Denver Broncos' Greatest Disappointments Since Super Bowl XXXIII
As the John Fox era gets underway on a very positive note, the Broncos franchise has been called to look back at itself in the mirror and recognize the various forms of disappointment that have sunk the franchise over much of the last decade.
It's obvious fans of the Denver Broncos were spoiled during the era of John Elway's playing career. Elway helped to land the Broncos in five Super Bowls during his 16-year career. Throw out one full season to account for all of his missed games due to injuries and you have a team that made the dance once out of every three years Elway was in the league.
Reality has since set in with the Broncos, making the AFC Championship only once on the back of their only playoff victory in a little over a decade (a drubbing of the defending champion New England Patriots in 2005).
It always seemed with John Elway the Broncos always had a chance. For awhile under Mike Shanahan it seemed that tradition could carry on—obviously it did not, however. Under Josh McDaniels it became apparent very early on, however, that the franchise could be heading for an even steeper tailspin. As it turned out that is exactly what happened. Under John Fox and and the guidance of John Elway it seems the franchise now has the hope it has been missing for a very long time now.
So on the week's eve prior to the John Fox era turning the page on the past, it's time to take one last look at how painful it's been and what led the best NFL franchise to free-fall to the bottom of the league standings. It's almost an entirely chronological order of how things went down; however, it's very close to a Top 25 list so it actually works out somewhere in between. Take the slideshow in for what it is, a look back at some horrible football decisions. The last slide is the most important, that being the remembrance of three Broncos who have lost their lives over the last decade.
It's all a somber reminder, but it should make the future direction and return of the Broncos franchise that much sweeter for years to come.
Special Contributors: Jake White, Al N, Daniel Bogard
John Elway Announces His Retirement
The end of Super Bowl XXXIII looked every bit the end of John Elways NFL career, so when he made it official it was really a difficult blow for a franchise that finally overcame all of the negative stigma the media gave them as an "also ran" or as a team that "chokes in the clutch." The Denver Broncos squads that won back-to-back in Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII put a big "in your face" back on the league of doubters. Franchises and the media alike had long disrespected the Broncos franchise from their AFL beginnings, to the striped socks, to their old bright orange jerseys, to being dumped in their first four Super Bowls, and receiving no love from the Hall of Fame voters.
The real hard fact of the mater is that the Broncos probably should have competed for the Super Bowl XXXI title as well had they not been upset by Jacksonville. Additionally, the Broncos might have made another Super Bowl had John Elway not retired when he did. The facts remain the facts, but the Denver Broncos are the closest thing the Super Bowl era has seen to a team that was capable of winning four consecutive Lombardi Trophies. That would have been the right way to send John Elway out on top and bring more respect to the franchise accomplishments. Nonetheless, they were the best NFL team for a window in time, doing some things no other team in history had done, so their legacy still stands.
That all being said, when John Elway retired it was a sad time for the franchise and their fans. He verbally, very publicly made the admission that his body physically could not take the rigors of an NFL season anymore. There wasn't a dry eye in the room when he announced his retirement. He was recognized for his talent, his ability to bring the franchise to new heights, his ability to persevere through some very difficult times in franchise history, and his ability to get back to the top of the mountain and stay there.
So it should go without saying that you just don't replace the "Babe Ruth" of your football franchise. You hope your team will find its way. Obviously, the Broncos franchise reached new lows after Elway's departure as a player, but as you go through the list, there is a renewed hope in Denver because John Elway is back as an executive inside the franchise, one that is making very good football decisions again.
So there is hope for the Denver Broncos franchise and the fans going forward.
Brian Griese Is Handed the Starting Job Ahead of Bubby Brister
The issue with Brian Griese getting the starting nod when he did had everything to do with the ensuing demise of the orange and blue as anything else. Gone was John Elway to retirement as well as other Broncos vets like Steve Atwater, who got his personal payback for the Broncos letting him go in the same game that saw the Broncos fall to 0-4 on the early season. The worst part of that game was the freak accident which basically ended Terrell Davis' career as he went to make a tackle following a Brian Griese interception against the New York Jets.
