Ed Andrieski/Associated Press file photo
Ed Andrieski/Associated Press file photo
ENGLEWOOD – Brian Xanders is out as general manager of the Denver Broncos after three years in that role.
Broncos boss John Elway said the decision to part ways with a year left on Xanders’ contract was made in a meeting between the two men Monday.
Xanders, 41, aspires to have final say on personnel matters after nearly two decades in the NFL, but that wasn’t going to happen in Denver, where Elway is in his second season in charge.
Elway is a hands-on boss who has made several moves lately to streamline the personnel department and build a roster he envisions can compete for a championship like the ones he won during his Hall of Fame career as the Broncos quarterback.
“Brian and I had a very productive conversation earlier (Monday). Although it was an extremely difficult decision, it became clear that it was best for both the Broncos and Brian to part ways,” Elway said in a statement. “I believe a change to the structure of our football operations will be mutually beneficial, allowing the department to improve its efficiency while affording Brian the opportunity to continue his promising career with another NFL team.”
Xanders, who didn’t return messages from The Associated Press, joined the Broncos as assistant GM under coach Mike Shanahan in 2008 and was promoted to general manager following Josh McDaniels’ hiring as coach a year later. But Xanders never had final say on roster decisions under Shanahan, McDaniels or Elway, who took over as vice president of football operations last year.
While veteran coach John Fox was leading the Broncos’ turnaround on the field, it was Xanders who helped show Elway the ropes of an NFL front office job last year, guiding him through the administrative procedures and policies.
Elway began making major changes in his second season in charge, streamlining the football operations department by promoting Matt Russell from director of college scouting to director of player personnel and hiring former agent Mike Sullivan to handle contract negotiations and the salary cap.
There will be no numerical replacement for Xanders; nobody else will get the GM title.
“Brian deserves a tremendous amount of credit and recognition for the contributions he made to the Broncos during his four years with the organization,” Elway said. “His hard work and dedication played a major role in the recent success of our team, most notably last season’s division title and playoff win.”
The Broncos ended a six-year playoff drought last season when they won the middling AFC West with an 8-8 record, then upset Pittsburgh in a wild-card playoff when Tim Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime.
Xanders spent his first 14 seasons in the NFL in various capacities with the Atlanta Falcons before joining the Broncos as assistant GM under Shanahan.
After his promotion to GM, Xanders had some say – although McDaniels had final authority – in the Broncos’ much-criticized draft class of 2009 that included Knowshon Moreno with the 12th pick, Robert Ayers with the 18th selection and Alphonso Smith, Darcel McBath and Richard Quinn in the second round.
The 2010 draft was much better, netting Thomas and Tebow and fellow starters Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton and Eric Decker. In 2011, the Broncos used the second overall selection on Von Miller, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. That draft also netted starters Orlando Franklin and Quinton Carter.
Elway, who lured quarterback Peyton Manning, the biggest free agent prize in NFL history, to Denver in March and then traded Tebow to the Jets the next day, had much more of a say in this year’s draft.
He traded out of the first round and selected defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Ronnie Hillman with his top three picks. Elway also was deeply involved in adding undrafted college free agents to the roster.
“My responsibility to the Broncos and our fans is to build a championship football team. The setup we have throughout every phase of our football operations will better position us for success going forward,” Elway said. “Making a change with someone of Brian’s caliber is not easy. I thank him for everything he did for the Broncos and wish him all the best as he continues his career.”