There was a period in our history when Mike Shanahan wore the "genius" label, a gaudy title draped on the coach after he transformed the Denver Broncos into back-to-back Super Bowl winners in the late 1990s.
The Brian Griese era rapidly informed us that without John Elway at quarterback, Shanahan and the Broncos were human, at times desperate. They've sought the next John Elway ever since.
It's not ironic that Elway himself finally unearthed a suitable heir. It's his job, after all, and one the vice president of football operations appears well-suited for, having outdueled Shanahan's Redskins and every other franchise league-wide for the services of Peyton Manning.
"People have no idea how much time (Manning) puts in," Shanahan told The Denver Post on Monday at the NFL Annual Meeting. "You get an opportunity to get a guy like this once in a lifetime. They got it done."
Shanahan is convinced the Broncos have pulled a coup, despite Manning's high-octane price tag and questionable physical status. It's a style he appreciates, after the 'Skins aggressively pursued a trade for the Rams' No. 2 pick and the rights to Robert Griffin III.
Under Elway, the Broncos are not a team given to fits of passivity. Landing Manning guarantees nothing on the field -- not yet, anyway -- but who can fault Denver for going for it? As Shanahan will tell you, you're a genius one day, an outcast the next. Elway will continue to be hailed for pulling Manning in-house, at least until the games begin.