The Denver Broncos have a daunting task ahead of them if they want to repeat history and go for that sacred back-to-back Super Bowl championship. Going into the 2016 season, head coach Gary Kubiak knows that there will be many challenges if he hopes to repeat.
“I think you’re always thinking about what your approach is going to be with your team the next time," Kubiak said. "Obviously, coming off a Super bowl win, how do we go about it? We’re going to have a lot of new faces. We’re going to be a different football team and it’s going to be a different year. My approach is going to be that we have to have to same standard in what we do and how we do it.“
While it might feel like the entire recruitment season has been tasked with finding that winning combination offensively—specifically with the quarterback rotation—adding to Denver's defensive coffers has brought its own particular set of challenges.
With the departure of starting key players, like DE Malik Jackson and ILB Danny Trevathan, the injury of CB Aqib Talib—and the possible impending sanctions—and the uncertainty of contract negotiations with star LB Von Miller coming dangerously close to expiration, GM John Elway really hit the war room hard to fill the team's current defensive holes. But Kubiak remains hopeful.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... “The nucleus of our team—there are a lot of guys coming back that were very successful and played extremely well," Kubiak said. "We’ve got to show them, along with the guys we’re bringing in, that we’re going to continue to help them get better and give them a chance to go back out this year and put themselves in position again. “
However, filling those open positions is more than just a numbers game for the Broncos. It was very clear that a large portion of their success last year was attributed to their defense’s ability to keep the team above water and Coach Kubiak recognizes that.
“Defensively, we were consistent all year long," he said. "I think really through the course of the playoffs, we really picked it up a notch and played extremely well... We just went out there and played as hard as we can play. That’s something that we did well all year long.”
In fact, Super Bowl 50 has been highly regarded as one the most defensive Super Bowl matchups in NFL history, paying homage to the age old adage, “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins Championships.”
So for a team who is looking to make history by repeating history and winning a back-to-back championship, maybe History is the key.
The Broncos began last year with a blast from the past when they brought back defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Phillips served as the defensive coordinator for the Broncos from 1989-1992 and then as head coach from 1993-1994.
In fact, Phillips had the opportunity to coach not only then-quarterbacks John Elway and Gary Kubiak. but in his 38 years of NFL experience, Phillips has coached many other notable players.
During his first four seasons as Denver’s defensive coordinator, Phillips coached safety Steve Atwater, linebacker Michael Brooks, defensive tackle Greg Kragen, linebacker Karl Mecklenburg and safety Dennis Smith to Pro Bowl honors.
And one of those names in particular should stick out if the Broncos are looking to repeat history.
That name is Kragen.
Fast forward thirty years and Phillips finds himself with the opportunity to coach the son of famous Pro Bowler Greg Kragen.
In his NFL career, Kragen was known for his relentless drive and never-quit attitude when he went undrafted out of Utah State in 1984 and was highly criticized at the time for being what was considered "undersized" for his position. He would ultimately sign with the Broncos as a free agent and would go on to be cut later that year.
Unwilling to be stopped, however, Kragen returned in 1985 and not only made the team but embarked on a long and very successful career that would give him three Super Bowl appearances.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Kyle Kragen is starting his NFL career on a similar note. The rookie linebacker out of California didn't hear his name called in the 2016 NFL Draft and was set to begin mini-camp with the Green Bay Packers, until Phillips and the Broncos came calling.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1682882-state-of-the-broncos-outs... “It’s really cool, because I grew up rooting for the Broncos, watching the Broncos with my dad,” Kragen said.
Kyle’s journey will mirror his father’s in more ways than just the draft. At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, Kyle is considered slightly undersized for his position, just like his father, and will have a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to make the Broncos roster in 2016.
"My dad taught me to overcome not being the best athlete with hard work," Kyle said. "It's going to take zero mental mistakes and incredible effort and succeeding on special teams (to make this team)."
Kyle recognizes his challenge and he is ready to tackle it head on. And if anyone can help Kyle, it’s definitely Phillips.
"Kyle's a go-getter, you can tell that right away," Phillips said. "He definitely got that from his dad."
So although it seems the stars have aligned in the Mile High City for Kyle Kragen, as any great athlete knows, successful careers aren’t made in the sky.
It will take blood, sweat, and tears for Kyle to earn a spot on the team, and it remains to be seen whether Phillips can once again release the Kragen.
Jeannae Elyse Bierstedt is a Columnist for Mile High Huddle. You can find her on Twitter @JeannaeElyse.
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