Call it reloading, rebuilding, or remodeling. Whatever term suits your fancy, the fact that Denver has fallen a long ways from their league leading, primetime playing, Peyton Manning-led Super Bowl winning ways is no secret.
One need only look as far as the recent schedule release to see Denver’s lack of Sunday night games, and only two primetime contests as the most recent proof - that and the fact that Denver will be picking in the top ten of the draft for a second year in a row for the first time since 1973.
I’m not telling anyone anything they don’t know, and certainly am not here to add insult to injury; merely providing a little perspective on where Denver is historically.
Elway may not like the term “rebuild”, but by all intents and purposes, that’s what the Broncos are in the middle of, starting with the new coaching staff hirings.
Vic Fangio was brought in with the express purpose of building this team “from the ground up”, starting with fundamentals, and getting back to teaching/developing players, and ultimately helping Denver back to their winning ways.
All of this takes time. A few months ago, I documented how coach Fangio built his defense in Chicago from the ground up - literally. Chicago was near the bottom of the league in every category, and a few years later had completely flipped to leading in most. The change happened gradually, and incrementally, with a few pieces every season.
When asked about that rebuild in Chicago, Fangio didn’t mince words:
“It was a process. When we first go there, they weren’t very good. In fact, they were terrible. It took a while. The first year we got two players. We drafted [NT] Eddie Goldman in the second round and [S] Adrian Amos in the fifth round. Then the next year we added [OLB] Leonard Floyd, [DE] Akiem Hicks and [ILB] Danny Trevathan. Then in year three we added [S] Eddie Jackson and [CB] Prince Amukamara. Then this past year we added obviously [ILB] Roquan [Smith] in the draft and [OLB] Khalil [Mack] with the trade right before the opener. It took a while, but we became very good. It was a slow building process, and when we got players like Roquan and Khalil at the end there, it put us over the top.”
Now, here were his comments on his views on Denver’s roster:
“It’s in a better spot that when we first took over Chicago, that’s for sure. We have good players on our edge in [Bradley] Chubb and Von Miller, obviously. We have a safety we like in [Justin] Simmons. We still have Chris Harris [Jr.] who’s a good corner/nickel back. And we’ve been able to add a couple guys through free agency. We’re in a lot better shape in Denver than we were when we first started in Chicago, but we still have work to do both in improving our roster and improving our play.”
The work they have to do in improving their roster starts on Thursday night, but it doesn’t stop on Saturday, or in September when the final 53-man roster takes the field. This year and this draft are the building blocks to long-term turn strategy that is focused on getting the right coaches in building and creating systems in which players can develop and thrive.
The next step is to go get those players and develop them. Mike Klis joined the guys at 1st & 10 at 10 on Orange & Blue 760 and echoed Fangio’s sentiments as well. He mentioned that when taking a look up and down the roster at Denver’s needs (ILB, DB, IOL, TE, QB), it’s clear that one draft isn’t going to solve everything, which is where coaching comes into play. (Check out the interview in the clip above)
All that to say, let’s have a little perspective going into this draft. While I fully expect Denver to knock it out of the park and get players that will help them win in 2019, I am more interested in how those guys continue to help us win in 2020, 2021, and beyond.
Who knows, just like they did in Chicago, in a few years we may be writing about the great turn around Elway and Fangio pulled off in Denver, and citing this year’s draft class as names of guys who helped make it happen.