I salute you!
The Denver Broncos are AFC West Champs and are headed to the playoffs -- that is sweet. I don’t care how they got there -- they got there. Which teams get in to the playoffs is not decided in a single game, it is decided as the sum total of a team’s complete 16-game resume. And, by the skin of their horse teeth, our beloved Broncos did just enough to get in this year.
And guess what? Just enough is plenty in the NFL.
Momentum from week to week (or heading into the playoffs in this case) is, in my opinion, overrated. Each game (regular season or playoffs) holds its individual keys -- plays/moments that the game turns on. Injuries, breakdowns, elite plays -- they happen and throw their weight upon every game. Within each small battle is an opportunity to build toward the larger victory: the elusive and all-important “W”. It is, as Legend Lombardi said, the only thing.
I remember all too well what each of the last five seasons have felt like at the end -- that sick, pit-in-the-stomach, “how the hell am I going to swallow this bitter pill?’ feeling. From coach firings (twice), to massive roster turnovers and finger-pointing, it just felt like a nightmarish carousel the Broncos couldn’t get off.
But now, it simply doesn’t matter what happens in the playoffs; the fact is that these Broncos have earned their spot -- and if you doubt they earned it, you are inconveniently dismissing the most impressive and unlikely six game win streak of this NFL season (by any team). That run of six won the Broncos the ability to drop their last three and still get in.
The other reason it doesn’t matter is this team is already a success. I predicted an 8-8 record at the start of the season (not that that factoid matters in the grand scheme). What matters about it is that I felt the target was A) in range and B) would demonstrate significant growth -- the latter being something we’ve all been pining for years. They did it -- as a team and establishing an identity along the way.
Make no mistake, this team is limited and far from pretty. At the same time, this group has some great things to grow on. They are light years ahead of teams from the last few years heading into next -- better coaching, solid front office and a decent (not overwhelming) amount of young talent. Despite Tebow’s struggles in the last few games, I’m more convinced than ever that he’s going to flourish in the off-season and come back ready to take this team to the next level (whatever that may be). He looks like a rookie out there -- which, in game terms, he is. However, he has become more patient in the pocket (often painfully so, but you can see him working). His feet are much better. He is trying to make reads, but not always getting much help from the receivers and play calls. He is also missing things -- largely because right now he is playing not to lose. His confidence is clearly badly shaken, but I believe that’s largely because he’s trying to take on too much too soon -- I think some people lose sight of this mid-season transition and how much everyone (coaches, players and front office) are learning on the fly. Tebow needs time and continuity -- he will have both this off-season for the first time as a Bronco.
There are plenty of draft picks and interesting free agents to be considered -- but most happily, that is for another day...because the Broncos are in the playoffs now!!!
It is vitally important to celebrate this accomplishment. Why? It is a milestone. It is a monkey off the back. It is validation that yes, this team does belong in the playoffs -- where anything can happen. There’s only one team that really bothers me in the AFC --the Ravens. Just something about that team seems to snakebite the Broncos year in and out. No matter as the games are played one at a time and next week will be the Steelers.
My parting shot is this: today is all any of us have. Today, the Broncos are AFC West Champions. Enjoy it. Do not apologize for it. Don’t even engage the argument with anyone else. Grab your fellow Bronco lovers and toast this year’s accomplishments.
Congratulations Denver Broncos!!!