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‘Winning now and from now on’ is a hollow mantra in 2017

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And without a revamp of Broncos’ “culture,” it could remain so in 2018 and beyond.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Just one more.

One more painful game before the 2017 season can officially go down with the sunset.

It’s fitting that the game will be played hours before the curtain on 2017 falls, and we can move on from one of the most disappointing seasons in decades, because in terms of lost potential, the 2010 season’s got nothing on 2017.

And now as the Broncos prepare to host a bunch of second-stringers from AFC West-rival Chiefs, and with no playoff contention nor any spoiler in play, I haven’t looked less forward to a Broncos game that I can remember.

I feel just like Von Miller.

“I’m not eager playing the second guy. He is the guy of the future though. It’s good to go play against him for the future,” the edge rusher said Thursday. “You just want the circumstances to be totally different. You would like for this game to mean more than what it means. You would like for all of their starters to play. That’s what you would like.”

Among many other things, yes.

But like me, Miller acknowledged he would have liked “a lot of different stuff to happen in 2017” too.

“It didn’t really go as planned. You just have to keep it moving. 2017 is in the books,” Miller added. “It’s another tough offseason coming up. Then OTAs, and I’ll be back for Year 8. Hopefully we’ll have drastically different results.”

So much truth in those statements:

Not eager.

Want circumstances to be totally different.

Didn’t go as planned.

Tough offseason coming up.

Hopefully 2018 will bring drastically different results.

But what is it that will bring drastically different results?

Many in Broncos Country express a strong desire to fire Vance Joseph.

Most are eager for the Broncos to find a true QB of the future.

A few want to hold John Elway accountable for the players that have been put in the locker room for the team to build around.

Whichever the preferred fix - or a combo of all three - the only true way to have a different result is to build a different culture in Dove Valley.

As much as we all like the “Win Now and From Now On” mantra coined by Elway, this has not been our “culture.”

It’s a slogan. And lately, it’s been a very hollow one at that.

It seemed true when Elway paid big bucks in 2012 for Peyton Manning and then again in 2014 for three big hitters on defense. But as the quarterback position has been left to inexperienced and/or sub-par talent two years in a row, while the offensive line has gone largely ignored for more than that, it appears that arrogance about the past has been the Broncos’ “culture” - or at least its doom.

Players were obviously not performing up to championship expectation. The question no one asked early enough - or answered accurately enough - was why they weren’t.

Were coaches unprepared for game-day implementation and in-game communication?

Was the lack of attention to the O-line and inside linebacker positions finally catching up to this team?

Were some players just incapable of championship-level play?

Was Elway’s hubris on the quarterback situation detrimental to the team and its long-term building opportunity.

Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

The problem with Elway’s “Winning now and from now on” mantra is not in the sentiment itself. Quite the opposite, in fact (after all, one could argue such sentiment has been the culture at the Patriots, intended or not).

The problem is that such a mantra must be borne out of a foundation that can breed said culture - namely top-level talent scouts, consistency in the coaching staff, and most importantly, clear and limited power divisions for the GM and executive staff. And the Broncos just haven’t had that.

The Duke was fortunate in 2015 that his trifecta of elite QB in Peyton Manning and high-caliber free agents in Emmanuel Sanders, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware fulfilled their mission under strategy-minded head coach and trusted friend to Elway, Gary Kubiak. That kind of fortune is not luck, but it certainly needs stars to align for magic to happen...and no one can argue that a lot of stars aligned for that imperfect season to work out with a perfect end.

But once that QB-coach-player trifecta dissolved, so did “the culture.”

I love Broncos history. I love our past. I love our stories.

But fans and the franchise alike have tended to embrace that past like a golden calf, worshipping it more than appreciating it; flaunting its past more than building for its future.

It’s going to take more than coaching changes or drafting good players or adding top free agents to get the Broncos back to a championship culture.

It’s going to take a shift in Dove Valley that reflects spending smart-but-big on the right players, drafting more developed talent (rather than so many athletic “projects” to coach up) and creating clear divisions between coach and GM.

It’s appropriate that Broncos are finishing off this miserable season by hosting the Chiefs, a team that has long been the Broncos whipping boy.

Because while it’s fun to troll #ChiefsKingdom with reminders of Broncos’ superiority over their franchise according to number of Super Bowl or AFC West titles (and it is fun!), the fact is the Chiefs have been steadily improving since 2012 while the Broncos have essentially regressed as a team, in spite of a miraculous Super Bowl win in 2015.

