Can the new regime bring the Broncos back to respectability?
I saw a man on the corner yesterday, dancing and twirling a sign that was advertising for a furniture store in the area. I can’t tell you what store he was employed by because it wasn’t his sign that caught my attention. His shirt was dark purple and, in large white letters, read I have a constant appointment with disappointment. Immediately, my mind drifted to thoughts of Denver Broncos football.
Last year’s offseason for the Broncos came with a tremendous amount of hype. I think it is safe to say that, to varying degrees, we were all somewhat responsible for the level of blind positivity that was on display. While there were many, exciting thoughts and transactions fueling those feelings, it was still a forced internal triumph of optimism over experience.
As we slowly progress into this offseason, fans of the Broncos have a newfound center for that optimism in the hiring of former Super Bowl-winning coach Sean Payton. While many believe that Payton can drag this team back from the depths of hopelessness, the fervor that accompanied the trade for Russell Wilson last March has come nowhere close to being matched. Part of that cautious sanguinity can be attributed to the disappointment that was the 2022-2023 season.
Considering the 5-12 finish, last season was going to be a letdown regardless of the expectations leading into it. However, the roller coaster of emotions that began with sportscasters abound prematurely crowning Denver as a legitimate contender seemingly ended by midseason and left fans in uncharted territory.
We were suddenly saddled with a quarterback who gave the appearance of a man whose best playing days were behind him and we had sacrificed a large portion of the future to obtain him. We had little to no hope for success in the foreseeable future and we didn’t know how to deal with that.
As fans of the Denver Broncos, we all have varying histories in terms of how we got here and why we stayed.
Some of us were born into this. I wasn’t given a choice on which team I wanted to cheer on every Sunday. I’m not sure I was even aware that choosing your favorite team was an option when I was a child. The Broncos were more than just a subject of entertainment for a few hours every weekend. They were a way of life. NFL Sunday was about gatherings of family and friends and the only choice you had to make pertained to the appetizers and entrees you were going to prepare when you were hosting.
Regardless of what brought you to be a fan of the Broncos or what era you came into this, a majority of those who bleed orange and blue have never seen days like these. We have been spoiled by the success we had during the Pat Bowlen era. Aside from the faction of the more life-experienced fans who saw Denver endure ten straight losing campaigns in the 60’s and early 70’s, we had never had a chance to become accustomed to the struggles of a perennial loser.
I don’t think anyone is naïve enough to truly believe that the Broncos are going to win a championship every season or even compete for a chance to be there each year. Every team goes through stretches of losing seasons. We don’t need a promise of excellence at this point. We do need to see that we are on the right path to rebuilding an organization that will enable the team to find its way back to a level of respectability and maintain it.
Is Sean Payton the man to lead them back there? We don’t know. Can he bring Russ anywhere close to the level of success he once had in this league or is this just an extension of our Osweiler-Bridgewater era? Nobody knows. What we do know is that one of the more loyal fan bases in the NFL sorely needed a proven commodity at the helm after six seasons of embarrassment under first time head coaches and Payton is certainly that.
The new ownership group appears to be committed to putting a winning product on the field and to changing the narrative of the way the organization has come to be viewed of late. George Paton has shown that he has the ability to make solid draft and personnel choices and a modicum of success going forward can begin to mend his relationship with the fans whose trust he needs to earn back after the Nathaniel Hackett disaster.
As fans, we will sit back as patiently as we are capable while Sean slowly builds his staff. We will cheer hires and criticize others. We will argue about the direction the team is going right up to opening kickoff next season. Nevertheless, we will all be rooting for our Denver Broncos as loudly and as passionately as we always have. We are just going to be a bit more cautious with our optimism until it is proven that we can finally, officially cancel that appointment with disappointment.