The NFL is a tough business. Anyone who has been around it for a great deal of time is going to tell you that. But you can't help but wonder, as Sean Payton stood on the sidelines Sunday watching his team get beat by 50 points, how many times he wondered why he got himself into this situation.
The Broncos, somehow, have managed to get worse and worse before getting any better. And even the teams that have been down forever — such as the Detroit Lions — eventually get it going in the right direction like they are now.
So how did the Broncos get themselves here? Well, it wasn't just one blunder. It has been a handful of them. But you can pretty much trace it back to when the health of then-owner Pat Bowlen began to decline.
The Broncos were able to win the Super Bowl in the 2015 season, carrying Peyton Manning across the finish line in what was the final year of his career. But that was the culmination of the Manning era, the four-year period in which the Broncos were good — and other players wanted to play there.
Since then, it has been an abject failure. There are many reasons why.
The Elway era ends
John Elway gave the Broncos some incredible things as a player and he will always be the best player in the history of the team, but his role in the front office brought more bad than good, even if they did win a Super Bowl in that time.
Elway made some really poor decisions with free agents and he hired the likes of Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio as head coaches. It's hard to say which one was worse. He rightfully stepped down in 2020 and the team hired a new general manager, George Paton.