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Horse Tracks: What this Super Bowl win really means to Broncos fans

With a week between us and the Super Bowl, it still feels pretty amazing. Sure, it's great because it's a terrific feeling to see Broncos players in the media still celebrating, but there's something else that's just as wonderful. Have you noticed, as a fan, an attitude shift on unpleasant things in the Broncos recent past? Allow me to explain.

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In one of the videos celebrating the Broncos historic win in Super Bowl XXXII, there is a brief moment in an interview with former Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson. Tom was talking in reference to the previous Super Bowls that the Broncos and Elway had lost prior to winning their first one.

With just that one win, all those other losses are forgotten.

How true it is. Folks, the difference between 33 and 50 is only 17, but when you consider all that happened between our last Super Bowl and this Super Bowl, it's easy to see, though unspoken, all that was riding on the Broncos this year.

Elway's Retirement - Elway's retirement was something that Broncos fans had to accept. Sure, it came with two Super Bowl trophies, and that always makes it feel better. You show me a Broncos fan that was happy to see Elway go, and I'll show you a liar.

Ed McCaffrey's Broken Leg and the day after - The Broncos opened up 'Invesco Field' at Mile High on September 10, 2001 against the Giants. In that game, Ed McCaffrey broke his leg and would never really return to form. A day later, 9/11 would happen. A terrible 48 hours for America and Broncos fans.

Terrell Davis' Injury - Davis' career ended while trying to make a tackle off of a Brian Greise interception. Davis had already accomplished everything necessary to secure hall of fame consideration. The sky was the limit with him, and in an instant it was over.

Drafts and Free Agency - Coach Mike Shanahan had absolute personnel power and botched it numerous times. Selecting  Deltha O'Neal and Willie Middlebrooks, were horrible draft mistakes. Don't forget, in 2005 the Broncos selected Maurice Clarertt. With regard to free agents, Daryl Gardner and Dale Carter headline only some of Shanahan's embarrassing moves.

Ashley Lelie - Ashley Lelie was a fan favorite. The receiver had a knack for diving catches of the deepest of balls, always for touchdowns. Sadly, his head (and his agent) got the best of him and he wanted big time money. Rather than over-pay for a one note wide receiver, the Broncos traded him to the Altanta Falcons and into obscurity.

Javon Walker - One of the reasons that Lelie was upset with Denver was that the Broncos traded for Green Bay receiver Javon Walker in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft. Javon would have one great season before proving to be totally worthless.

Darrent Williams - In the wee hours of January 1st, 2007, Broncos Corner was shot dead in a limo after a confrontation at a New Years party at a club in downtown Denver. Williams was a fan favorite and his death profoundly affected ownership, fans, and players for year's to come.

Damien Nash - Just two months following the death of Williams, running back Damien Nash collapsed on the court during a charity basketball game. He would pass away on the court.

The Barrel Man - From 1977 to 2007, Tim McKernan wore a barrel to every Broncos home game (limited to one half of play later in life). The original super fan, the Barrel Man was a staple at Mile High. He passed away in December of 2009. There will never be another super-fan like him. The Barrel Man was one of a kind.

Mediocrity - After the Broncos advanced to the AFC Championship game in 2005 and came up short against the Steelers, Denver would miss the playoffs by the smallest of margins for the rest of coach Mike Shanahan's tenure with the Broncos, often times letting control of the AFC West slip at the end of the season.

The End of the Shanahan Era - Following a frustrating late-season collapse in 2008, the Broncos decided it was time to cut ties with the greatest coach in their history. The goodbye was a tearful one, but a necessary one. In his absence, Shanahan left many pieces for the next coach to build upon.

The McD Era - Josh McDaniels took those pieces that Shanahan left and promptly cut and traded them away. McDaniels couldn't get along with quarterback Jay Cutler and ultimately traded him to Chicago. Not only did his jettison quality players on whim, he destroyed the salary cap. When he wasn't losing the most games Broncos fans had seen since the early 1960's, he was getting caught cheating with the same video personnel that had been caught just years before in the New England Patriots cheating scandal. For being with the team for less than two seasons, the damage he caused reverberated throughout the franchise for season's to come.

