We are beings of self-made souls. Every mind is a mason.
Sometimes it is difficult to find examples of this, and easy to mistake the light of dawn for the setting of the sun. Giving up 30 points a game is a dim light indeed. And sometimes the confluence of people and events which point to this truth is so overwhelming that we find ourselves surprised by something we already know.
If there was a surprise for readers of the Mile High Report, in the efforts of the Broncos defense against Tampa Bay, it was only that what we believed, what we knew about this defense, could be made so abundantly clear in such a short time.
Make no mistake: this is not the 2007 defense. These players have taken upon themselves the task of erecting this structure from the bottom up. These coaches have taken up the task of doing it right this time. Every player, from the humble rookie to the pro bowler, is on the scaffolding, setting the stones. And every practice, every game, a fresh course is laid. The early labors of this crew, seemingly without focus or direction, have now taken on the appearance of the structure to come: the arch, the pillar; this defense is beginning to take shape.
The game ball goes to the architect, whose hands are filthy after turning the soil beneath the rotted edifice from the recent past. In toppling that monstrosity, he and the players seem to have discovered a relic of Broncos history, buried, almost forgotten. These laborers turned archaeologists swept away the fragments of clay and shards of glass and took note of how solid were the stones that lay at the foundation of Broncos football. The marks of past craftsmen were straight and true: Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Mecklenburg, Atwater, Wilson. Courage was the capstone, toughness anchored the cornerstones.
Among these stones there was one that catches the eye and captures the imagination:
I've been as perplexed as most of us over the performance of the defense lately. Especially after the debacle in KC. As a coach I knew that I wanted to see a more active, fiesty defense. A defense with that little bit of Nasty that guys like Dennis Smith, Karl Mecklenberg, Steve Atwater, John Lynch and Al Wilson brought to our defense. But as a fan, I was at a loss as to what to do about it. ... I finally came up with it. Buried deep in my closet I possess an orange and navy Bill Romanowski jersey. I have a friend who has a friend who works for the Broncos, and she got me the jersey along with a Bronco helmet. She did this for me in 2001 a couple months after we lost our little boy who was a huge Bronco fan (chip off the old block). ... [M]y favorite thing in that whole gift basket was the autographed Romo jersey that reads "In fond memory of Dyson, Bill Romanowski" ... I know Romo is classified as a shady character but you need that nasty attitude on a defense. Our Broncos brought it last Sunday...
As a symbol Romo is particularly relevant to the Broncos in their current state. In building a soul, in etching an identity, sometimes the most grueling, tiring, and thankless job of the builder is the struggle to undo what has already been done.
Like Romo, the Broncos can benefit from seeking the truth about themselves within themselves. Romanowksi has been categorized and defined by a handful of plays and decisions, in a career that spanned 16 seasons without missing a game, and consisted of over 12,000+ plays. His play consistently was the most intense of any of his peers, raising him to a larger than life presence on the field, and producing 4 championship rings in 5 Super Bowl appearances. 1000+ tackles and 40 sacks speak to an impact that transcended scheme and supporting cast, and leave him as an isolated example of drive and determination.
That kind of toughness, that confidence in one's own strength, has been an early hallmark of the 2008 Broncos, on both sides of the ball. But nowhere has Romo's example been more poignant than with the defense, where the production failed to be realized time again, where the blame hung over their heads like a weighted net of despair, waiting for the first turncoat, the first desperate, scared slashing of securing lines, to drop it and drag them all down. They hung together and they hung tough, trusting eachother and trusting the signs from the past. When the profit of their labor was denied, and from no quarter could be seen reward for their effort, they went without, going back to practice and back to the coaches with an unsated hunger, a thirst to prove themselves to their teammates and to us. They were guided by vision's of the Orange Crush reclaiming Bronco dignity, of Romo reclaiming his soul.
The win against Tampa Bay will gain them a share of accolades denied. We rejoice in the win, we cherish the effort. It doesn't get any easier going forward. Hopefully they know that we understand, that beneath the disappointments, is a belief in what they are trying to do. For now, though, their sweat-soaked backs are to us, their minds on the work ahead of them, their focus intense as the sun climbs into the sky.
When it reaches its zenith, the only shelter they will have is what they manage to build in the coming days.