Early in the off-season of 2012, John Elway made a move that would change the direction of the Denver Broncos, and it’s not the signing of Peyton Manning. Well before that day in March when Manning chose the Broncos; Elway decided to make a change to the strength and conditioning program. He let go long time strength and conditioning coach, Rich Tuten and replaced him with Luke Richesson. The move was a controversial one because Tuten had been with the Broncos for a long time.
One of the things that Elway pointed to when he took over was the Broncos history of fading late in the season. From 2006 to 2010, they were in position to make the playoffs but lost steam down the stretch in each of those years. There were a lot of reasons for those collapses but Elway believed that one of the big ones was because the Broncos were going about conditioning all wrong. He did not make the change in 2011 after taking over because of the lockout and there was no off-season conditioning program. Following the 2011 season, however, Elway made the change and it has been a night and day difference.
Richesson changed everything about the Broncos conditioning program; he put a greater emphasis on flexibility and speed and less of an emphasis on lifting weights. Don’t take that the wrong way, the Broncos still lift weights but Richesson’s focus is on limiting injuries. Before Richesson was hired; the Broncos suffered what seemed like more pulls and strains than every other team in the league. In contrast, they have been amazingly healthy this season and of course some of that is luck. However some of that, maybe a lot of that, is because the players are better conditioned.
In addition to simple conditioning, the results on the field speak for themselves. In 2008 the Broncos went from 7-4 to no playoffs, in 2009 they went from 8-5 to 8-8 and no playoffs and in 2010 they went from 8-4 to no playoffs. This season the Broncos have won 11 straight games and an argument can certainly be made that they played their best football in the month of December. They went 5-0 and won all five games by an average of 18 points.
Elway knew he needed a quarterback, so he went and got Manning. He also knew he needed to fix the conditioning program, so he went and got Richesson. There are a lot of different people who deserve credit for the Broncos success in 2012, and Richesson is certainly one of them.
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