Storming to Performing: Breaking in Your 2022 Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos, Nathaniel Hackett - Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos, Nathaniel Hackett - Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

One win, one loss.

Although .500 certainly isn’t the way many in Broncos Country had envisioned the start to Russell Wilson’s Denver Dynasty, it is decidedly better than the alternative. If you were to brave the comments sections of various social media posts, however, you might come to the conclusion that we’d magically fast-forwarded to December while playing August-level football, or maybe that two-thirds of the roster’s star players had departed for Nicaragua to join a cult.

Even among the more level-headed fans in Broncos Country, you might be led by some to believe that either Coach Hackett, Russell Wilson, or both, should be assigned to the as yet diminutive trash heap of General Manager George Paton’s personnel mistakes. Some, none, or all of these circumstances and assessments may eventually come to pass, but in the meantime, let’s start with a couple of assumptions (dangerous, I know) based on what we know to this point.

Allow me to start by making an analogy that may or may not sit well with you – with apologies to the popular Forrest Gump-ism, I’m eschewing the equating of life to ‘chocolates’ and replacing chocolates with ‘shoes’ – if I hadn’t earned the interests of Sayre Bedinger and Mario Vetanze to this point, I may have piqued their attention just enough with the mention of shoes that they’ll consider reading further. ‘People are like a good pair of shoes’ – particularly in performance or production based industries such as sports, but this is true of people in all walks of life.

Let’s apply this concept to two popular (or unpopular, depending on the week and quarter of play) Denver Broncos figures:

Prototype Kicks

You’ve fallen in love with a brand new shoe. The newest, most exotically designed shoe. The one on everybody’s wish list. The kind of shoe you might be mugged for. This shoe is from a known brand, so you feel like you’ll probably like it, but while you’ve had other lines of shoes from within this brand, you’ve never worn anything from this line. You know your size, so you order two pairs (one for ‘show’, and one for ‘go’) on blind faith, alone.

You excitedly receive the shoes, but when you try them on, they’re just a little uncomfortable. You really like the visual appeal, and they seem to be well made, but because they’re of an unfamiliar design, they rub in some bizarre places. You’re just not sure whether or not you like them, but because of their potential, you’re determined to break them in to give them a fair shot (all the while keeping the receipt for the other pair in case breaking them in doesn’t improve the experience). This shoe? You’ve guessed it, this shoe is Coach Nathaniel Hackett.

We know the coaching tree, we have a nostalgic and deeply rooted belief in the wide-zone, and we love his exotic personality – we, the fans, just need to make an honest effort to see how he fits once he’s been broken in. If he doesn’t get better with time – something significant than three weeks – then we’ve got the receipts, and the team will do what most teams do after they’ve discovered their latest model coach doesn’t offer enough arch support… returned to the coaching carousel.

From Storming to Performing for the Denver Broncos

While I’m not at all condemning (or condoning) the vocal practices of the ‘boo birds’ recently nesting at Mile High this past weekend, I certainly believe a fan who pays a premium price for a ticket has a right to do as he or she pleases with respect to cheering or jeering a team, I would ask that you accompany me in zooming out for a more macroscopic overview of this (and really any) organization.

Let’s begin by taking a moment to review some commonly accepted principles of team dynamics. According to, in 1965, Psychologist Bruce Tuckman introduced a model of team development that now serves as a standard for the identification of phases within the development of any team. Tuckman observed that a newly forming team will journey through four distinct phases. I’ll summarize each, below:

  • Forming: Team members come together around an idea or common purpose. There are more questions than answers, but each is looking for guidance.
  • Storming: Team members struggle with leadership, interpersonally, and with their mission. True colors are revealed and conflict may be high.
  • Norming: Team members will begin to accept their roles, and will begin to submit to authority. Adoption of the team’s missions and goals is anticipated.
  • Performing: Team members are performing at peak levels.

Denver Broncos fans on the whole are a pretty sharp lot, so my guess is you’ve identified the trajectory of this particular point. The 2022 Denver Broncos are nothing if not a developing team, and it would be folly to think there’s anything unique about how the members of a football team – from Punter to General Manager – would respond to the rigors of team formation. Whether a middle school science club, a military unit, or an NFL Football Team, each is subject to similar bumps and bruises as the group’s members morph from strangers to family.

But the challenge for this Broncos team runs a little deeper, still. With a new General Manager, a new Coaching Staff, a new offensive scheme, new team leaders, and a new starting QB to name a few, this year’s team is navigating transitions from one team development phase to another across several micro-teams, while simultaneously maneuvering their way through some pretty treacherous waters as a unified team.

Based on the difficulties we’re seeing played out on the field – from game management, to coordinated pass protection, to dropped passes, to unprecedented penalties – I would venture to say it’s a fair assessment that the team, on the whole, is probably straddling the fence somewhere between the Forming and Storming stages, with perhaps a couple of micro-teams (particularly on the Defensive side of the ball) achieving a bit more advanced team development status, somewhere closer to Norming.

And then there’s the development of the Denver Broncos micro-team affectionately known as ‘Broncos Country’. Yes, we too, are on this journey with the 2022 Denver Broncos and based on the divergent views of the musings posted following each of the last two games, I would confidently place our collective development stage squarely in the category of Storming.

Moving Beyond the Storm

While this may feel a bit like a negative assessment, I would argue that the opposite is actually true. What this team is experiencing is absolutely normal; what we, as fans, are experiencing is absolutely normal. Team development, particularly with teams comprised largely of alpha personalities, rarely plays out like an action-hero mashup movie – The insta-team experience of The Expendables, while immensely satisfying to my inner-80s child, is not reflected in reality.

No, the team development process carries with it an almost ‘Laws-of-Physics’ level impact on all who would dare to join forces in pursuit of something bigger than themselves – this team (and by proxy, its fans) must pay taxes, just like everyone else. For those in the stands, or for those who are rampaging across social media in protest, your angst is valid. I can tell you with absolute certainty that righteously hoisted pitchforks and torches are not nearly the galvanizing team-development force we believe them to be.

With warranted, but uncommon patience exercised by our ownership group, the fan base, and the General Manager, on the other hand, the passage of time will allow this team to mature to its fullest potential. Will that fullest potential result in a triumphant trip to the Football Promised Land? Only time will tell.

So there you have it, Broncos Country – there is no surefire way to microwave the development of a cohesive team (or a fan base for that matter). All teams are subjected to one, requisite and common element – Time. And therein lies the crux of this article’s primary assertion – in the words of the Rolling Stones (and please feel free to hum along if you know the tune), whether applied to individual players, or the Franchise on the whole…

“Time is on (our) side, yes it is…”