Broncos Country has a lot to be excited about. We just won a championship, after all. Right now our team is preparing to take another shot at the Lombardi Trophy and much of what I'm hearing from the media is, "There's no way this team can repeat with either Mark Sanchez or a rookie QB."
Today was the last straw for it as I was listening to the talking heads on the radio dig yet again into this very point. So here I am laying down some No Bull for Broncos Country on thoughts that I have that help me stay grounded for the next season and my realistic take on what I'm looking for from the Broncos in 2016.
First things first
Let's start off with a few things that I've noted as pretty "set in stone" truisms about the NFL in general:
- There is no magic formula for winning a championship.
- Past success is no guarantee of future success.
- Winning games in the NFL is tough in general for every team.
We won last year with a completely stifling defense and an absolutely pathetic offense. That doesn't mean that we should expect our team to stick to that formula in order to win. Every facet of the team should be looking for ways to improve. If you become stagnant as a player, coach, or team at the professional level, you will eventually wither away to be replaced by a potentially stronger component.
Winning last year's championship doesn't add jack or squat to your chances of winning come week 1 of the next season. Everyone is 0 - 0. If anything, you have a ton of other teams using that fact as motivation to play harder against you.
Yes, there are some teams that are poor / poorly managed / lacking in talent that are easier to beat than the average team. Yes, there are some teams that are excellent / well managed / exceeding in talent that are tougher to beat than the average overall team. That being said, each team in the NFL is made up of the best football players this planet has to offer. Even bad teams can get a little lucky and blow the top off a great team from time to time.
It is really hard to repeat
One of the biggest things that irritates the hell out of me is reading stats about things to make a point when the stat you are using doesn't correlate in any substantive way. Let me give you an example (this is an example pulled from my hind quarters which is about as useful as the majority of stats are in the media):
"Of the past Super Bowl champs with top 3 defenses, none have repeated."
Here's why this is dumb as all get out: There are only 8 teams that have pulled off a repeat win dating back to 1966. That's roughly 50 years for those of you who might be mathematically impaired. Why are we talking about "best defenses to repeat" when it is about a once per decade event for any champion to repeat in the first place?
Le'ts just call a duck a duck and say the following: "It isn't likely at all that the Denver Broncos will repeat in 2016."
Let's be real, Denver was pretty darn lucky in the 2015 season
The big point I'll make here is that we had so few really big impactful injuries last year. We lost some guys for the season, but those mostly happened before the season started and that gave our team ample time with which to adjust and coach up replacements.
Let's apply that for a second to our defense. You know that supremely gifted squad of many of the best the NFL has to offer at their respective positions? We had some guys miss games, but it wasn't like 2013 where we went to the Super Bowl missing our best pass rusher (Von Miller), our arguably most important cornerback (Chris Harris, Jr.), our starting free safety (Rahim Moore), best run stopping defensive end (Derek Wolfe), and a starting defensive tackle (Kevin Vickerson).
Health is a very big deal in the NFL. There are exceptions and there are situations where some injuries may not hurt a team as badly due to excellent depth (our current OLBs for instance), but for the most part teams that lose a bunch of starting players usually don't win championships.
Coaching staff's tenure
On a positive note, one thing I think a ton of people are forgetting is that this coaching staff is only in their 2nd year with the team. Offensively we were terrible, but how much of that has stemmed from the square peg in a round hole situation we had with both of our QBs last year?
This whole offseason there's been so much gnashing of teeth and rending of robes over the Broncos' QB situation. Are you seriously kidding me? Changing QBs is going to be a Good Thing™.
Like it or not, Gary Kubiak isn't what I would call a coach who has an agile offense. He can innovate. He can add a tweak here and remove a wrinkle here or there, but the core of his offense are founded on steadfast principles, techniques, and schemes.
Installing his offense takes time. You need the offensive line to gel. You need the right kind of linemen (I would argue we didn't have this last year). You want a QB who can hit the deep ball quickly with decent accuracy and threaten defenses with the bootleg action (I would argue that at no point last year did we have this).
The way I see it, this offense has a great opportunity this year to get much better. In the best case scenario this is going to lead to a good chunk of lopsided games in our favor as our offense punishes the other team and our defense gets to play with a lead which will force teams to throw more (playing to our defensive strengths).
Where does this leave us in the No Bull big picture?
I've stuck to something for well over a decade now that has served me very well in being a NFL fan: any season where my team reaches the playoffs was a good season. That same thing applies to this year. Get a wild-card, win the division, or get the #1 seed. I'm groovy as a fan with any of those scenarios.
Our division is getting better talent-wise. That's one thing that should make it harder next year. That being said, we have some pretty cake divisions to pay against this season outside of the AFC West. Getting to the playoffs is not going to be any easier this year.
That being said, the scary thing about the Denver Broncos is that while the rest of the NFL would like to call us a "flash in the pan", the team shows every sign of being a stalwart institution of success in the near future. We have one of the best GMs in the league. We have THE best defense in the league with arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL and arguably the hands-down best secondary in the NFL. Enough of this hogwash about this team falling off a cliff.
My advice for expectations on the 2016 season?
First off, keep on bleeding orange and blue my brothas and sistas. We are the champs. This is the offseason. We haven't even played a preseason game yet. We have nothing worth worrying about yet.
Next bit of advice: keep in mind the coaching staff and front office we have is impressive. The defense can get better and is coached by a guy who is what I would call an agile coordinator (Phillips fits his scheme to his players, not the other way around). The offense is very likely to improve with some solid personnel moves that better fit what we are looking to do under Kubiak.
Finally, no Super Bowl champion is likely to repeat. The table is stacked against us and our team's backs are going to be against the wall all year long. I'd argue that our players respond well to that situation. Bring it.