The Denver Broncos are now just days away from training camp and the players are beginning to return to Denver from summer vacations. They report on Wednesday and practice for the first time on Thursday morning.
The players will take the field knowing that anything short of a Super Bowl victory will be a disappointment after last season’s bitter end. The Miami Dolphins were the last team to win the Super Bowl a year after losing it, and that was way back in 1972. The Broncos, however, have the talent and the right attitude to be the next team to do just that.
Teams that have lost the Super Bowl in recent seasons have often struggled to even make the playoffs the next, so why are the Broncos going to be different? I can’t speak for every team and every situation but two theories immediately jump into my mind.
The first was the tone set by General Manager, John Elway less than 48 hours after the Super Bowl. Sounding like he hadn’t slept in days, Elway was obviously growing tired of the questions that all basically sounded like, “How are you guys going to get over this and are you concerned about carry over into next season?”
Elway and Head Coach, John Fox answered the questions professionally and then there was one last question along those same lines. Fox answered it with a series of clichés and everyone thought the press conference was over. Elway had other ideas.
Elway jumped in and delivered this as his closing message:
“I want to say one thing. I kind of get the sense that these questions are, ‘How the hell are we going to overcome this?’ Right? The bottom line is, sure, it’s not even 48 hours away. It’s not even 48 hours away from the game. But I want to tell you this is that, right now, the focus is on what happened instead of how we got there, what we did this year (and) what we went through.
“The farther you get away from this, the less you concentrate on just that one game, and the more you look at the full season, and really what we did as a football team and really as an organization. And I’m very proud of that. …
“So the goal has not changed and will not change. We will use this as experience we went through (and) be disappointed that we didn’t play better. But the bottom line is, this organization — what Pat Bowlen wants from this organization — that has not changed. It will not change.”
Elway walked away from the press conference in the ultimate mic drop end to a season.
Words are one thing, actions are another. Elway and the Broncos backed up those strong words by going out and getting better in the offseason through free agency and the draft. Those moves included the free agent signings of TJ Ward, DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib.
Obviously the on-the-field results will tell the final story but the Broncos did not sit on their laurels of last year, and that was Elway’s message.
Too many teams who have suffered the same fate as the Broncos feel as if they are close, and don’t have to get better. The Broncos took the opposite approach, they reacted to what they saw on that February day and went out and made the necessary changes.
The second mistake that teams who lose the Super Bowl often make is ignoring what happened. They want to quickly move on and never think about that loss again. We’ve all heard the saying, “Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.”
As painful as it is, the Broncos have watched the Super Bowl and continue to bring it up as a source of motivation. Both Terrance Knighton and Chris Harris have said they want to use the Super Bowl loss in much the same way as the San Antonio Spurs used their loss to the Miami Heat in the 201 NBA Finals to fuel them last season. We all remember what the Spurs did last month, they won a championship. The Broncos are hoping to follow that blueprint in 2014.
Quarterbacks Coach, Greg Knapp and Peyton Manning watched the Super Bowl in detail and broke down every play. It’s not an easy thing to do but it’s the only way to fully get past the disappointment.
Finally there’s this, the players started saying “35” when a workout is tough, when they just don’t want to do one more sprint, when they don’t want to run one more route and so on. What’s the significance of the number 35? It’s the number of points the Broncos lost by in the Super Bowl.
Yes the Broncos have moved on to the 2014 season but they have not forgotten the lessons of six months ago, and will use those to fuel them going forward.
It’s not easy to get back to the Super Bowl after losing it the year before and it’s even harder to win it, but the Broncos have the two key ingredients to get it done. They got better and they have embraced the lessons learned on that day.
The 2014 season is upon us and as Elway said, the goal has not changed; the goal is to win the Super Bowl.