"You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
Harvey Dent understood the reality of life of an idol in the spotlight. John Elway is currently living out the dichotomy in Denver.
After years as the on-field hero culminated in two Super Bowl championships, Elway's adoration rose as a GM for recruiting Peyton Manning and constructing another Super Bowl winner. Now, after the Broncos' first back-to-back losing seasons since Elway was in middle school (1971-72), the chinks in the armor are beginning to widen, leaving a previously bullet-proof hero vulnerable.
After firing Vance Joseph, there are no scapegoats left for Elway, who will hire his fourth head coach since taking over the Broncos top job in 2011. In an interview with Mike Klis of KUSA-TV on Monday, Elway said he knows he's a target for criticism after the latest failures.
"It's part of the job," Elway said. "I get that. That's my job. If we don't win, I'm as much a target as anybody else. I don't have any expectations that I should be held to any other standard than anybody else in this position and has my role.
"My path, my history here in Denver does not have anything to do with what's going to happen going forward. I get that. We won five and six games the last two years and it's my job to get that fixed."
There will always be a contingent of Elway backers who will give the GM a pass as a lifetime achievement for all he's done in Denver. Criticize Elway on social media, and watch them flock into your mentions like a band of vampires getting a whiff of blood.
"I'm just like everybody else and I have been my whole life," he said. "You (reporters) put me on a pedestal. My mindset has always been the same in the fact that I'm only as good as the people around me and people that I hire and that work together and try to get the best solution for problems that we do have. It's a great challenge for us. Disappointed about it, but it's also a new start for us.
"Vance did a nice job for us. He worked his tail off but ultimately, he didn't win enough games. Our job is to find that next guy who can get us back to the playoffs and get us competitive."
Elway's struggles to find a quarterback after Manning's demise have underscored a flawed roster that hasn't had a good offensive line in years, and lacks depth. A bevy of missed draft picks in past years left the Broncos vulnerable.
If Elway continues to miss at the quarterback position, however, eventually the legendary hero will become a villain in Denver.