- Associated Press - Sunday, January 2, 2011

DENVER (AP) - Hall of Famer John Elway is expected to rejoin the Denver Broncos as their chief football executive by midweek, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Sunday.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal to bring Elway back to the franchise hasn’t been completed.

Team spokesman Patrick Smyth said reports that the team had already reached an agreement with Elway were premature.

“Talks with John are progressing, but nothing has been finalized at this point,” Smyth said.

Attempts to reach Elway and his agent, Marvin Demoff, were not successful.

The Broncos have won just one playoff game since Elway retired in 1999 following his second straight Super Bowl title and haven’t reached the postseason in five years.

Elway’s first order of business will be to search for a coach. The Broncos (4-11) fired Josh McDaniels last month in the midst of their worst skid in four decades and in the wake of the Spygate II videotaping scandal.

ESPN reported that Elway would discuss the head coach opening with Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh. A former Stanford star, Elway is serving as honorary captain for the Cardinal on Monday night at the Orange Bowl.

The only candidate known to have an interview set up is Eric Studesville, who was promoted to interim coach from running backs coach when McDaniels was fired Dec. 6, not even halfway through his four-year contract.

Studesville earned his first NFL win last week when Tim Tebow engineered a comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit for a 24-23 victory over Houston. Studesville said he’ll interview for the full-time job next week.

Elway, who once ran Denver’s arena league team, has said on his Denver radio show the last couple of weeks that he’s eager to get back into the NFL.

“I love the game of football. That’s what I’m excited about. The game is something that’s in my blood,” he said on 87.7 The Ticket in Denver. “It’s been there forever. I got involved in the arena league because I wanted to be close to football and learn that front office side. To me, it was a great learning experience for me. It got me a chance to be close to the game even though it was obviously a very different game at a different level. The competitive side of it is definitely the lure.”

Elway will rejoin a franchise that needs a major makeover.

The Broncos acknowledged upon McDaniels‘ firing that they had given him too much power too soon when they hired him away from Bill Belichick’s staff in New England and made him the head coach and de facto general manager with final say on all personnel matters _ two jobs the then-32-year-old never had before.

McDaniels traded away Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler and Peyton Hillis, and failed to use any of his 19 draft picks on an inside linebacker or defensive tackle, and the Broncos rank among the lowest in the league in every defensive category.

The Broncos have just a half dozen picks in April’s draft after McDaniels traded away a bevy of picks over his 22-month stint, some of them to obtain former Patriots Russ Hochstein, Laurence Maroney and LeKevin Smith, players who were past their prime.

The Broncos face San Diego (8-7) in their season finale Sunday. A loss would be their 12th, setting a franchise record, but it would also secure the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

Elway has served as a business consultant to the Broncos this year. He was an ambassador for their game in London, attended some practices and even gave the team a pep talk midway through the season.

Elway told the AP last summer he’s a big fan of Tebow and thinks the former Florida star can have a bright future in the NFL.

Tebow supplanted Kyle Orton as Denver’s starting quarterback last month, losing at Oakland in his first start on Dec. 19 and then beating Houston last week.

Orton signed a one-year extension in training camp that calls for him to earn $8.8 million next season. He could be prime trade bait if the new regime decides to stick with Tebow.

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