From the veterans' standpoint that was the ultimate insult to injury. Shortly thereafter Sports Illustrated ran an article with an "anonymous" Broncos player saying that the season was over. That didn't sit well with Mike Shanahan and the next season Shannon Sharpe found himself in the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. Coincidence? You decide. The bottom line, however, is that this was the beginning of the end of the Broncos being a contender every year.
Vice President of Football Operations and Head Coach Mike Shanahan
Say what you will about Mike Shanahan and think what you will. He is still the only Broncos coach to win Super Bowls and have a winning record against the Raiders franchise over an extended period of time. In the eyes of Broncos fans that says a great deal.
However, the problems with Mike Shanahan's time in Denver is that over the course of time, perception became reality. Players loved playing for him early on, but once the coach asked players to play for less, combined with a litany of poor player personnel moves, it all became a bit much. Coach Shanahan went from calling all the right shots and making all the right moves to becoming a shadow of his former self.
The things that really did him in were his poor draft selections, a lack of focus on defense, overpaying sub-par free agent talent, and the list does go on. One item that did not sit well with the Bowlen family was how John Lynch was lied to by Mike's defensive coordinator Bob Slowik. John Lynch told the Broncos he was only coming back if he was guaranteed that he would be a starter. The Broncos agreed, and then Sowik told Lynch he wasn't a starting safety. Less than two weeks into training camp in 2008 John Lynch asked to be released; he wound up in New England but was released by the Patriots.
Lynch was and still is a positive influence in the Denver community. It was just wrong for the Broncos to lie to their one-time starter and not handle that situation appropriately—especially when considering how much he sacrificed financially and personally for the Broncos franchise.
Internally there were rumors of in-house fighting, slammed doors, etc., as the franchise missed the playoffs with a formula that was now outdated. It all became too much and Mike Shanahan was told by his good friend Pat Bowlen that he was fired.
Broncos fans were divided on Coach Shanahan for a very long time. Although hindsight is always 20-20, Pat Bowlen should have reigned in Shanahan's power over the franchise sooner rather than later, thereby having a similar structure to what they have now in place. People in Denver still love Mike Shanahan; it was just unfortunate it didn't continue to work out as everyone had hoped.
Shannon Sharpe's Fallout with Coach Shanahan
It was no secret that Shannon Sharpe loved to talk as a player and as a competitor. He once got the late Derrick Thomas to lose his composure during a Monday night game, Thomas was removed from the game and Sharpe's trash talk had reached a new all-time mark. His trash talk always put coach Shanahan on edge, prior to Super Bowl XXXII Shanahan had to keep Sharpe under wraps with the Packers doing all their talking prior to the game.
The misconception nationally was that the Packers were the better team. They weren't; the Broncos remain the only team to beat the franchise in the Super Bowl. Keep in mind this was John Elway's worst performance in a Super Bowl and the Broncos beat out the reigning champs, physically, to claim their first Super Bowl win.
When the Broncos franchise considers how much of an asset Shannon Sharpe was for them, it's a real wonder they ever let him go especially considering he owned the records at his position upon retiring. So it was tragic that the Broncos let a personal issue keep them from seeing that Sharpe was a future Hall of Famer and deserved better from the franchise.
The silver linings to losing Shannon Sharpe were getting him to come back to the Broncos and eventually seeing him make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His speech this summer was memorable and among the best ever because it came from the heart and from Shannon's mouth.
New Stadium, New Stadium Name(s): One Playoff Win
During the last years of the old Mile High Stadium, the Denver metro community rallied around the concept of keeping their team in town. In the face of Pat Bowlen threatening no other alternative but to move the team if a new stadium was not built, a local movement brought by a group of local fans known as C-Fans saw it as an investment in the future of the community to fund a new stadium proposal. The proposed amendment made it onto the ballot and was passed in the city and county of Denver.
The return promise at the time was that the stadium was the only way the Broncos could remain competitive. Since that time the Broncos have had four playoff appearances in the 10 seasons since John Elway retired and had one playoff win to account for it.
The new stadium was christened as INVESCO Field at Mile High; the name, however, just recently changed ownership (more on that later).
The Broncos Lose to the Steelers in the 2005 AFC Championship Game
Everyone in America was expecting another edition of the Patriots vs. the Colts in the AFC Championship, except for Pittsburgh and Denver. Denver had the best regular season and appeared to be ready to beat the Colts after ousting the New England Patriots, who were making a bid for another championship.
