of the guys who were out there at the time, there were no difference-makers. So why would I overpay for a guy who wasn't going to be a difference-maker?"
The Broncos are in an interesting place. They're the defending champions but they're hardly the favorite to win the Super Bowl and plenty of people don't even think they'll win their own division.
It may all come down to Elway's quarterback decision. If it ends up being the right one -- and there's no reason not to trust him at this point -- Denver stands a good chance of defending its AFC West title again.