The confetti has all been cleared. The rings have all been fitted. The Lombardi Trophy sits in its display case. Retirees give way to rookies and the deck of players is shuffled. It's hard to let go, but there's no getting around it--a glorious chapter in Denver Broncos history is over.
And that's okay, because the Broncos have embraced 2016 for what it is, as opposed to 2015 Part II.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak has been preaching that sentiment to his crop of players, both new and old.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1688594-mhh-premium-how-you-can-s... “I think that’s the big thing is that we all understand it’s over, it’s gone, and this year is a new group," Kubiak said after this morning's practice. "There are going to be some new leaders and there are going to be some new people and we’re going to have a new identity . . . I think that’s part of the message we sent last night.”
Leadership, as Kubiak mentioned, is still the major intangible void that has yet to be filled. A leader like Peyton Manning, someone who can galvanize a locker room merely through presence and example, only comes along once in a lifetime. But the responsibility doesn't have to fall on just one man.
Veterans like Emmanuel Sanders, C.J. Anderson, T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware all have the ability to stoke a fire within their fellow Broncos. However coaches, front office execs, and players alike will eventually be looking to the most talented and highest-paid Bronco to take on a new role.
“I told them that we’re not defending anything, we’re chasing the next one and we’re going to work on the next one," Kubiak said. "I want them focused that way as a football team. I told them that our mission right now is to get this group of guys as good as we can possibly get them.”
Von Miller has the accolades, the ring, the contract, but (as Ware pointed out today) he's still missing the "C" on his chest. If he can ultimately fulfill the expectations that come along with being the most recognized and most valuable Bronco, he'll make the jump from phenom to cerebral icon.
As far as identity, the word "new" might not tell the whole story. The Broncos will run a similar offense to the one that built back-to-back championships in the late 1990's. The unit of 2016 might not live up to that legendary Terrell Davis-led attack, but it doesn't have to be.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1690279-broncos-2016-training-cam... When Kubiak was calling plays for the offense during his first coaching stint in Denver, he never had a defense that even came close to the one Wade Phillips fields today. The mix of a potent ground game, big targets on the outside, and a beyond-punishing defense has always been a consistently winning formula in the NFL.
And that's what the Broncos are striving for this season. The goal isn't necessarily to repeat--it's just to win the division, the conference, and then finally, Super Bowl LI.
It's not a matter of semantics, either. Instead, it's a whole new mindset for the 2016 Denver Broncos.
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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.