We don't have to look far back to remember the times when the Broncos were considered the laughing stock of the NFL. A team that was a giant disaster. A team devoid of any appreciable Pro-Bowl talent and a team that was destined to bottom feed in one of the worst divisions of the NFL.
Those times were less than 24 months ago.
Those were tough times to be a Broncos fan. I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for players like Champ Bailey who were just hoping and praying their team would turn things around quickly enough so that he had a chance to be under those lights of the Super Bowl. In the end that's really all any NFL player can ask for. Just that chance to win the big one.
There was no chance two years ago that the Broncos were going anywhere anytime soon. There was no chance they would make it to the big dance. There was almost no chance we'd be winning our division in the foreseeable future. We had little draft stock, little trade value and a massive quarterback controversy. Success had to be years away. It's like the Broncos were stuck in Canada with no pants and winter was coming. All we could do was protect our junk.
We were a humbled organization. We took our whippings and said all the right things. We've got to work harder they said. We've got to keep getting better they said. It would have been easy to lash back. The Broncos were in a state of devastation when McDaniels left and we were clearly trying to find the right pieces to put this whole team back together. But we weren't trash talkers and we took on the role of NFL underdog the right way, with silence and purpose even when the Tebow phenomenon made us the most watched maybe-not-as-terrible-as-we-thought football team of all time.
Our struggles were there for primetime. We acted the humble heroes during a time where this team was held together by leadership and will. Those were tough times and I know many of the Broncos who played through those times aren't taking them for granted today.
Fast forward two years and here we sit a wholly different team. Just this morning Mike Greenberg put the Denver Broncos at the top of his "eye test" list of teams that could win the Superbowl. The Broncos have climbed up to #7 in the Power Rankings and are prepared to wipe the rest of their regular season clean as the clear favorites heading into nearly every remaining game.
There's only one way to describe it: It's crazy.
The Broncos suddenly see themselves as the frontrunners in their division and perhaps even the conference. Just recently new Bronco Joel Dreessen talked about beating the Chargers next week and helping them realize that they are on the distant backburner in this division. That's some big talk for a guy that wasn't around to see the tough times.
The Broncos have found their swagger back, which is great, but they are in danger of watching the pendulum swing too far the other direction and it's being spearheaded by new Broncos that don't seem to understand just how tough it used to be.
The blowout win over the Panthers demonstrated an attitude the Broncos haven't shown in years and it's an attitude that can have dangerous consequences if not channeled.
Heading into this game versus the Panthers Von Miller promised a special sack dance when he got to Cam Newton. As #1 and #2 overall picks in last years draft there is naturally some competition between the two superstars. Miller made good on his promise and showed off his Tinkerbell version of Cam's signature superman pose. It was funny, it was appropriate and then it was over.
For the rest of the game that move belonged to undrafted free agent Tony Carter who made it a point to continue mocking the Cam Newton pose on his own. Tony Carter, a guy that has no signature move because for most of his three year career he has not been a signature or even significant player. Tony Carter, who was waived by the Broncos right before things started to get bad in 2010, spent a quick stint with the Patriots as a nonfactor, another year as practice meat on the Vikings and now he's returned to the Broncos as things have started to get great. He's a career benchwarmer enjoying some fantastic success over the past couple weeks but to see him act you'd think he'd been doing this his entire career.
He never went through the fire of the past two years. He was too busy imagining what it would look like to do the Superman while he rode the pine.
I have no problem with player celebrations but when those celebrations are aimed at a one player in particular on another team you better have a reason and it better stay professional or you start to stir up bad blood that doesn't need to be there. It is not so much the act that bothers me, it's the attitude behind the act that shows a complete lack of awareness on how fast things can change in the NFL, for better or for worse. Once a team starts to adopt that idea that they can start rubbing their success in the faces of their opponents is the minute that entitlement mentality sets in. Once a team feels entitled they get beaten.
If Tony Carter's antics weren't enough we had Trindon Holliday, a guy that hasn't been a part of a loss this year between two teams, giving up the football before crossing the goal line on an electric touchdown run so he could run to the corner and show off his Bernie lean. The Broncos were fortunate enough that the officials missed the call but it is the attitude behind that kind of play that is concerning. That little flip at the end is the kind of showoff mentality that creates big issues down the road.
Undoubtedly these are issues that the coaching staff will do their best to squelch right now but it concerns me to see a team that has found a way to win with hard work and in the face of ridiculous odds would let a few new faces set a tone that flaunts this new success in opponents faces.
We are fortunate to be where we are and much of it can be attributed to the success of Peyton Manning, someone you'd never see crossing this line as he completes his own comeback story. Now is not the time to be taking our success for granted. Any attitude of entitlement has to be taken care of right away or we'll be getting ours sooner than we'd like to think.
Opportunity is a beautiful thing that smiles on everyone sometimes but karma is a bitch that cheats on everyone.