Denver Broncos: Team should adopt old Shula quote

Denver Broncos Introduce Sean Payton as Head Coach
Denver Broncos Introduce Sean Payton as Head Coach / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

In light of Sean Payton's USA Today interview, the 2023 Broncos should embrace an old quote from legendary head coach Don Shula.

This morning, Broncos Country awoke to an article that vindicated the frustration shared amongst the fan base. In an explosive interview with Jarrett Bell of USA Today, coach Payton wasted little time expressing his feelings about the 2022 squad.

"“There’s so much dirt around that. There’s 20 dirty hands, for what was allowed, tolerated in the fricking training rooms, the meeting rooms. The offense. I don’t know Hackett. A lot of people had dirt on their hands. It wasn’t just Russell. He didn’t just flip. He still has it. This B.S. that he hit a wall? Shoot, they couldn’t get a play in. They were 29th in the league in pre-snap penalties on both sides of the ball.”

“It doesn’t often happen where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed. And that happened here. Part of it was their own fault, relative to spending so much (expletive) time trying to win the offseason – the PR, the pomp and circumstance, marching people around, and all this stuff. We’re not doing any of that.”

“It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was.”"

Sean Payton

He would also say that the Broncos took the opposite approach to this off-season due to what happened last year.

The esteemed Head Coach did not hold back in his critique of the previous regime, nor should he have. The 2022 Denver Broncos WERE one of the most undisciplined, dysfunctional, and poorly coached NFL teams in a long time. Anybody subjected to their games every week would tell you that. What's notable is the timing of when Payton unloaded his thoughts.

Russell Wilson
Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos / Justin Edmonds/GettyImages

With training camp starting this week, there's no doubt that Sean Payton wanted to send a message. Between these quotes and the videos of baby iguanas escaping snakes, it's clear that last season will stay in the rearview mirror forever. From now on, this team will embrace a new kind of physicality. Perhaps they should look to an old quote from HOF coach Don Shula as their new slogan for the season.

The former Colts and Dolphins coach, who won two Super Bowls with the latter, had a saying that perfectly summed up his coaching style.

"I'm as subtle as a punch in the mouth."

Don Shula

Subtle as a punch in the mouth. Direct. Aggressive. No nonsense. These are ALL qualities that the Denver Broncos have been lacking for a long time. In a similar tone, Sean Payton has emphasized physicality on the team through his early coaching decisions. Between investing a fortune in linemen such as Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers to collecting TE/FB hybrids like Chris Manhertz, Adam Trautman, and Michael Burton, Payton has tipped his hand as to the kind of offense that this team will field. Gone are the days of "using the system" or having "a fine-tuned finesse" in the game plan. From now on, this team will be chiseled like the grizzled, resilient, and powerful animal with which it shares a namesake.

The 2023 Denver Broncos will be aggressive, rugged, and tactical. As coach Payton alluded, playoffs are the bar he's setting for this team. He will do whatever it takes to clear that bar. That likely includes game plans limiting Wilson's passing attempts and WR targets. It might also mean we don't see All-Pro numbers from certain skill players. You know what? That's ok.

This season should be about shaking off the rust and becoming a contending team again, which starts with a playoff berth. If that means being "boring" or "running heavy," so be it. Fans yearning for a Manning-era offense this year should be bracing for more of a Plummer-esque flair to the execution. Like those Broncos teams, this unit will not be afraid to beat you up front, run the ball down your throat, then finish you off with a booted deep pass. That's the way those teams succeeded, and I can guarantee that the formula is more than likely the one to be used in the future.

Barack Obama, Don Shula, Stephen Ross, Larry Csonka
President Obama Hosts The 1972 Superbowl Champion Miami Dolphins / Alex Wong/GettyImages

Looking back at Shula's best team and their stat book might validate these sentiments. The undefeated unit in 1972 had two 1,000-yard backs in Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. Not to mention, their 3rd back Jim Kiick tallied 521 rushing yards. In total, the '72 Dolphins rushed for 2,960 yards and 26 TDs... In 14 games... Again, tell me how a "run heavy" team is boring, again? As for their receiving outfit, HOF WR Paul Warfield was the team leader with 606 yards.

I understand that this was a different era of football. 606 yards back then is equivalent to around 850 today. Despite that, it underscores what kind of team Shula wanted to reflect onto the field. Those Dolphin teams were always disciplined, tough, and physical. 50 years on, I think they're happy to have paid that price with bruises and sore muscles for their success.

The Denver Broncos are ripe for a turnaround. Over are the days of excuses and meandering around a circle of dysfunction. Sean Payton screamed his intentions at the top of the Rockies Thursday morning, and to achieve what he set out to do, he may need his team to take some cues from Don Shula.

Show up, put your work in, and when you line up for the first snap, be as subtle as a punch in the mouth.

Next. Practice Squad. Predicting the Broncos' 16-man practice sqaud. dark