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Elway to the rescue? Bronco legend's name popping up

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos are a team in need of a comeback. No surprise, then, that John Elway's name keeps popping up.

The Hall of Fame quarterback has been mentioned as a possible part of the management team that replaces Mike Shanahan, who was terminated as coach and executive vice president of football operations.

Career Statistics:
SB wins: 2

Yards: 51,475

TDs: 300

No. 7 in the front office? Shanahan certainly believes Elway's presence could be a good move for the Broncos.

"We know what John Elway means to Denver," Shanahan said Wednesday at his farewell news conference. "If I was a free agent coming in and John Elway was there, I'd sign for no money."

The idea isn't so farfetched: Elway co-owns the Arena Football League's Colorado Crush with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.

However, the ex-QB is lean on experience, his only front-office background coming from running the Crush, a team whose season is currently on hold as the league figures out its financial situation.

On the field, there was nobody better -- at least there's very little debate about that in Denver. Shanahan's arrival as coach helped Elway break through and finally win not one, but two Super Bowls. Elway was named MVP of the second one and strolled off into the sunset after that.

He engineered 47 winning or game-saving drives in his career, and now, many in the Mile High City hope he'll be called on for another kind of save.

"John Elway's got lots of things to do," Bowlen said. "He's got a business life of his own. He's a very busy man. ... I haven't talked to John. I don't have any idea if he has any interest. But I do know he's very busy doing a lot of other things."

Elway did not immediately return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

Bowlen wouldn't speculate on who he may be courting to run the club, but did say his priority is to find a head coach first, a front-office face later.

He doesn't foresee giving the next coach the same type of command that he afforded Shanahan. Names such as Bill Cowher, Scott Pioli and a number of NFL assistants, including Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, have been mentioned.

"I hope that I can replace him with somebody that can be on the same level that Mike was," Bowlen said, trying to hold back his emotions as he talked about his close relationship with Shanahan. "That's obviously going to be very hard to do. I think it was time for the organization to move on and for Mike to move on. I have no regrets in making that decision.

"We're trying to get a great coach to come in here. This job in Denver is a very attractive one."

Whoever he picks won't be as well-known in Denver as Elway, who has turned into an entrepreneur, running a string of car dealerships before selling the company. His name is on a pair of fancy steakhouses in the area, he's a shareholder in the Colorado-based Professional Bull Riders, Inc., along with Wayne Gretzky, and teamed with a store to produce his own signature furniture line.

He's also shown an interest in politics and has wedding bells in his future after his engagement to Paige Green, a former Oakland Raiders cheerleader whom he met at a celebrity golf tournament three years ago.

His time is pretty well occupied these days.

The next Broncos coach will inherit a prolific offense that has a franchise quarterback in place in Jay Cutler, who set team records for passing yards, completions and pass attempts while earning his first Pro Bowl nod.

Bowlen on decision

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen discusses his decision to fire Mike Shanahan, saying "it was time for the organization to move on." Watch ...

Elway even said last month how impressed he was with the maturation of Cutler, who famously claimed that he had a stronger arm than the Broncos great.

"He can throw the ball well and move around," Elway said. "The sky's the limit for Jay as long as he continues to work hard."

Bowlen had a conversation with Cutler on Wednesday morning, reassuring the third-year quarterback who has a strong bond with quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates.

A bond like Shanahan and Elway had in their heyday.

"Jay understands enough about the business of football, the game of football, to know there's going to be coaching changes," Bowlen said. "I didn't sense that Jay had any negative feelings about it. I'm sure he's very interested in who's going to be the next head coach. Obviously he's 'The Man' around here now."

Elway will always be the standard among signal callers in Denver. Brian Griese and Jake Plummer couldn't win the ultimate prize living under the shadow of Elway, while Cutler has yet to even make it to the playoffs.

Could one help the other?

"I think John would be perfect for any organization, especially this one if that's what he wants to do," Shanahan said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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