The idea for this article was sparked in a response to Santa Fe Bronc in GJcontingent-rAd's post "The Phonz . . . a post-mortem".
Bushido is translated roughly as "the way of the warrior" and was used to describe a unique Japanese code of conduct adhered to by the Samurai of feudal Japan. The core tenants of this code revolved around loyalty, honor, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice. The Japanese Samurai are arguably one of the most disciplined warrior classes in all of history ranking up there next to the Greek Spartan. The Samurai were intelligent warriors, swift and deadly, but chastened with patience and humility. This semi-passive, humble spirit is partially what made the Samurai such a formidable opponent in combat - simply because if one has decided to take up arms against you he has probably already exhausted all his diplomatic alternatives and has now finally resorted to force, and will fight to the death.
The Samurai used an arsenal of different weaponry in combat including their own bodies. The Japanese Katana, however, was the most iconic weapon of the Samurai and was the primary weapon of choice in close, armed combat. Forging a Katana was an intricate process and embodied the Samurai nature, which is partially why they viewed the weapon so spiritually and intimately connected with themselves. The Katana is forged by folding a single piece of very high-quality steel upon itself again and again for strength. After the hammer work is done the sword is cooled and then the backbone of the blade is covered with clay to partially insulate the spine from the heat of it's final bake. This keeps the backbone of the sword softer and maintains some give in the blade, while the edge bakes in high heat and becomes very hard and solid. This combination of soft and hard steel keeps the sword from shattering but gives it a very hard and sharp edge, it also gives the sword it's shape since the edge of the blade expands in hotter heat and bends backwards on the softer/cooler backbone in the final bake.
The Samurai's weapon of choice emulated the warrior's code itself. It had a strong and forgiving core with a hard and deadly edge, which closely resembled the Samurai's wise, patient and diplomatic nature accented by decisive, swift, and deadly action. The combination of these attributes made for a very disciplined and determined warrior that operated intelligently and passionately.
I know, I know... enough about the Samurai, you want to know what the heck this has to do with the Denver Broncos. Well the trade of Alphonso Smith is just one of many choices (but probably the biggest and first real definitive choice) that showed McDaniels understands the balance of reason and action. Football, like many sports; is one of both strategy and performance. There is a method of attack and there are soldiers that carry out the orders. McDaniels has a specific definition of what his players (the soldiers) should be, and that is not only tough, talented, and able; but also mature, honorable, and versatile. His players must be both intelligent and physical, and that philosophy may start paying off sooner rather than later.
There is a ton of history and heritage that comes along with the title of being a Denver Bronco - whether coach or player. This franchise has a legacy worthy of recognition and one that any player could be proud of being a part of. McDaniels and his staff have made executive decisions, as well as taken personal actions that have inspired loyalty in the current players on our roster. The way the team has handled letting go of players is a testament to the care the coaches and staff have for the players - which in turn inspires care and loyalty of the players to the organization and coaches themselves. We've traded away big name players - exactly to where they wanted to go. The passion and excitement of our openly-emotional coaches is also infectious to our players and it makes players outside of this organization want to come here and be a part of it.
This goes hand in hand with loyalty and the staff has set the bar high on what kind of character they want their player's to have both on and off the field. Future Broncos need to be mature and make wise decisions if they have any hope of making it on this roster and being successful as a Broncos player. When you play football at this level, you are on a stage that millions are watching; and the league is taking serious actions to maintain a positive profile and be a good influence that is beneficial to not just the local communities of franchises but to the youth of our nation as a whole. This is an amazing thing that so many other areas of entertainment continue to slack in and I am firm believer that a strong moral and ethical foundation is essential to the way our government and nation operates. If the majority rules, that majority had better understand the difference between right and wrong or many will suffer the penalties of bad judgement. Anyhow, I digress. Our players must have honorable character and for the most part the men McDaniels has brought in so far, seem to have that. He isn't a nazi with his guidelines and will give players with a bad reputation a second chance, but those are opportunities are entirely circumstantial and case-by-case decisions.
One of MHR's favorite posters, BShrout popularized McDaniels quote in the title of his series: "Just! Do! Your! Job!" McDaniels has several quotes that reveal his emphasis on individual responsibilities. The famous Thanksgiving day MF quote is one of many of these soundbites and attributes the success of this team to how well each player performs his specific duties on any given play. This is a pretty basic tenant for any football organization, but for a team that spreads talent throughout it's depth... the simple fact is that other team's starters are probably going to be more talented and physically gifted than our own starters, however our second and third stringers are generally more talented than those teams that stockpile high-priced talent in their first string. Because of this it is very crucial that our players obey their orders and maintain their assignments at all times. The team can only win as a whole; the record books are proof that we can't win the game even if the "best player on our team" makes 21 catches.
This ties in to obedience a little, but I still see it as a completely different attribute. That is primarily because of the stage this game is played upon. Fame and statistics often play a much bigger role in a player's decisions than they really ever should and self-sacrifice for our team is normally defined by sacrificing those statistical goals and the fame for the goals of the team and the organization. Even high-caliber players have to sacrifice some time in the spotlight so that younger players can develop for the good of the franchise in the future when they are gone themselves. I really love how our veterans are so open with their advice and make such good mentors for the younger players - even younger players that are trying to steal their job. These players are putting not just the team goals, but the future goals of the organization as a whole, above their own individual fame and statistics and it is a beautiful thing to behold.
Anyone who says that chivalry has no place in today's world is sadly mistaken. There is a place for it everywhere, even in the sport of football. Bushido was the chivalric code of the Japanese Samurai, and the tenants they lived by are ones that nearly everyone could benefit from if they followed those themselves (okay, maybe not ritualistic suicide... but you get my drift I hope). Our team is finally starting to show that it adheres to a high code of conduct - with both personal character and the level of competition. Our players are taking the high-road when many others would not, and our team and organization are all the better for it. McDaniels and the staff have to set the bar themselves, and so far I have been pleased with their decisions.
Many may look at the Alphonso Smith pick as an example of Josh McDaniels' inexperience and lack of the competence needed to run our team but I see it as just the opposite. Yes, he took a risk (as ALL coaches HAVE to in this league to keep up and have a shot at contending for the title) but he also knew when to cut his loses - regardless of what the media or fanbases expects him to do. McDaniels is looking ahead and at the bigger picture. Anyone can look at the way he's handling the Tebow situation and see this. He's not going to start Tebow just because that's what people want and expect - because ultimately he knows the fans want to win a Superbowl more than anything. And if that means keeping Tebow on the bench for a year, he will do it. If it means trading a 1st round draft pick from a future year to grab a potentially all-pro Cornerback now, then he will do it. If it means releasing that player the following year after already making a large investment because it is in the best interests of the team, he will do it.
McDaniels and the rest of the front office understand the importance of self-sacrifice, obedience, honor, duty and loyalty. They have tempered their ambition with reason and combined their passion with their discipline. The new era of the Denver Broncos has begun, and it is the "Way of the Warrior."