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John Elway quickly reversing Broncos' fortunes

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 20 2011 11:45 a.m. MST

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2011 file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) reacts after a touchdown run by Denver Broncos running back Lance Ball (35) against the New England Patriots, in Denver. For all those fans worried that he's not completely sold on Tebow and might put the unorthodox quarterback on the trading block this winter, relax. Broncos' Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said the city's new comeback king isn't going anywhere.

Jack Dempsey, File, Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A year ago, John Elway agreed to another comeback with his beloved Denver Broncos shortly after the ouster of Josh McDaniels, whom many felt had doomed the franchise to mediocrity for years to come.

The Hall of Famer has pulled all the right strings in rapidly reversing the team's fortunes.

And for all those fans worried that the Broncos' boss isn't completely sold on Tim Tebow and might put the unorthodox quarterback on the trading block this winter, relax. Elway said the city's new comeback king is here to stay.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Elway gave his strongest indication yet that he believes Tebow can morph from a scrambling quarterback into a pocket passer, which suggests he won't be spending a high draft pick on another QB in April.

"Tim Tebow's not going anywhere," Elway said. "I mean, he's going to be a Bronco and we're going to do everything we can and hopefully he's that guy."

Elway, who led Denver to five Super Bowls and two titles during his playing career, reiterated his intention to work with Tebow during the offseason, something he couldn't do last offseason because of the NFL lockout.

It's the latest example of Elway's efforts to resurrect a franchise that has mostly foundered since he retired in 1999, shortly after winning his second straight Super Bowl.

The AFC West-leading Broncos (8-6), who have already doubled their win total from last year, are relevant again under their new chief of football operations, who wasted no time in putting his mark back on the organization.

In short order, Elway empowered general manager Brian Xanders, hired coach John Fox, intercepted star cornerback Champ Bailey on his way out of town, lured tailback Willis McGahee to Denver, re-signed kicker Matt Prater, drafted pass-rusher Von Miller, traded receiver Brandon Lloyd and endorsed the quarterback switch that put Tebow on the field and Kyle Orton on the waiver wire.

After starting the season in the middle of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes talk, the Broncos are instead shooting for their first playoff berth since the 2005 season behind Tebow, who's won seven of his nine starts, four of them via the kind of fourth-quarter comebacks that marked Elway's storied career.

Elway brought back a winning attitude, and his management style, in which he seeks input from those around him, has changed the culture at Dove Valley from the autocratic regimes of McDaniels and, before him, Mike Shanahan.

"I think that if you look at where we were a year ago at this time, it was probably the lowest point in Pat's ownership," Elway said, referring to owner Pat Bowlen. "One of the things that we thought was everybody needed kind of a little bit of football rehab. I mean, you're 6-22, there's a negative feeling about football. That's why John (Fox) was a perfect fit for us, because of his enthusiasm, his energy."

Elway needed to learn the ropes of being an NFL executive, so he has constantly sought others' advice in steering the Broncos while giving his colleagues more say, especially on personnel matters.

"I've always felt the more input you have, the more discussions you have on certain things, the chances are you're going to make the right decisions," Elway said. "And I think the culture now is it's not only teamwork downstairs but it's teamwork upstairs, too."

One of the first things Elway did was reach out to Bailey, the perennial Pro Bowl cornerback who was headed for unrestricted free agency after McDaniels had pulled an extension offer off the table just as he was about to sign it last season.

Elway said he doesn't think Denver's defensive turnaround would have been possible without Bailey, who's provided stellar play, locker room leadership and stability to a team with its sixth defensive coordinator in six seasons.

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