Good morning, Broncos Country!
Since I last brought you a Horse Tracks, 2018 has arrived, a flurry of Broncos assistant coaches were let go while a handful have already been hired, snow has infiltrated my island home, and John Elway has acknowledged that he doesn’t know all the answers.
Only one of those should be a surprise.
Because Vance Joseph staying, assistant coaches leaving and Elway reflecting were all bound to happen after a second season in which the team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy just two years ago was staying home during the playoffs.
“When you’re 5-11, there are obviously some issues that we have to get handled,” Elway said in his season finale presser Tuesday. “I think that is our goal. That’s our mindset. Whether we can get there or not, I don’t want to raise the expectation level by saying, ‘Yes, automatically we’re going to get back there.’ But, our goals have not changed for the Denver Broncos and what we want to do — and that’s to compete for world championships. Now, we have to build towards that process. That starts now.”
I mentioned last week in a somewhat controversial post that the “Win now and from now on” mantra has been in jeopardy the past two seasons in Denver - and it appears from comments by Elway and Joe Ellis that both believe similarly.
“Expectations are fine. We should always have them, but we shouldn’t make assumptions,” Ellis said. “I feel like there are times where I just get a sense that as an organization maybe we’re looking at a slogan on the wall, three [Lombardi] trophies in the locker room or Super Bowl banners at the stadium facing our audience. We kind of assume that is the way it’s going to be.”
So news that Gary Kubiak will have a bigger role in the Broncos’ front office - to help evaluate talent for both the draft and free agency - is perhaps the best news of the offseason.
His experience coaching - along with his unique ability to influence and communicate effectively with Elway - will serve this franchise very well. And it’s refreshing to know that Elway knows that:
“He’s a guy that has a lot of knowledge in football. He’s a very good evaluator, too. He’ll help us in that area,” Elway said of his former teammate and coach and longtime friend. “I’m not sure what his title is going to be. I don’t even know what his title is now (laughing). I know what he is going to be doing, so I haven’t worried about the title.”
And what he’s going to be doing is helping to find that young guys who “get it.”
Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala wrote a really interesting piece Thursday digging deeper into an aspect of the expectation issue Ellis alluded to - player entitlement. Quoting numerous veteran players, Jhabvala’s story revealed a chasm between vets and young guys and pierced the long-held notion that the Broncos’ locker room is strong and united.
While this locker room is no doubt far from crumbling, the cracks that do exist help explain an interesting side note to what went wrong this past season - and where some of the coaching/player breakdowns occurred.
Listen to what several key players said:
“I think...it’s this generation. I was born in ‘88. I’m the last of a dying breed, and I feel the way kids are raised now, it’s a little softer and because of that, things are lot more jovial in times of seriousness,” said seven-year veteran Virgil Green. “I just think it’s a product of what we’re going to be dealing with in years to come. Because it’s not going to change. … I’m old-school. These new-school cats, they don’t get it. If they want a job, they’ll get it..”
“I just come to play football, and just respect that. Always respect the vets,” Chris Harris Jr. said after a midseason scuffle with rookie Isaiah McKenzie. Weeks later, the cornerback added: “These young guys, they’re not as hungry as I was. I hope to see that,” he said. “I mean, that’s what we need. We need some guys that are hungry like I was. I was just very determined, on a whole other level, just to play in this league.”
“Here’s what I think it is: I think that you have these young kids that come in the league and they think that they’re entitled to something,” Derek Wolfe told 104.3 The Fan on Tuesday. “There’s like this entitlement problem around the entire league, I think. You could feel it with the rookies. Every year they get more and more entitled. I don’t know how to combat that because it’s like they think they know everything, you can’t tell them anything. They’re like, ‘Oh I’m going to the Broncos.’ They think automatically them just coming here, we’re going to win a championship. Like they don’t have to contribute. It’s not like college. You don’t get your little red-shirt year. You need to come in and contribute right away.”
Reading between the lines, these comments tell us a lot about a season which had high hopes that came crashing down hard.
For one thing, our “leader of men” may have met his match with millennials who play by a different set of rules. Whether Joseph didn’t communicate expectations well enough or didn’t discipline the rule-breakers hard enough, let’s hope he’s listening to his veteran players and that both rookie coach and rookie players learned a good lesson for the immediate future.
His comments Tuesday, however, leave a little to be desired:
“Our veterans, in my opinion, did a great job of dragging those guys along. There’s going to be a rookie class every year and there’s going to be four or five guys that have to play for you,” Joseph said. “I’ll do a better job of assigning guys to rookies, pushing guys to spend more time with rookies and define those roles for those rookies so they know what we expect because every year there are going to be four or five guys that we’re counting on to play. Every team goes through that, having young guys who don’t understand what it takes versus veteran guys who have won games and are trying to catch the young guys up to help us win.”
But Kubiak’s track record of truly leading men could significantly help this issue.
And getting Denver’s former backup QB/former QB coach/former head coach more involved in bringing the right players to Denver may be exactly what this franchise needs the most to get back on track.
Well, that and a good QB, of course :)
Horse Tracks - docllv’s pick of the day
After 48 years, one fan explains why he needs a break.