Jay Cutler - Within weeks of McDaniels' hire, it became apparent that Jay Cutler was going to be playing somewhere else. Jay was miffed that McDaniels had entertained trade offers for the then Pro Bowl quarterback. Cutler's separation from the Broncos was about as ugly as it could get and he quickly became public enemy number one in the Mile High City.

Brandon Marshall - During this time, Brandon Marshall was battling mental illness and was doing some pretty bizarre things. Rough housing with his brother and putting his hand through an entertainment center was the least of the issues. Josh McDaniels and Marshall constantly butted heads and Brandon was ultimately traded to the Miami Dolphins.

Tebow - Then there was Tebow. While he gave us the most exciting season of football professional sports has never seen in 2011, never has there been a draft selection that polarized the Broncos fanbase more. Tebow was exciting, he won, but it was never going to last. The Patriots knew how to play him and the Tebow gimmick was put to rest with a blowout loss in the playoffs and the acquisition of Peyton Manning.

John Fox - Coach John Fox was the right hire at the right time. He quickly righted the ship that McD had tried so desperately to sink. Unfortunately his conservative play and lack of killer instinct would stymie the 2012 and 2014 seasons, seasons that should have been more special than they were. His biggest sin was how poorly his team was prepared for Super Bowl XLVII.

Super Bowl XLVII - The worst thing any Broncos fan can experience is a blow-out loss in the Super Bowl. With the exception of Super Bowl XII, I remember all of the other horrible losses and the Super Bowl parties that prematurely ended as a result. This loss brought all those memories flooding back and there is nothing on this planet, sports-wise, that's worse. John Fox's lack of preparation for this game had made the Broncos look like circus clowns.

Pat Bowlen's Illness - We all knew he was sick prior to his stepping away from running the Broncos last year. Pat had proven himself to be the best owner in football and to hear he was within Alzheimer's grip was a major blow to Broncos fans... Especially those of us who remember him roaming the sideline in a fur coat during the 1986 AFC Championship game in Cleveland.

Seventeen years is an incredibly long time in the football world. There are lots of things a Broncos fan remembers, but as I said earlier, something amazing happens when you win a Super Bowl.

Elway's retirement was short lived. He returned to the Broncos and made the personnel moves that needed to be made to get the Broncos back to respectability following the aftermath of McDaniels' reign. How much sweeter was Super Bowl 50 knowing that John Elway was its architect?

Poor personnel choices and injuries of the past were immediately overshadowed by strokes of genius that compiled this Broncos team. Really, does the blown Willie Middlebrooks draft pick matter that much when you're wearing your Super Bowl 50 Champions hat? Does Daryl Gardner's broken hand after a scuffle in an IHOP parking lot still bother you?

This Super Bowl win also meant a lot to the coaching legacy of the Broncos. Coach Gary Kubiak, a protege of Mike Shanahan, validated a coaching tree that stretches back to the Dan Reeves era. Further, the Broncos got to the Super Bowl by beating Josh McDaniels twice. The Broncos defense out-schemed New England's boy wonder and it brings me a special kind of joy to think about it.

John Fox and Jay Cutler, now both in Chicago must have had an interesting conversation the Monday following the Super Bowl. The only thing keeping Cutler employed is a ridiculous contract that some loon offered him despite consistently erratic play. Fox traded the Broncos for a hapless Bears team that doesn't look like it'll escape turmoil any time soon. Looking at them in the reflection of the Broncos Super Bowl trophy, I'm just not that mad at them anymore. In fact I feel a little sorry for them... but not that much.

Probably the biggest validation to come out of the Super Bowl win was redemption for the blowout loss in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos proved that Denver was not the team of the 1980s that could never perform on the big stage. They were not the clowns that the NFL had made them out to be. Broncos Country hated the Seahawks for the embarrassing play of the Broncos that day. The funny thing is, now that Denver has the Super Bowl 50 trophy in hand, I'm not as mad at the Seahawks as I once was... Their fans are another story.

