Recently a number of posts have been written, full of sturm und drang, regarding the state of the organization. This is understandable, especially given the recent beatdown endured at he hands of the Ravens. Still, I'd like to suggest that many of the negative reactions are, well, overreactions, and to do that I wanted to share a very easy and realistic way of looking at each Broncos season. Since I started evaluating seasons in this manner I have found that my blood pressure has dropped significantly, and my ability to endure even embarrassing losses has increased.
The very simple method of charting expectations and progress against those expectations is after the jump.I start with the expectation that the Broncos will finish 10-6. This is good enough to get into the playoffs in most, if not all, NFL seasons. More than 10-6 is a great season, while less than 10-6 is a disappointment (if a slight one). Obviously, the past several seasons have been disappointing. Still, by looking at the overall season instead of focusing so intently on every game, I have been able to gain perspective and maintain a sense of optimism and affection for the team that makes being a fan more enjoyable.
Once we've established that we should be 10-6, we need to design a map to get there. I used to do this by going through the 16 games and finding 10 "W"s. The problem with this is when you identify a game as a "W" and the Broncos lose, it causes you to become overly depressed. I sensed this depression in many posts following the Jaguars game.
Rather than go game by game, I break up the season into four parts: divisional games (6), games against our designated AFC Division (4), games against the NFC (4), and games based on previous year's record (2). I then identify a reasonable record for each category. So, for 2010:
- Division - 4-2 - So far 0-0 as no divisional games have been played.
- Games against AFC South - 2-2 - so far 1-2 with a remaining home game against Houston
- Games against NFC - 3-1 - so far 1-0 with remaining games at San Fran (in London), at Arizona, and home against St. Louis.
- Games based on previous year's record - 1-1 (so far 0-1 with this Sunday's home game against the Jets remaining)
Thinking of the season in these terms allows you a little bit of breathing room when it comes to individual games. Sure, the Broncos lost to Baltimore, but if they can manage to beat the Jets they'll be right on track. They lost to Indy and Jacksonville, but if they can manage to beat the Texans they'll have evened that out. Even if they lose to the Jets they could compensate by sweeping their NFC West competition (not improbable) or by going 5-1 in the division (tough but doable).
Of course, at a certain point individual games become "must-win" (last year's game at Philly was a "must-win"), and those games do hurt when the Broncos don't come through (as they haven't for a few seasons now). Still, I find that by focusing on the big picture, you can save yourself a lot of heartache in the earlier parts of the season, and maintain the optimistic attitude that used to characterize Denver fans, before the SB victories. Before, in my opinion, we became an entitled fan base.
Back then - and my memory, I have to admit, goes back to 1984-85, Elway, and no further - we Denver fans seemed to like our teams a lot more. Sammy Winder, for example, had only one 1,000 yard season and never averaged more than 3.9 YPC, but I never recall any real venom against Sammy Winder, or much agitation to find someone better. He may not have been the greatest running back, but he was our running back, and in that he demanded a certain amount of admiration. Think also of Gerald Willhite, who, had he been playing today, would have almost certainly been labeled, with great disgust, as a huge "bust," but who was at the time quite popular, if not necessarily for his stats at least because of his acrobatics and effort.. Compare that kind of attitude to the comments you can read every day about Knowshon (to say nothing of the fanbase's treatment of poor Alphonso Smith).
It seems to me that after the Super Bowl we somehow came to feel that we deserved a team that didn't only compete, and win as much or more than it lost, but a team that regularly destroyed the opposition. That we deserved a team in which every personnel move, every coaching change, every game plan was excellent. And while there's nothing wrong with wanting that, I feel it obscures the fact that, with the proper attitude, you can thoroughly enjoy an 8-8 season in which your team is playing meaningful games in December - even if it's only early December!
So, yes, we're 2-3. Will we be 10-6? Will we make the playoffs? Who knows? Probably not. But we could, it's certainly possible, and by thinking in terms of the season, rather than focusing so much on the results of individual games, I find it easy to maintain that sense of possibility that makes being a fan enjoyable. I find it easy to cheer for, rather than worry about, the individuals on the team and the team as a whole. And it is fun to cheer for the team - really, really fun. It allows you to think things like, "Yeah, well, we got killed at Baltimore, but Brandon Lloyd is amazing!" Five years ago after a loss I was utterly incapable of thinking those kind of thoughts. Through the simple change I describe above in planning wins and losses, I was able to relax and enjoy being a Denver fan again.
Of course, there are all kinds of fans, and I'm sure many of them would find this approach overly naive and unsatisfying. Still, I offer it as a method for those fans who would like to lose less sleep, gnash less teeth, and generally suffer less on any given Sunday, without giving up the intense love they have for the team and the organization.