The Colts, for all intensive purposes, were close to hosting the Broncos in their minds when the game against the Steelers kicked off. The Steelers took an early 21-3 lead only to regain the momentum late with 1:20 remaining in the game. Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball near the goal line; it was returned by Colt defensive back Nick Harper, who was tackled near mid-field by Ben Roethlisberger, escaping a near disaster for the Steelers. Then Colts' kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, missed wide right on a 46-yard attempt to tie the game as time expired.
It seemed like the Broncos belonged and the Steelers did not heading into the game and perhaps that's what the thinking was in the Denver clubhouse. The Broncos missed out on a golden opportunity early when a near pick-six shot high into the air and wound up becoming a momentum changer by Hines Ward.
The Steelers played better physically than the Broncos as the orange and blue could not overcome the countless errors made by Jake Plummer behind center. Additionally the Broncos failed to check out of their zone defense which was the dumbest vanilla move in a playoff game ever committed. The Broncos went from looking like a team of destiny to being down and out in a very short period of time. The philosophy changed from attack mode against the Patriots to sit back and wait against the Steelers.
Still, it has been upheld that had the Broncos brought the same effort they had against New England a week prior, they would have won the AFC and the Super Bowl. That's what makes this game standout during a decade that saw numerous shortfalls.
If you're keeping score at home this game represents the second time in less than a decade that the Broncos cheated themselves out of a Super Bowl appearance and in all likelihood a championship.
Losing Gary Kubiak: It Eventually Hurt Denver in the Longrun
Gary Kubiak is a special figure in Denver sports.
Without a doubt Gary Kubiak is an unsung hero of sorts in Denver.
He was John Elway's backup and came in the league the same year. He knew his role as a back-up but he used it to propel his future career in coaching. Along the way Koob as he's been often called forged a lasting friendship and professional relationship with Mike Shanahan. The combination of the two on defensive coordinators around the NFL was simply lethal. Kubiak was Shanahan's shadow in Denver, San Francisco, and in Denver once again.
His 11 years as OC/QB coach Denver put up more yards and more TDs than any other NFL team during that same span. Denver went to the playoffs 7 of the 11 years he was there, with 2 SB wins.
That's why Gary Kubiak had to move on. He had interviews at the University of Colorado and with the Cleveland Browns for their head coaching positions among others, but his heart was in his home state of Texas. So when he landed with the Texans it was a good as it could get for Koob. For the Broncos organization it was a day they were probably dreading. The chemistry Shanahan seemed to have with his coaching staff was quickly dissipating with the absence of Kubiak.
Since Koob left for the Texans, both Kubiak and Shanahan have come under intense fire separately. Mike Shanahan lost his job in Denver and got off to a rough start in Washington. Gary Kubiak remains under fire and a close eye in Houston where he must make the playoffs this year or he will probably lose his job as the Texans head coach.
In Denver the combination left their mark and losing Gary Kubiak still haunts the franchise on the offensive side of the ball.
Jake Plummer Imploding into Retirement
It's possible that Jake Plummer wound up, in part, getting two coaches fired. One for his performance shortfalls on the field, the other for not even playing a down.
Jake was the golden child out of Arizona State selected by the hometown Cardinals as their new ray of hope in 1997. He eventually led the Cardinals to their first playoff win in decades (1947 to be exact) over arch-rival Dallas on their home field.
It was that sort of flair and promise the Broncos saw in luring Jake Plummer to Denver. It was not an entirely smooth transition, however. From his first game in Denver there were obvious issues between Mike Shanahan and Jake Plummer during a narrow win by the Broncos over the Bengals. Plummer would later say that Mike Shanahan was too much of a perfectionist and should have not been so high-strung all the time since it later wore out players mentally. That much certainly played itself out.
After Jake had a turnover-marred AFC Championship Game in January 2006, the Broncos drafted Jay Cutler in the offseason. Cuter was in all likelihood the heir-apparent; however, Plummer had not lost his job nor was it given away. Still, the pressure was at a boiling point for Jake. It was obvious that Jake was not as loose as he once was and reacted negatively to the pressure; after all he helped the Broncos have an excellent 2005 campaign and now Jay Cutler was seen as the new golden boy.
