Denver Broncos: What does the ideal GM, no. 2 pairing look like?

August 19, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters before the game against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium. The Broncos defeated the 49ers 33-14. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
August 19, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters before the game against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium. The Broncos defeated the 49ers 33-14. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

What is the ideal GM, no. 2 pairing for the Denver Broncos’ front office?

For the first time since the late 90s, the Denver Broncos have to figure out how to replace an all-time great in John Elway.

Elway was the Broncos’ savior after a horrific 2010 season which had the insult of cheating on top of the injury of being terrible and losing games.

The Broncos hired Elway to run their front office and build the roster back into a contender.

It’s incredible how much has happened in the last 10 years and yet how quickly they have gone by. Not only is Elway stepping aside as general manager of the Broncos leading into the 2021 offseason, but his top lieutenant Matt Russell is also retiring.

It’s not as though Elway and Russell are leaving a new general manager and no. 2 with a roster that just went to the Super Bowl, but the cupboard is hardly bare in Denver talent-wise. There is plenty of talent to be developed on offense and defensively, the Broncos have a combination of youth and veteran pieces.

Some huge decisions loom large for a new general manager candidate (and there are many of those) so the Broncos will need to act quickly to get those candidates interviewed and cast a wide net before ultimately making a decision.

Given what the Broncos do have to offer a new general manager personnel-wise, plus the fact that John Elway stated the thinking is to have the new GM work with Vic Fangio as the head coach, what is the ideal GM and no. 2 pairing for the Broncos?

That’s a tough question without having a real in-depth understanding of the guys in charge of making moves for teams and how involved they actually are, which is why many are naturally drawn to the names that already have some ties to the Denver Broncos.

Those names are plenty, too.

John Lynch’s top assistant executive in San Francisco is Adam Peters, who previously worked in Denver. Champ Kelly is considered another top GM candidate in Chicago, and he spent a number of years working with the Broncos prior to joining the Bears in 2015.

Other candidates like John Spytek, Dave Ziegler, Rick Smith — they all have history with the Denver Broncos and some have history working with Elway which, in theory, could work to their advantage in the interview process.

The business side of the NFL and moving parts are so often about who you know but is it wise for the Denver Broncos to go that route just for the sake of having familiarity?

The Broncos should cast a wide net in their search for a new general manager, considering any and every option before hiring the best candidate. If that happens to be someone who has previously worked in Denver, even better.

There are benefits to familiarity in the NFL, especially when it comes to working together on roster building and being on the same page there. That is undoubtedly why Champ Kelly — who has a history with both the Denver Broncos and current head coach Vic Fangio — seems to be an ideal candidate on paper.

If Kelly is the clear favorite at this point for the job, who should he be bringing in as his no. 2?

Obviously, we are not privy to the Broncos’ list of top candidates, but John Elway’s comments on Monday about bringing in someone with a “different” perspective seem very telling.

"No. We’re going to be here to help him with evaluation. Obviously, when that new GM comes in, he’s going to come in and make his own assessment of where we are, and I think it’s going to be great for us in the fact it’ll be a different perspective for us too. I think that we’re looking to hear from that person—what they think of our football team and where we are and what they think we need to do. We’ll give them our opinions. Vic’s obviously going to be very involved with that as far as being the head coach and his evaluation of the players, and also mine, but we’re not dictating anything before the GM comes in that he has to do this or has to do that. Those are all types of things that will be discussed.John Elway (via Broncos PR, emphasis added)"

Not that someone like Champ Kelly, who has been working with the Chicago Bears since 2015, would not have a “different” perspective, but those comments from Elway really make it sound like the Broncos want someone with fresh eyes of the organization to come in and give the roster a fair evaluation so the team can move forward accordingly.

Just using what I know and the way my mind works, the idea that really stands out is bringing in someone like ESPN’s Louis Riddick to be the top assistant executive to someone like a Champ Kelly.


Riddick has been interviewing for GM positions despite not working in an NFL front office since 2013 with the Philadelphia Eagles. He has done such a tremendous job with ESPN in the past few years that NFL teams are obviously taking note of his ability to evaluate talent and that spans the entire league, not just one team.

Riddick’s unique perspective having worked as an NFL analyst and NFL Draft evaluator for ESPN gives him an edge over other candidates who don’t have weekly inside access to every NFL club. That is the kind of access the TV crews get when they prepare for a game, interviewing players, coaches, executives, owners, and finding creative ways to understand the subject matter for even just one TV broadcast.

For people like Riddick who already has experience both as a player and someone in the front office, having that bird’s eye view of the NFL allows him to see what works and what doesn’t from a league-wide perspective. He knows the tendencies of other teams. Similar to John Lynch of the 49ers — whose GM job with the 49ers was his first job as an NFL executive — Riddick could bring so much to the table in terms of positive connections around the league in addition to having a great eye for talent and team-building.

The pairing of Champ Kelly and Louis Riddick would not be the only good option. There are so many qualified candidates out there even just for the GM job, but the possibility of those two together is fascinating for the Denver Broncos.