DENVER — Tired of attacks on his character and integrity over the past 48 hours, Broncos president John Elway refuted Brian Flores' allegations that he conducted a sham interview in 2019 and was hungover.
The Broncos provided a statement from Elway, who called Flores' accusations "false and defamatory." Flores named the Broncos as one of three teams in a lawsuit filed against the NFL for racial discrimination. Elway had not planned to respond, but changed his mind Thursday, issuing a statement.
"I could not be silent any longer with my character, integrity and professionalism being attacked. I took Coach Flores very seriously as a candidate for our head coaching position in 2019 and enjoyed our three-and-a-half hour interview with him. Along with the rest of our group, I was prepared, ready and fully engaged during the entire interview as Brian shared his experience and vision for our team," Elway wrote." It’s unfortunate and shocking to learn for the first time this week that Brian felt differently about our interview with him."
Flores accused the Broncos of conducting a sham interview, and wrote in his lawsuit that CEO Joe Ellis and Elway appeared hungover and disinterested.
"So, I've had nine interviews with NFL clubs, and one interview where anyone was late. And it wasn't me that was late, it was the interviewers who were late. And that was with the Broncos. There was a reason why they were late. They had been out the night before," Flores said on ESPN's "Get Up" on Wednesday. "
"When you sit at a table with five people interviewing you, you can tell who is asking questions and who is into the interview and who's not necessarily in the right state in that moment. Even then, I put my best foot forward. I showed why I was a good candidate for that job. I am always going to do that. But, you know, I certainly did not feel like I was taken seriously, that I was just there because of the Rooney Rule."
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Elway explained that there was a reason he appeared disheveled, tracing it to a cross country flight to Providence, R.I., in the middle of the night.
“For Brian to make an assumption about my appearance and state of mind early that morning was subjective, hurtful and just plain wrong. If I appeared “disheveled,” as he claimed, it was because we had flown in during the middle of the night—immediately following another interview in Denver—and were going on a few hours of sleep to meet the only window provided to us. I interviewed Brian in good faith, giving him the same consideration and opportunity as every other candidate for our head coaching position in 2019.”
The Broncos said they kept detailed notes of the meeting, that it began on time at 7:30 a.m. and lasted nearly four hours — the allotted time. A source told Denver7 the Broncos traveled from Denver and arrived at the hotel around 3 a.m. in Providence, R.I., for the 7:30 a.m. meeting with Flores. They said they were present for the scheduled interview time, that it lasted the planned duration, concluding at 11 a.m., and included specific, detailed questions that showed their "sincere interest" in Flores.
Elway and Ellis were not involved in the most recent coaching search, other than listening in at times on Zoom. GM George Paton led the interviews and selected former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett last week. Elway's contract expires soon, marking the end of his time as an executive with the club. Ellis will retire following the transition of ownership which could be complete as early as late spring, but might drag out until the start of the 2022 season.