The fans started to become divided and could not believe how poorly Jake Plummer was playing a year after he was appearing to become one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. It didn't make sense.
Plummer was then traded in the offseason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a conditional pick, but he refused to play for the Bucs and eventually retired, even after meeting with John Grudden. It was an oddity because Tampa was one good quarterback away from being special again.
In interviews since then Plummer made it clear he had enough of the NFL, which is too bad because he probably still had something good to offer somewhere.
Jay Cutler Fails to Lead the Broncos Back to the Playoffs
Jay Cutler had all the promise in the world as a young NFL starter.
He had the physical tools, a competitive spirit, and a good team around him with as good an offensive head coach as you could ask for. So how did it all go wrong? It's really hard to say. It's one thing for another team to be better like the San Diego Chargers proved themselves to be during that time period. It was another to simply not win games that could easily have put the Broncos in the playoffs during Cutler's two-and-a-half seasons as the Broncos starter.
Jay Cutler has since helped the Chicago Bears reach the NFC Championship Game following his first playoff win. The fact that he could not help to lift the Broncos into the playoffs was a symptom of many other issues related to this team on and off the field. Some of these were in Cutler's control while others were not. His off-field late nights on the town certainly appeared to play some role as well.
Ted Sundquist Is Let Go as General Manager
Ted Sundquist was what you could call a local kid (of sorts) done good. He played football collegiately at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and was their captain. So when he worked he way up internally through the Broncos organization from 1993 he had a real-life feel-good story.
He started as a Player Personnel Assistant, then became the Director of Scouting, and eventually became the General Manager of the franchise. So when he was let go following the 2007 season he was obviously disappointed in part because he had passed on taking the same position for more pay with the Seattle Seahawks. At this point, Sunquist's loyalty to the Broncos was overshadowed by what appeared to have the earmarks of Coach Shanahan pointing the finger elsewhere.
Sundquist's name did re-surface once Josh McDaniels was terminated as a new GM candidate. Brian Xanders was retained by John Elway, possibly as a good faith and benefit of the doubt move to help in moving the Broncos forward in a positive manner.
Ted Sundquist remains an NFL GM candidate but has had nothing solid since being terminated by the Broncos franchise.
Josh McDaniels Era
The Josh McDaniels era left a lot of people finger-pointing in his general direction. It's hard to fathom how poor his decision making was but a portion of this list is devoted to some of his most outstanding miscues. In words, it was one of the worst mistakes in franchise history to hire him; he really had too much responsibility combined with too much ego bent on proving himself. It was a recipe for disaster.
A complete, and utter disaster.
How else can you explain the seemingly limitless quarterback controversy he created in Denver?
The list is long but other slides get up close to some of his best blunders. It is, however, important to mention that Josh took things to a whole new level.
Keep in mind, the franchise needed John Elway to come back in-house to help resolve the PR blunders and more importantly the direction of the football franchise. That says a great deal about what turmoil the Broncos franchise was in under McDaniels' lead.
McDaniels Fails to Land Matt Cassel and Tries to Trade Jay Cutler
People who hated Jay Cutler loved this poor move by Josh McDaniels because it showed Jay Cutler as being very hard to work with. The missing element was that it takes two people willing to work with one another. It just all became very obvious that Cutler and McDaniels wouldn't work.
The worst part to all of this is that Josh was trying to land Matt Cassel, his under-study in New England and could not do so. It was the ultimate egg on his face and he appeared to be duped by coach Belichick in the process. It appears the Patriots put a call into Dove Valley, the Broncos at least listened and showed interest, McDaniels in all likelihood started making plans to trade Jay Cutler, news got out, Cutler was livid, and the Pats dealt Cassel to the Chiefs, one of the Broncos' arch-rivals.
From there things got worse before they got better. Jay Cutler eventually was traded to the Chicago Bears for Kyle Orton and new eras began in both cities.
Brandon Marshall's off-the-Field Issues
Brandon Marshall was on the verge of breaking into the Broncos' all-time greatest listing and he had his sights on becoming the best. B-Marsh's off-field issues became so serious and such a distraction that it was hard to fully support him. He has all the physical tools but at times he seemed to not take his job as seriously as the fans would have liked. There were times when his careless actions on the field caused turnovers and were at least partially responsible for the Broncos losing key games.
