The popular trend in sports is to give your season a theme. When it comes to the NFL, it seems there are people who work for teams for this sole purpose. The thought behind them is fun and they give fans a rallying cry of sorts. Or, in this social media age, a hashtag.
Members of the media delve into this from time and time. More often than not, it’s for the most overused theme in all of sports with the repeated New England “Revenge Tour” nonsense. That was supposed to happen last year and since it didn’t, so the failed logic goes, it’s a “Revenge Tour Redo.”
“Look out NFL. Tom Brady is pissed, and so are the Patriots. Revenge Tour Redo is scheduled and in full effect.”
For some, the Denver Broncos theme for the coming season could have been “Defend the ’ship.” The common belief is teams must defend their championship. That’s how I’ve described this season when it comes to the Broncos.
That is until I heard Gary Kubiak on Thursday after the first day of training camp. As soon as I heard it, I couldn’t believe I didn’t think of it.
“I talked to them about focusing on everything moving forward,” Kubiak told the media. “I told them that we’re not defending anything, we’re chasing the next one and we’re going to work on the next one. I want them focused that way as a football team.
“I told them that our mission right now is to get this group of guys as good as we can possibly get them. We have a long ways to go and we’ve got an opportunity in many areas to improve this football team, but we can’t do it until we go to work, so let’s go to work.”
What better way to keep your team focused and motivated than to tell the players they haven’t accomplished a thing? That what they did a season ago doesn’t mean a damn thing. Go out and do it again.
You want a rallying cry for the 2016 season? Kubiak just walloped the fans, coaches and players in the back of the head with a rallying cry hammer.
“We’re not defending anything, we’re chasing the next one ...”
There’s also this notion in sports that defending champions lose their hunger. They lose their drive to fight or work as hard as they did before they got their Lombardi Trophy. They lose their championship mojo.
I’ve held that belief too. Part of me questioned whether that would happen to Denver despite the bravado the players have shown this offseason.
Then T.J. Ward took that same hammer Kubiak used and smacked us all in the head.
“There’s more confidence. You can feel that confidence in the air,” Ward said. “That ‘mojo’ we have just walking around in the way we work and the way we communicate. You can definitely feel that difference from last year, but it’s not cocky.
“We’re hunting. We’re hunting for another title. You can’t take the one we have already. You have to go and get the one that’s next. It’s hanging over everyone’s head. We’re just trying to go get it.”
It’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing entirely to do it. Just as that common phrase goes, it’s about “Words not actions.”
The fact the Broncos were so eager to get back on the field for training camp takes care of that. The players want to put in the work. They want to get better. They got a taste of that championship glory and they want it again. They know what is at stake: a chance to go down as one of the greatest defenses and teams in NFL history.
As long they believe that, what anyone else says or thinks is irrelevant.
“The same thing happened last year, and that’s great for us,” Ward said. “I don’t know what we were projected last year, but I know we weren’t projected to win the Super Bowl, so it really doesn’t matter.”
If that disrespect makes the Broncos better and keeps them focused on the hunt, keep it coming. Keep telling Denver it won’t win the AFC West, and, in some instances, even make the playoffs or have a winning record (see the hot garbage below). Keep doubting what this team is capable of.
“I think you have to be a little fortunate in this business,” Kubiak said. “It’s nice to have a few breaks along the way, but we were a pretty darn good football team and we knew exactly what we were. I told the guys (Wednesday night) that we got patted on the back a lot this offseason, but we’ve also had to listen to what people don’t think we can do next, and that’s a motivation for us because I think we have a good team, but we have to put in the work.
“I don’t have any problem finding motivation each and every year, to be honest with you. I was excited to come back to work, excited about the group of guys we have. I’ve got questions I have to go get answered, so I come out here every day. It’s been the same for me every year.”
The last couple of years the Broncos’ rallying cry was “This One’s for Pat.” After John Elway said those four magical words in early February, the search was on for the next one.
Kubiak and Ward delivered. It’s safe to assume all of Broncos Country will get behind this season’s theme. And it’s a heck of a lot better than “Revenge Tour.”
“We’re not defending anything, we’re hunting for the next one.”