Lastly, and most importantly, this Super Bowl win was not only for Pat, but it was also for Darrent Williams, Damien Nash, and the Barrel Man. To watch the Broncos finally achieve their ultimate goal would have meant everything to them. There's a plaque on the stadium near the ticket offices that bears Williams' and Nash's names. I know, wherever they are, that this win was also for them. Barrel Man needs some sort of remembrance at the stadium, but regardless, he also knows that win was for him, too.

The mishaps of the past were prologue to the Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 win. All that ugly stuff that came before doesn't matter. The people we want to remember, Williams, Nash, Barrel Man, and Pat are in our hearts and will continue to be a part of the Broncos legacy going forward. The Broncos turned a page with this Super Bowl win and what's next will be part of the thrilling ride that's Denver Broncos football. Super Bowl Champions. I love the sound of that.

Horse Tracks

Personally, I don't think there's anything to the Peyton Manning story from twenty years ago. Peyton isn't by any means innocent, but to crucify him for something he did before he could legally buy beer (I'm paraphrasing), is silly. Could more scandal be coming for Broncos' Peyton Manning and will it stick? | Shutdown Corner - Yahoo Sports

However, there could be more to it and we'll find out in the coming days. Yawn. Daily News suggests redacted portion of Manning document will be released | ProFootballTalk

The Broncos are cranking away and resigning their free agents before the new league year begins in March. I trust Elway will do a masterful job, as always. Broncos negotiating with Malik, but Osweiler talks wait on Manning | #9news #9sports

Malik Jackons's contract appears to be the principal focus at present. Report: Broncos "negotiating in earnest" with Malik Jackson | ProFootballTalk

Brock Osweiler is also a bright blip on the Broncos free agent radar. Ronnie Hillman: Letting Brock Osweiler go 'would not be too smart' -

Other teams may have interest in Brock. Broncos could end up in a battle over Brock Osweiler | ProFootballTalk

...but there are other needs as well. Primarily on the offensive side of the ball. Broncos offseason needs start with QB, offensive line, running back | #9news #9sports

Former Broncos public relations guru Jim Saccomano takes a fun look at the Broncos through numbers. Sundays with Sacco: By the numbers | Denver Broncos

Here's a look at the tight ends from this year's champion Denver Broncos team. Broncos Championship Stories: The tight ends | Denver Broncos

After being in the Broncos way for so long, the Patriots are now saying that Denver is in their way. That's the way I like it. Guregian: Broncos squarely in Patriots' way | Boston Herald

What does this offseason hold for the Broncos and the rest of the NFL? The answer lies in how many free agents can be retained by Denver. Offseason predictions for all 32 NFL teams -- Will Kirk Cousins, Colin Kaepernick stay put? | ESPN

How great is it to look at the NFL's Power Rankings and see the Broncos at the top? That's the way it should be. NFL Power Rankings: Denver Broncos take throne -- then what? -

Cam Newton is still talking. While I appreciate that he's putting this loss on his shoulders, it's not surprising that he's somehow turned the loss into a pro-Cam Newton campaign. It's not all about you, Cam. Cam Newton: 'I will win my way' - NFL

Having recently relocated to New Hampshire, I'm not surprised by any of this. I wish I would have written in 'Von Miller' on my ballot. I guess casting my vote wearing his jersey will just have to suffice. Belichick, Brady garner votes in N.H. primary -

So where will running back Matt Forte end up? Probably not in Denver. New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers landing spots for Matt Forte? - Chicago Bears Blog- ESPN

Aaron Rodgers says his knee feels great. The Packers will surely be a team to watch this off season. They are in desperate need of depth on offense. Aaron Rodgers says knee feels great | ProFootballTalk

The San Diego (for now) Chargers are eyeing their running game for improvement. I guess it's as good as any place to start. Whisenhunt want to kick-start San Diego’s running game | ProFootballTalk