Broncos fans have become complacent, resting on the team’s laurels over the past three decades while maintaining high expectations with low accountability for Elway and the FO. And players and coaches appear to have done the same and talk about a championship culture has mostly been just talk.

“We didn’t win this year, so you can’t really call it a championship defense,” Miller said. “We’ll still be living in the past if I say we’re still the championship defense. We still have a really good defense that can win championships—yes, we do have that. We just have to build on that.”

Note an interesting observation in a Washington Post analysis Thursday about the longtime success of the Patriots:

“No, it hasn’t been a perfect season. But with Belichick, Brady and the Patriots, hasn’t that always been the point? Their greatness has been forged from their imperfection. ...No, these Patriots simply are trudging onward, piling up more victories without inspiring their usual level of love-’em-or-hate-’em passions. ...Amid this comparative calm, the Patriots continue to be great during an era of the NFL, with the salary cap and free agency, in which consistent greatness has been all but systematically eliminated.”

We love to hate the Patriots, but their success actually is “winning now and from now on” and Broncos would do well to mimmick that part of their culture.

Horse Tracks - docllv’s picks of the day

‘Garbage award’? Baker Mayfield takes issue with Mark Schlereth’s Heisman dis - The Washington Post
Schlereth does have a point, though, about the relative lack of NFL success of Heisman-winning quarterbacks.

For Tom Brady, Bill Belichick & Co., excellence is more than a pursuit — it's a state of being - The Washington Post
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and New England have been dominant for so long, it has become easy to take their excellence for granted.

Horse Tracks

Aqib Talib, a 5-time Pro Bowler on a path to Canton, has learned one important lesson from 10 years in the NFL. – The Denver Post
As the Broncos mull their options for the future, veteran cornerback and team captain Aqib Talib is in many ways a swing state. The Broncos could go either way, and do so with plenty of reasons to support their decision.

Von Miller embracing “brutally honest” leadership role as Broncos prepare for pivotal offseason – The Denver Post
Von Miller insists he relishes difficult conversations with teammates. It's an integral part of a captain's role, and it's one the Broncos' Pro Bowl linebacker takes seriously.

Paxton Lynch sees season finale as chance to make his case - Denver Broncos Blog- ESPN
The Broncos may not have much to play for but don't tell that to quarterback Paxton Lynch.

Three potential QB paths for Denver Broncos to take this offseason - Broncos Blog- ESPN
The Broncos can add a quarterback in the NFL draft, double down on developing what they have or break the bank in free agency.

Von Miller: Denver Broncos have to 'keep it real' in reboot - Broncos Blog- ESPN
Broncos team leader Von Miller said any change in the offseason has to begin with a brutal assessment of the team's shortcomings.

Denver Broncos’ 2018 free agents – The Denver Post
Here's a list of the 2018 free agents, RFAs and URFAs for the Broncos.

Trent Williams has only considered one outcome to the Kirk Cousins saga - The Washington Post
“You see a guy who you think is a great player and you just assume he would be back. You would assume that they would keep him,” the Redskins’ Pro Bowl left tackle said in a recent interview.

Philip Rivers eager to replicate '92 Chargers comeback - NFL.com
The 1992 San Diego Chargers are the only team ever to make the playoffs after an 0-4 start. Philip Rivers hopes the Los Angeles Chargers can achieve the same feat on Sunday.

Dak Prescott on playing Week 17: 'It's important to me' - NFL.com
Dak Prescott has no plans to sit during the team's Week 17 tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles. After Prescott's poor play against Seattle, the QB is hopeful to end the season on a high note.

Selfless, not selfish: It's time to celebrate Domata Peko Sr.
The 12-year veteran doesn't often get recognition, but it's time for that to change.

Broncos to honor Ryan Clady during game vs. Kansas City
The Broncos will honor the former All-Pro tackle as part of Sunday's game against the Chiefs.

Through My Eyes: Jordan Taylor does it all
In his own words, Jordan Taylor takes you through his life as a Bronco who has prepared for three roles other than his main one as a wide receiver.

Poll

What do you think, Broncos Country? Is the main fix for this team...

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Just get a new head coach
    (42 votes)
  • 22%
    Find an outstanding QB to lead this already championship-level team
    (55 votes)
  • 14%
    John Elway is the weak link here...
    (34 votes)
  • 38%
    Agree it’s bigger than just the coach or QB...it’s a cultural shift that’s needed
    (92 votes)
  • 7%
    "Shasta"
    (17 votes)
240 votes total Vote Now