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Elway is “All In,” but is this the right path?

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The Denver Broncos from every angle appear to still be in win now operations. Rebuilding isn’t in John Elway’s vocabulary apparently. What does that mean for 2019 and beyond?

Jorge Ramirez / USA TODAY Sports Orlando

For a couple of years, Broncos Country has suffered with the worst performances we’ve seen from our team in back-to-back seasons dating back four decades. The team has been a hot mess. They have not had an answer at QB. They have had a bad head coach. Their offense has absolutely not only gone in the toilet, but far down the swirling drain. The once vaunted Bronco defense has likewise suffered and gone from the No Fly Zone we have been proud of to a cool group of guys we all remember who played in our beloved orange and blue back in 2015.

Like many fans out there, I’ve been putting a nice coat of shiny paint all over the facade of the team I know and love for a couple of years now. But this offseason I honestly was ready to see our team blow it all up and start over.

We all knew a new coach was going to be coming in. We all knew that Case Keenum was never a real answer at NFL QB for any team.

But apparently, John Elway doesn’t buy it. He’s chasing the ghost of the magic he grasped years ago when he signed Peyton Manning and put all the pieces in place to get this team back on the cusp of greatness.

The ultimate competitor

One of my favorite things about John Elway is his refusal to lose. It is renowned in Bronco Country that the guy is just one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet. Really great players tend to have that trait (Michael Jordan is another name that comes to mind here).

But I can’t help but wonder how much this trait of Elway’s hurts the Broncos as they are today. Don’t get me wrong, this is the offseason where hope springs eternal. I’m as excited as any Broncos fan to see what happens this season. I want Joe Flacco to be reborn into a new, stronger, better, faster, QB. I want to see 20 sacks from Von Miller and Bradley Chubb each. I think Phillip Lindsay can break 2,000 yards this year if things go well and the team plays well around him.

What are the upsides to a different approach?

We’re all pretty up to speed on what Elway is doing today. But let’s talk for a second about what the team is missing out on by heading this direction instead of announcing an official “rebuild”.

Reduced pressure

The biggest thing the team would get from actually rebuilding would be the ability to learn, grow, and compete without the unheralded pressure that our media and fan base heap on this team year after year. For the youth on the team and the new coaching staff, this could really be a big benefit.

Bigger, faster, stronger, more is how our world works, but it is a very short-term way of going about one’s business. If the bar is always “playoffs or you sucked” (which I love as a fan, by the way), are we missing out on helping our coaches and players develop without feeling the guillotine is waiting for them at the end of the season?

Attainable goals / Learning how to win

Real winning in this league comes largely from an organization knowing what it takes to win and putting forth the effort every game all season long. For a team like the Broncos today, what do they know about winning?

Especially for a first time head coach and offensive coordinator, don’t you think they need some time to find their groove?

Allowing a rebuild year to happen lets you set some goals for your team that teaches all of them how to get better. So yeah, we went 6 - 10 last year. Can we get our offense up to 16th most productive by both points and yards per game? Can our defense get the passing yard numbers given up to TEs back to “better than average” levels?

There are a number of different minute things you can do as a team to help get things rolling to the place you want them to be that don’t include winning the AFC West or going to the playoffs.

Coaching staff feeling supported

This is the big thing I think Pat Bowlen did that Elway is currently missing out on. It seems like there is a ton of pressure on our coaching staff every year to meet the Bronco Standard. I love it. I love that standard, but I don’t recall there being quite this much pressure back when Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan had their stretches of time running the team.

See, Bowlen would keep his finger on the pulse of what was going on, but if the effort was there and things seemed to be headed in the right direction, there wasn’t a bunch of coaching staff changes year after year.

Heck, Bowlen put up with Reeves for a few years more than he should have if we use hindsight to tell us anything.

I think the point I want to make here is that Elway keeps the focus on the job the coaches are or aren’t doing instead of the team including him and his front office. Is it fair? I mean sure, the coaches get paid a lot too and they can handle it. I surely expected a bunch more out of Vance Joseph and his staff than what we saw.

But how much of their ineptitude was caused by them constantly feeling like they were losing their jobs a little more by each passing week?

Final Thoughts

Two years in a row of losing football from the Broncos has me questioning an awful lot this offseason and a lot of my thought process leads to thinking about what Elway is doing as a GM and de facto “football decision maker extraordinaire” since the team has no clear owner right now.

I’m excited to see this season unfold. I’ll be getting to some more positive writing as we get closer to training camp, but it feels good to unload some of the frustrations I’ve been thinking about headed into the 2019 season.

So how about the rest of you in Broncos Country? Am I too down on the future for this team (especially given the time of year)? Offensively speaking, what is going to be the thing that raises all boats for the team in 2019? Hit me up in the comments with your thoughts!