Vance Joseph really did a number on the Denver Broncos.
Thanks to the former head coach, who went 11-21 across two disastrous seasons at the helm, the Broncos are held in a negative light by outsiders and written-off by media in what could pass as collusion.
While some of the slander is justified, the majority — like predicting Denver will finish 2-14 — borders on the delusional, adding fuel to the east-coast-bias theory. This is a team just three years removed from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, a proud franchise that hit a pothole under Joseph’s reign.
The Broncos are forced to quiet the naysayers on their own volition, by winning where it counts: the gridiron. And they plan to. That’s what makes this year’s outfit different than anything seen since 2016.
“We’re just hungry,” outside linebacker Bradley Chubb said Tuesday. “We all know that we’re not a 6-10 team and that’s what we put on paper last year. The year before that, what was it, 5-11 or whatever? Everybody knows that’s not what we want to be. And Coach Fangio has that vision for us, his whole coaching staff has that mindset that we’re not going to be average, we’re not going to be what we were last year, that we’re not going to be what we were the year before that, so everybody is coming out here with the right mindset. It’s day 20 and everybody is going full speed in just helmets and squishy pads. Everybody has that right mindset, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to be better than we were the past couple of years.”
National coverage has been unflattering, to say the absolute least. Aside from crack CBS analyst Tony Romo, who predicted Denver will “shock people” in 2019, most prognosticators don’t give them a chance at competing — be it for a playoff spot or a .500 record.
Oh, but they’re so quick to rank the Broncos’ roster near the bottom of the NFL, project yet another top-ten draft pick, or, somehow, insinuate they’ll be worse than they were with in-over-his-head Joseph calling the shots.
“At the end of the day that doesn’t matter,” Chubb said. “All that matters is what we do in this building right here. How we build each other up, how we practice, how we meet, how we do the small things right. And at the end of the day, if we do all those little things right, if we keep winning and if we do everything that the people want us to do, then that’s when they’re going to start talking about us. But at the end of the day we’ve got to win first, we’ve got to earn the respect first and I feel like we’re going to change a lot of people’s minds this year.”
Harris Gushes Over Fangio
Part of the Broncos’ collectively renewed confidence stems from the culture instilled by Joseph’s successor, first-time head man Vic Fangio, who, for some players like Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr., is unlike anyone (or anything) they’ve encountered.
“Nah, he’s different than all my coaches I’ve ever had,” Harris said. “I’ve haven’t had a coach too much tell me, ‘When you see this, you’re going to be able to pick this,’ and they’ve told me that on like 10 plays. I’ve never had that.”
Harris continued: “I love the way we approach defense every day. I mean, we watch film with him and breaking down tons of different routes. He’s telling me different routes I can steal once it comes game times and how he wants me to play this and different coverages, so I love it. One of the best I’ve ever had, so I love it. I love the way we approach defense every day.”
Meanwhile, Fangio Gushes Over Practice
No, this isn’t a nod to Joseph’s affinity for a “great week of practice.” It’s merely Fangio being the old-school NFL lifer that he is, pumped to welcome the San Francisco 49ers to town for a pair of joint sessions Friday and Saturday, ahead of Monday night’s preseason matchup.
Fangio, perhaps more than most, values these practices for its replicative properties. These are the closest simulations to non-live football action, a primer for the regular season when Denver aims to rewrite the faultfinding narrative.
“I think what the players learn is that they get to go against different players, go against different schemes and it’s just very valuable,” Fangio said. “Just like you do 16 Sundays during the season. Just adapting to your opponent is different. When our tackles kick out to block their edge rushers, it’s going to be different than blocking our edge rushers. That’s great for us.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL