Recruiting a Championship
Last year, on March 13th, 2012 John Elway started his sixth run at a World Championship. Having been to five Super Bowls and winning two in a row, he began his first Super Bowl run as Vice President of Operations for the Denver Broncos. When Peyton Manning chose the Broncos, the organization went from “fun, entertaining wild cards” to serious contenders. The dream of winning a World Championship this year was crushed by a devastating loss during the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs.
Many blame the loss on the young Bronco safety, Rahim Moore. They fail to realize all the other mistakes or flukes in that game. If one takes out the awful officiating and focuses on the players, it is obvious that the problems were larger than just Moore’s huge blunder in the waning minutes of regulation. Champ Bailey was burned by Torrey Smith too many times to count. This had happened against A.J. Green when the Broncos played Cincinnati, but he redeemed himself with an interception towards the end of that game. He was not so lucky against the Ravens.
Von Miller was literally MIA, registering only half of a sack. Seriously? The Broncos sack king couldn’t get any pressure on Joe Flacco, which meant he had plenty of time to throw and the Broncos were at a serious disadvantage. Later, fans would find out that Miller was nursing a shoulder injury, but it was bizarre to watch Flacco have so much time to throw. Sometimes he just lobbed it up there with a wing and a prayer and some how his talented receivers caught it. There is no real class in those passes, they float on him often and his receivers are always right there to catch it. However, everybody knows you can’t give a quarterback as much time as the Broncos did during that playoff game.
Peyton Manning was under more pressure than he had been all season; what happened to the solid offensive line that had protected him all season long? Knowshon Moreno’s knee injury hurt the team more than anyone realized, but Manning also had huge blunders of his own. He fumbled the ball twice, luckily the team recovered one of them. He also threw two interceptions. Now, the first interception should have never been an interception because Eric Decker was being held and the ball was tipped, however, the referees never saw the hold and the interception counted, so did the touchdown after the defender ran into the end zone. The third interception came after he committed the one mistake that every quarterback knows you don’t do! Don’t throw across your body. Actually, that interception came at the worst possible time. In the second overtime of the game, which lead to a Ravens field goal. Game over.
The coaches aren’t off the hook here. Who kneels at the end of regulation when there are 31 seconds left and your team has two time outs? Probably a team that does not have a quarterback of Manning’s caliber. John Fox says that he would do it again, but Broncos Country doubts he gets the chance to make that call again. Even before Moore’s coverage blunder, the Broncos could have put the game away with one first down. Instead of throwing the ball on 3rd and 7, they ran it. Punting the ball was the “safe” option. It’s obvious that Coach Fox is going to learn how to take chances from now on or fans will riot.
Back to building a championship team. How to do it now that the Broncos lost the most important game of the season by three points? How to get over the loss? The fact is, there is no getting over that loss. Ever. That’s possibly the best part of this because now the Broncos know what they need to do to contend and go for that Lombardi. There are holes on the team that Elway must fill. One such hole is veteran leadership on defense. Someone who will pull the team together after something crazy like Moore’s botched coverage. That veteran leadership was missing in January.
When Dwight Freeney was released by the Indianapolis Colts he received a text message from Manning telling him not to worry, “come play with me in Denver.” Is Manning serious? Nobody knows because Denver seems to be set at the pass rush position. But there could be a spot for him if the Broncos did adjust their defensive line. Plus, perhaps there is nobody else in the NFL who knows what kind of leadership that guy brings to a team more than Manning. Some say that Charles Woodson might be interested in playing for Denver as well because he’s looking to play for a serious contender. Try wrapping your brain around the idea of Manning and Woodson on the same team. After last season, anything is possible.
Building a contender, or a Super Bowl winning team, has always been a mystery in the NFL. The truth is, the Broncos really should have been in the Super Bowl this year. They ended up beating themselves and that is the toughest part to swallow. Every game counts. One mistake can be devastating. The most important thing to remember is to not give up hope.
This team has a bright future with Manning and Elway at the helm.