Even when leaving the Denver Broncos, Brian Xanders doesn't a say in the matter. Instead John Elway read a statement for the both of them detailing the move -- the men responsible these last 16 months for the personnel matters of around Mile High.
Brian Xanders has officially parted ways in a "mutual decision" from his post as the general manager of the Denver Broncos. Even though the team won the division last year and are the favorites for many for a second year in a row, Xanders' standing has always been shaky with the larger-than-life persona of Elway around. Thus it's clear that Xanders' place is elsewhere.
"Brian and I had a very productive conversation earlier today. Although it was an extremely difficult decision, it became clear that it was best for both the Broncos and Brian to part ways," Elway said in a statement. "I believe a change to the structure of our football operations will be mutually beneficial, allowing the department to improve its efficiency while affording Brian the opportunity to continue his promising career with another NFL team."
John Elway has served as the face of the franchise and front office since he signed in as a new team executive in January, 2011. It was perceived that he would smile, wave, court free agents and the like while Xanders did the dirty work and utilized his front office staff to continue business as usual. It was almost as if Elway was brought in as a high-class version of the guy who stands in costume outside a story waving a sign for people to come in.
Yet that was not the case from the word "go." Elway's heft and presence could be felt in personnel moves, and given the team's early success in his first year in office, he was praised for his acumen as an executive after many doubted he could successfully make the transition. While Elway clearly has an entire staff of scouts and decision-makers beside him on personnel decisions, some of his calls have proven right.
There's no doubting that he was the key figure in bringing the biggest free agent in NFL history to Denver in thePeyton Manning sweepstakes. The most recent draft featured a second round grab for the biggest project quarterback available in Brock Osweiler, a move that Elway was undoubtedly pushing for. Elway knows what it takes to win in a city like Denver and he's been given the keys to make it work.
That's something that Brian Xanders never received. While he had the same term as many in the league -- general manager -- he was neutered from the outset. Josh McDaniels held personnel sway and wrangled a draft day move for Tim Tebow in their first year together. Then when it all fell apart, Xanders was the one left explaining the matter. For his part, Xanders never had full control despite the title.
While at the same time, Xanders has proven remarkably passive for a guy who made it all the way to the GM position. Even in his exit there are no comments. Other people take the people. Other people finalize decisions. Other people make the announcements. Xanders, in short, was always in orbit around the gravity of someone else, someone with more charisma, more stature.
That's not to say that Xanders never had any value. You can knock the Broncos for the Tebow choice, but the reality is that they won the division last season and made John Fox an instant winner rather than the steady veteran coach to oversee a rebuilding project. They picked up several intriguing prospects in the most recent draft and their pass rush is second to none. The Broncos certainly have holes, but they are also poised to potentially take the division again. Those are high marks for anyone who worked in that front office .
Yet at the same time, it's impossible to tell what legacy Brian Xanders has in the NFL. He was involved but do any of the Broncos moves of the last three years truly belong to him? There's no doubt the grip that Scott Pioli has on the front office. Phil Emery made his presence felt in Chicago the moment he arrived and, shortly thereafter, traded for Brandon Marshall without caveat. Ozzie Newsome, Bill Belichick, Thomas Dimitroff. You don't question the personnel guy on most teams.
One thing is clear: the Denver Broncos now belong solely to John Elway. They did when he was playing and they certainly do now that he has the ultimate exec chair. There's only one room at the top of the summit and John Elway has placed his flag in that spot.