This is an excellent read - especially for Broncos fans contemplating jumping ship. First, this fan has been with a team through more than three decades of disappointment.
So just two disappointing seasons, despite one of them being dismal for sure, is nothing. Broncos fans really have nothing to complain about in the big picture.
But a second point that highlights some comments/discussion from a front-page post earlier this week - if you find it too hard to support the team because so many mistakes were made and so many decisions were baffling to the point of disliking the team, then taking a break from fandom is really a rational move. It’s not leaving for good. It’s recognizing that a step back is healthy for everyone - you and us included :)
John Elway on talent evaluation and the Denver Broncos future
Tuesday, after the Broncos capped their worst season in seven years, the Broncos’ general manager admitted his latest annual reconstruction will require a bit more work. And more time.
A Letter to Our Fans from Broncos President & CEO Joe Ellis
"Personally, it’s important to note that we cannot fall back on our past success. While expectations will not be lowered, there can never be assumptions or an entitled mentality.
John Elway says quarterback position is of main concern to Denver Broncos
John Elway said the quarterback position is of primary concern for the Broncos this offseason, saying "there is no doubt we've got to get better at that position."
Denver Broncos 'jumped at the opportunity' to coach in Senior Bowl
Coming off a disappointing season, the Denver staff welcomes the chance to get an up-close-and-personal look at some top prospects in the 2018 draft.
One of the Broncos' biggest offseason questions: What happens to Paxton Lynch?
The Broncos still haven't seen enough from 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch to definitively make him part of their permanent plans.
Report: Broncos could look into trading up from No. 5 pick
This may transpire if the Browns and Giants pass on a quarterback at the top of the draft.
John Elway takes verbal jab at reporter during press conference | Broncos Wire
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway took a jab at a reporter during the team's end-of-season press conference.
Jordan Taylor has hip surgery | 9news.com
Dr. Philippon of The Steadman Clinic performed the surgery in Vail for a torn labrum in his right hip.
Denver Broncos 2017 awards | Broncos Wire
The Denver Broncos had a rough 2017 season, but we celebrate the players who performed well with our seasonal awards.
Broncos eligible to be forced to be on ‘Hard Knocks’ show | Broncos Wire
The Denver Broncos are among six NFL teams that are eligible to be on HBO's "Hard Knocks" show produced by NFL Films.
‘I want to be where I’m wanted’: Let’s predict what Kirk Cousins tells fans on Friday - The Washington Post
On the subject of his future, the Redskins' QB has repeated himself often over the last few years.
Final NFL stats leaders in every major category for 2017 season - NFL Nation- ESPN
Along with familiar faces such as Russell Wilson, a new generation of stars emerged to take over the NFL's leaderboards in the regular season.
Washington Redskins, Jay Gruden once more enter key offseason - Washington Redskins Blog- ESPN
There's no doubt the 2018 season will be a big one for the Redskins, but offseason decisions will put more at stake than just the head coach's future.
Giants name Dave Gettleman their general manager - NFL.com
The New York Giants have found their new general manager. The Giants named Dave Gettleman as their new GM, the team announced Thursday.
The Jaguars and Bills are having a Twitter fight about tickets - The Washington Post
After Jacksonville says Buffalo returned some of its allotment, the Bills scream “Fake News."
Sam Jones, former ThunderRidge offensive lineman, entering NFL draft
Sam Jones, a former ThunderRidge offensive lineman who just finished his redshirt junior season at Arizona State, is leaving school early to enter the NFL draft.
Vikings will take things slow when Sam Bradford returns to practice - Minnesota Vikings Blog- ESPN
Once Sam Bradford returns to practice, the Vikings have a three-week window to decide whether to move him to the 53-man roster.
Brian Orakpo: 'I never thought I'd see the playoffs' - Tennessee Titans Blog- ESPN
After waiting several years to earn a postseason berth, several Titans veterans savored clearing that hurdle before getting back to business.
Ravens kick themselves over most frustrating finish in team history - ESPN
The Ravens entered the finale as one of the hottest teams but failed to clinch a playoff spot because they were unable to beat the struggling Bengals.
New York Giants in position of power with Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen - ESPN
Already sitting pretty with the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Giants gained more leverage Wednesday.
After leading NFL for a decade, Saints' third-down struggles puzzling - ESPN
Despite a productive offense, the Saints rank 19th in third-down conversion rate and are scrambling to find a fix for the playoffs.
Potential matchup with Jaguars could be a chance at redemption - ESPN
Still bitter about their Week 5 beatdown, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense admit they'd love another shot at Jacksonville in the playoffs.
Beginning of the end for New England Patriots? Robert Kraft, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick internal power struggle
Speaking of entitlement...this revealing article about the Patriots highlights some of what Joe Ellis was referring to. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft are aiming for a sixth Lombardi Trophy, but friction between the coach and star QB could put the future of a dynasty in doubt.
Which offseason move do you like best so far?
This poll is closed
Increasing Gary Kubiak’s role
Hiring QB coach Mike Sullivan from the Giants
Bringing Curtis Modkins from Bears as RB coach
New OL coach Sean Kugler
General ‘cleaning house’
None - we fired the wrong coach