The off-field issues involved his girlfriend as well as the confrontation that led up to the murder of Darrent Williams (D-Will) just hours after the Broncos lost to the 49ers and were kept out of the playoff picture.
To B-Marsh's credit, he did strive to make positive changes in his life so that the stigma of his youthful past would be behind him.
Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler Are Eventually Traded
It's ironic but think about this for a moment.
At the end—the very end—of the Mike Shanahan era, the Broncos were blown out by the San Diego Chargers on the road. During the game Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall had a verbal exchange and it appeared Marshall wanted the ball more and Cutler responded almost sarcastically because the Broncos were knocked out of the playoffs again. Next thing you know Mike Shanahan is gone, Jay Cutler is gone, and Brandon Marshall survived only one season more in Denver.
The issue under all this is that maybe it was Pat Bowlen behind those moves. Most certainly, it was Josh McDaniels creating the environment to make it so.
Losing the Division in 2008 in the Last 3 Games
The Broncos had to win just one of their remaining three games to make the playoffs in 2008. It seemed like the odds-on favorite would be the Broncos trouncing the Bills in Denver to solidify the slot. The problem was that Buffalo wasn't just going to roll over and play dead. A late Broncos rally fell short and the Bills won the second to last game of the season 30-23.
Denver had fallen a week earlier at Carolina, 30-10.
Then, in the final week of the season Denver was blown out at San Diego 52-21.
In total, the Broncos were outscored 112-54 in the final three games of the 2008 season. The very next day Mike Shanahan was terminated and things got a little crazier down in Dove Valley from that point on.
Losing the Home Field Advantage: "Fans" Sell Their Tickets in Droves to Visitors
When the Pittsburgh Steelers came to town in 2009, they showed that they could travel all too well for the liking of most Broncos faithful. Part of the reality is that Josh McDaniels lost a lot of support from the fans early on and many fans opted to sell their tickets whenever possible. Other teams like the Eagles, Chiefs, and Raiders have had more than their fair share of support in Denver as well.
A change in this trend will be the greatest thing about the John Fox era in Denver at the new Sports Authority Field at Mile High. With Denver more competitive under a likable coach, tickets will be harder to come by for fans of any other team.
Implosion in 2009
The Broncos started the 2009 season like it was a new era—a good one, not a bad one. The Broncos put the beat down on teams like Dallas, New England, and San Diego early and reached six wins right out of the gate. As Denver celebrated 50 years of football against New England who could forget Josh McDaniels' infamous fist pump and pointing at his family in the stands?
It was all downhill after that.
Maybe the home brown and gold wasn't so bad after all?
Trading Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn
So let's get this straight, here.
Peyton Hillis was averaging around five yards per carry when Josh McDaniels said he didn't really fit into the Broncos' offensive plans, even though the Broncos struggled in short yardage. Then he is dealt for Brady Quinn who was struggling in Cleveland, only to be duped by Tim Tebow? Really? Really? Really?
Chalk this one up to the notion that 10 million-billion Madden Football fans can't be wrong.
Apparently, Josh McDaniels never played John Madden football—then again, he probably has because that would explain a lot about his unconventional decision making capabilities.
Giving Up so Much for the Tim Tebow First-Round Selection
Tim Tebow might pan out. Then again, he might not. To date, he has not panned out for the Denver Broncos, which lends itself to Tebow becoming a potential bust.
It's not that Tim Tebow can't play in the NFL; it's more that he might not be a full-time starter and that he might be playing out of position.
Moreover and most insultingly, Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders were behind this deal that gave up a number of picks (a second-, third-, and fourth-rounder) to land Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The fact is the Broncos have been overpaying Tim for non-performance ever since. It's not Tim's fault per se but these sorts of issues have become part of the the new CBA package protecting teams from overpaying high draft picks.
Most of Josh McDaniels' Draft Picks Were Squandered and Haven't Panned out
Josh McDaniels' drafts could have been better. To date, only four out of the 23 draft picks he had at his disposal have translated into Broncos starters. That is a rate of two starters per season, another clear sign of a franchise that was taking steps backwards and not forwards.
Here is the official draft list from the 2009 and 2010 NFL Draft selections.
2009 Draft Picks (overall)
(12) Knowshon Moreno: Third year hopes to be the charm as he is improved physically and is starting.
(18) Robert Ayers: Starting at left defensive end.
(37) Alphonso Smith: traded to the Lions for Dan Gronkowski who caught about 2 balls in 2010 and was just cut last week at the end of the 2011 preseason.
(48) Darcel McBath: Just released last week at the end of the 2011 preseason.
(64) Richard Quinn: Released during 2011 preseason.
(79) and (84): Traded to Pittsburgh for Richard Quinn; he was predicted to be drafted very late by most.
(114) David Bruton: Playing second string behind rookie Rahim Moore.
(132) Seth Olsen: No game appearances; however, he made 2009 roster, released after the 2010 preseason 2010 and signed by Minnesota to their practice squad. Now in 2011, he is a second-string left guard for the Vikings.
(141) Kenny McKinley: Was placed on practice squad two years running and committed suicide during the 2010 season. Some speculated this might have been in part because his rehab was separated from the team, and this may have lead to deep depression.
(174) Tom Brandstater: Released after Tebow selection; had short stints with Colts, Dolphins, and Cowboys.
(185) Traded to Philadelphia
(225) Blake Schlueter: Waived during late preseason. Stints with Seahawks and Falcons.
(235) Traded to Detroit
2010 Draft Picks (overall)
(22) Demaryius Thomas: Fighting through injuries listed as fifth wide receiver.
(25) Tim Tebow: This was supposed to be his year; currently third-string QB.
(45) Zane Beadles: Starting left guard.
(80) J.D. Walton: Starting center but needs work.
(87) Eric Decker: Third wideout; fighting through injuries.
(137) Perrish Cox: Released last week after a mediocre preseason. Also has off-the-field legal problems.
(183) Eric Olsen: Waived late in the 2011 preseason.
(225) Syd'quan Thompson: Injured and on disabled list.
(232) Jammie Kirlew: Released in 2010; was on Bills' 2010 practice squad and is currently on injured reserve.
Humiliation at the Hands of the Oakland Raiders at Home in 2010
The Oakland Raider have beaten the Denver Broncos three out of the last four games, which is giving Raiders fans far too much optimism for the Monday night opener in Denver. Not so fast, Raider nation.
Last year's score read 59-14 in favor of the Raiders. All of that is true, but the opponent should have read McDaniels, not the Broncos.
This game was utterly a joke. Don't expect the same thing this year.
Look for the breakdown of this year's first game soon.
The New "Temporary" Sports Authority Field Signs Outside Mile High
INVESCO Field at Mile High is no more; the rights were sold to Sports Authority. There are a couple of issues that have risen out of this now legal name change. No. 1, the sign is red, not a more appealing Broncos-related color like blue, orange, or white. This sign also makes no mention of Mile High, part of the requirement in attaining the rights and staying in touch with the local community.
The former INVESCO sign was classy and done in a metallic and bronze look that just oozed class. This sign has a long way to go. There was a rush to take the old INVESCO sign down and put the new one up sooner than later. By the looks of it, there shouldn't have been.
One ironic twist is that the Sports Authority CEO resigned one week after this deal was struck. The deal has Sports Authority paying the Broncos about $3 million dollars per year and another $3 million towards the Metro Football Stadium District for annual maintenance.
A new sign is supposedly in the works, so stay tuned on how that all shakes out, however it is still as red as the state of Nebraska or Kansas City - which doesn't sit well with fans.
Here's a suggestion for Sports Authority - either re-paint the signs orange or blue or find something a little more neutral for the fans. After all the fans had the stadium built for the Broncos and the fans, not for Sports Authority.
The Loss of Three Broncos Players' Lives (D-Will, Damien Nash, Kenny McKinley)
Nothing else on this list really compares to this, nor should it. The last decade was marred with unexpected tragedies to add on to all of football miscues.
The fact that the Broncos have had to bury three of their own from the active roster speaks volumes about how deep and dark the decade following their Super Bowl glory has been. The franchise and community have dealt with a number of issues over the years, but losing three young lives in their prime is one that has left its mark on the franchise and won't be forgotten.
It's with all of these lessons about football and life that the Broncos take their first steps forward into what looks to be a much brighter future. It's a new era where these hard-knock lessons will improve the end product on the field over the next few years and make for a better franchise in the long run.
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