ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos general manager Brian Xanders was Josh McDaniels' right-hand man, yet had his hands tied when it came to personnel decisions.
McDaniels had the final say on all roster matters.
So when the coach was fired earlier this month, Xanders stayed on, his value evidenced by the Broncos' decision to have him attend the league meetings in Dallas this week. Now he hopes to stay on even longer -- as the team's general manager.
"The dynamics were he had final say on player personnel issues," Xanders said of McDaniels during an interview with The Associated Press. "I was respectful of that, and I was going to work under those parameters. We did our best to build our draft board and free-agency ranking lists and match the player personnel fits with scheme requirements we have."
The Broncos clearly don't hold Xanders accountable for all the personnel moves that McDaniels made, many of which backfired and resulted in the team's worst slide in almost 40 years.
"We have a 17-person personnel staff that had been going through all those processes. But he had final say," Xanders said. "I'll just say I was respectful of the organizational setup."
While his future with the team is uncertain because the Broncos' brain trust has yet to decide on a new front-office organizational chart, Xanders could slip into the GM role with John Elway as chief football executive. Xanders he could fill a lesser role in the organization.
Xanders' lack of public recognition even around Denver, despite his job title, stems from McDaniels wanting a single organizational voice. Yet Xanders' reputation within the team's Dove Valley headquarters is as a hardworking, knowledgeable individual with broad experience in college and pro scouting, as well as negotiating contracts.
Xanders would be happy to serve the franchise for which he has worked the last three years in any capacity under a reconfigured power structure. He said he welcomes the likelihood of Elway joining the team's hierarchy, but he's also in the dark about where he'd fit.
"Right now, everything's uncertain until the end of the year," Xanders said. "The organization's going through a lot of change, and I hope I can be here. I love being with the Broncos, and we'll see how it ends up."
Xanders, 39, said he would "absolutely" relish the opportunity to become a GM with decision-making authority: "I'd like to be here for the long run," he said.
Long describes the Broncos' season -- one more loss, and they (3-10) will match the 1967 team with their worst 14-game start ever.
Xanders is working in concert with the player personnel department on preparation for the draft, free agency and the state of the current roster. Those tasks are difficult without knowing who the incoming coaching staff and/or front office executives will be and what kind of schemes they will implement. The roster must be built around the specific individual positional needs tied to organizational philosophies on offense and defense.
Denver has a litany of on-field issues, but the most pressing long-term concern is a defense that ranks 25th or worse in 11 of the 19 official NFL rankings.
Age has crept into the unit. Instability has marked the defensive coordinator job, with Don Martindale the seventh to hold that spot since 2000. And a lack of commitment to expending high picks at core positions along the front seven has resulted in a consistent patchwork approach.
"There likely will be a major investment on the defensive side of the ball in the draft and free agency in an attempt to get it to the top-10 level," Xanders said.
Offensively, Xanders wants to build more consistency in what had been a Broncos staple for years: the running game.
And while he's hesitant to discuss several topics -- moves that have cost Denver talented players such as Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler, Peyton Hillis and others; a propensity to deal draft selections with regularity; nine-time Pro Bowl selection Champ Bailey's future in Denver -- Xanders did say he was committed to building through the draft and compiling picks strategically.
Regardless of who's in charge, the Broncos seem intent on finding a quick solution.
"I think in the NFL, if you build the right way, with a strong foundation in the draft and then supplement the roster with some impact free agents, then anything's possible," Xanders said. "The Saints went from 8-8 to the Super Bowl championship. The Falcons went from 4-12 to 11-5. The Chiefs went from 4-12 to competing for a title this year.
"So it's proven if you build the foundation right and stick to the plan and have some consistency on both sides of the ball, whether it's coaching schemes or philosophy, and carry out the plan, then it can be turned around quickly."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press