It's been quite a month. January brought back a Broncos legend (John Elway), a new head coach (John Fox) and a new set of topics to talk about. Tebow versus Orton. Players Association versus the NFL. I'm going to set those topics aside, for the moment. Today, I want to talk about success. What does it take to be successful and can the Broncos be successful with the core pieces they have, right now?
At the very least, the hiring of John Elway was a PR move. At the very most, this was beginning of a Broncos comeback, more specifically a return to the top tier of NFL teams. Obviously, John Elway is a guy that already holds a special place in the hearts of Broncos fans. Heck, some people have even been born thanks to Elway's effort during The Drive (the author of this article, for instance). But does that success on the gridiron translate to success at the top of the Broncos organization?
Absolutely, it does. Why? Because John Elway is a winner.
I know there are some of you that are already thinking, "Troy, just because you call someone a winner doesn't make it so. That's just verbage. It doesn't mean anything. You're excluding a bunch of facts. Elway performed great on the field but that doesn't translate to the front office".
Wrong. You can't make a successful person unsuccessful. There are certain people that just succeed, no matter what. They succeed at their job, in their relationships, in their communities, and just life, in general. John Elway is one of those people. He's not going to quit because a situation becomes difficult. If he was one of those types of people, he would have taken one look at this 4 win franchise and say "Y'all are on your own, fellas".
John Elway cares about this organization and he is going to see to it that the Broncos are, once again, successful. I trusted John Elway when he had the football in his hands and I trust him, right now, while he's working to bring the Broncos back to greatness. With the organization under his watchful eye, I have no doubt that we're all in good hands.
Make no mistake about it, though. John Elway hasn't just been handed the reigns of this organization based on Pat Bowlen favoritism. He has a solid resume of executive experience. He has been the co-owner of the Colorado Crush since 2002 (along with Pat Bowlen and Stan Kroenke). The Crush won two division titles (2005 and 2006) and an ArenaBowl Championship in 2005. In 2007, Elway was brought on as an elected chariman of the AFL executive committee until the AFL suspended operations in 2009. Not only that, but he owns two steakhouses, owned and sold five auto dealerships and even blogged for a while.
Elway hasn't just been sitting on his couch, watching old highlight reels of himself. He has been actively participating in executive opportunities and - like everything else in his life - has succeeded.
Will the same happen with the Denver Broncos? Yes. The Broncos will succeed.
Why would there be any reason to doubt the Comeback King?
Remember the Elway days when the Broncos would be down by one score? Remember that gut feeling you had when the ball was in Elway's hands? It was good, wasn't it? It almost felt like the Broncos weren't trailing, at all. You could almost feel that the Broncos were going to win the game.
For some reason, I have that feeling when I think about the 2011 Broncos and the 2012 Broncos. Sure, there are a whole handful of reasons why the Broncos weren't successful in 2010 and we could spend months going through every problem area. Most of it boils down to poor defensive discipline, bad tackling, predictable playcalling, and injuries... but even if all of those areas were addressed, it still wouldn't guarantee success in the NFL. There's one ingredient missing from the list I just mentioned.
Football is about heart. It's about drive. Football is war, chess, and emotion, all rolled into one. The highest pedigree doesn't always win football games and neither does the highest intelligence. To be truly successful in football, you need a bit of everything. When I look at the ultimate "football players", the first player that comes to mind is Ray Lewis. He embodies what a football player should be.
He's 35 years old and still makes plays. How? Because not only does he have an incredible football mind, not only does he push his body to perform at a high level, but he wants it more than anyone else on the football field field. By all accounts, a linebacker shouldn't be able to play as long as Ray Lewis has. The physical toll that these guys put on their body would be enough to break the average person in one play. Ray Lewis, on the other hand, has taken thousands of snaps in his NFL career, many more if you include the practices and workouts, and more still if you consider his work in college, high school and pop warner. That adds up to almost 30 years of punishment on his body.
A lot of us wake up in the morning groggy, feeling slightly weaker than we did when we were younger (like Benjamin Button in reverse), but can you imagine waking up after being beaten up on an NFL field the day before? What about waking up after being beaten up on an NFL field for 10 years straight?
That thought alone should make you appreciate what these players go through.
With that in mind, how do you think these players approach the day to day NFL lifestyle? Well, it's not easy. It's hard to contemplate the pain that Lions fans felt the day Barry Sanders walked away from the game, but if you put yourself in Barry's shoes for a second maybe it makes sense. It takes a special kind of person to want to play football after years and years of punishment. If football is not your first love, quit while you've still got some life in those knees.
The same thing goes in any walk of life. If you aren't passionate about what you do, you won't do it well. If you aren't passionate about teaching, you won't teach very well. If you aren't passionate about working in a restaurant, you won't work in a restaurant very well. If you aren't passionate about selling merchandise, you won't sell a lot of merchandise. The list goes on.
In the NFL, you won't be successful if you aren't passionate. You can't become the best unless you will yourself to be the best.
It's clear that the Broncos have people at Dove Valley who will stop at nothing to be the best. John Elway is passionate about getting the best people to help the Broncos improve. Tim Tebow is passionate about becoming the best quarterback that he can be. John Fox is passionate about coaching the Broncos to a Super Bowl.
The Broncos have passionate people in place and that passion will drive them to be successful. I have no doubt of that. What remains to be seen is whether or not the passion can infect the entire team. If you watched the final three games of the Broncos 2010 season, you could see the amount of emotion that ran through the team. As Tim Tebow prospered, the Broncos prospered. You can't expect to cruise through the season like that, though. Passion has to come from every player on the field. One player cannot will a team to victory through the entire season (see Super Bowl XXI, XXII, XXIV).
The Broncos will be successful in the foreseeable future because the passion for winning starts at the top. The Broncos have passionate people at a few key points in the organization but it will take an entire team of passionate people to succeed going forward. That passion for winning needs to start trickling down and the Broncos will be battling for Lombardi Trophies very soon.