The Broncos need to back up their words and skip “field day”
This offseason, everyone has said the right things at Dove Valley. They love the changes that have come with Nathaniel Hackett as the Broncos head coach. They’re excited about how the culture has changed with Russell Wilson at quarterback.
Hackett is an easygoing coach, a guy who always has a quip ready during a press conference. But he’s been described as someone who treats his players like men, holding them accountable for their actions and expecting them to not make the same mistake twice.
Wilson is a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a player who fills the leadership void that has existed in Denver since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset after Super Bowl 50. He sets a high standard, demanding that his teammates put in the work necessary to compete at a high level.
That’s what everyone says. Coaches, players, media members, everyone. They all say that things have changed. They all claim there’s a new vibe in Broncos Country.
Well, we’re fixin’ to find out. On Wednesday, both of the team’s key offseason acquisitions have a chance to show that it’s not the same old, same old in the Mile High City.
This week, the Broncos host their mandatory minicamp. Unlike previous offseason workouts, every player on the roster is required to be there. It’s the last time they’ll gather as a team before training camp, the final chance to get work done before everyone scatters for a month-plus vacation.
In previous years, Denver hasn’t made the most of this opportunity. They’ve practiced for the first two days of the minicamp, but have blown off the final chance to be on the field in favor of fun and games.
Vic Fangio was desperately trying to connect with his players, so he’d let them skip practice and have field day instead. Rather than a final day of installing the offense and defense, in lieu of a last chance to work on much-needed timing and chemistry, the Broncos former head coach would break out the dunk tank, basketball hoop and carnival games for a goof-around day.
Anyone who criticized this decision was called a curmudgeon. They were labeled as the “fun police.”
Of course, the name callers failed to see the point. They didn’t understand the bigger picture.
It’s not about one day on the practice field. It’s not about a couple of hours running drills.
Instead, it’s about building a culture. It’s about establishing that there’s a time and a place for work, as well as one for fun and games.
When a team hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2015 season, they need to spend every moment possible on the field. The need to practice and work as much as allowed.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the time a team can be together is limited. They can’t afford to waste it.
This is especially the case this season, when the Broncos are transitioning to a new head coach and quarterback. Repeatedly, the players have talked about how complex the Hackett-Wilson system is to grasp, as the mashup is a complicated mix of two offenses. Thus, it makes sense to maximize every possible moment working to fine tune things, to get on the same page.
But that’s not the only reason that field day is a bad idea for the Broncos. It may be the most-tangible example, but there are other things at play.
Mainly, the team needs to establish that the past few years haven’t been good enough. They need to send a message that being the worst team in NFL history following a Super Bowl win is unacceptable.
This can come from multiple sources. Different people can let this be known.
The guys upstairs could send word. John Elway and George Paton are certainly within their rights to nix field day.
Hackett and company could also set the tone. In year one, they could establish that they operate a different way.
But ultimately, it should come from the players. The team’s leaders need to have one answer if the opportunity for a field day arises: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Wilson should say it’s more important to work. Justin Simmons should too. Throw in Garett Bolles, Kareem Jackson, