Bye weeks are a good time for reflection, perspective, and a look at the big picture. The Denver Broncos are 3-3 in 2012 and we will get back to the game by game scrutiny starting on Monday, but before that here’s a look back over the past two years. It’s natural for fans and the media to focus on the here and now and forget about where a team has come from, but if you take the time to do that then the progress of the Broncos is impressive.
Two years ago this very week, the Broncos were coming off the 59-14 home loss to the Oakland Raiders and headed to London to play the San Francisco 49ers. In retrospect, that two week period was the beginning of the end for Josh McDaniels. The humiliating loss to the Raiders was embarrassing to Broncos owner, Pat Bowlen but what happened in London was even worse.
It came out after the loss to the 49ers that the Broncos had been caught taping a part of the 49ers walk through. McDaniels denied any knowledge of the incident but no one really believed that, including Bowlen. A lot can be said about Bowlen, some good and some bad, but he is an honorable man and the situation in London hurt him deeply.
Less than two months later, McDaniels was fired and things had never looked darker for the Broncos. They were now without a coach, had little talent and were without a leader. That’s when Bowlen went back to what he knew had worked in the past, John Elway. This time, though, Elway was brought in as the Vice-President of Football Operations and was charged with rebuilding a once proud franchise. To be fair, a lot of people believed that Elway was nothing more than a figure head to help with the public relations mess.
Anyone who has followed Elway’s career knows that he would never take a position like that; he had every intention of diving into the deep end and returning the Broncos to glory.
Going into every move Elway has made would take too long, and probably not all that interesting but safe to say that the talent base is better and continues to improve. Elway’s first goal was to stabilize the organization and bring back a ray of hope that had been long gone. He hired John Fox, an established NFL coach who knows how to win and brings his own energy to the building. There may or may not be questions about Fox going forward but there is no question that he was the right man to follow McDaniels.
Elway kept Champ Bailey in Denver when everyone believed he was gone as an unrestricted free agent. He drafted 2011 defensive rookie of the year, Von Miller when most people wanted a defensive tackle. Elway has missed on some personnel moves but on the whole, the roster is substantially better than it was two years ago at this time.
Then there was the Tim Tebow era or whatever you want to call it. As fun as it was at times, Elway knew the Broncos could not win big with Tebow at quarterback. It was and is an unpopular decision to a number of Bronco fans, but it was the right decision. Knowing he needed a quarterback, Elway and the Broncos went after the best free agent in NFL history in Peyton Manning. Elway handled the pursuit perfectly and received kudos from almost everyone for his low-pressure approach in going after Manning.
While others were putting on a full-court press, Elway knew Manning was still in a state of shock and gave him all the space he needed to make a decision. Manning chose the Broncos for a number of reasons but this is a fact, if Elway is not in charge of the Broncos then Manning never comes to Denver.
So here we sit two years after the darkest time in Broncos history, and there are many who believe that they are about to go on a run. Almost everyone believes they are going to win their second straight AFC West Title. There’s still work to do for the Denver Broncos but when you consider where they were after McDaniels left under the cover of darkness in December of 2010, it’s pretty remarkable. Elway was the master of the comeback so in retrospect, should we really be surprised? What a long, strange trip it has been!
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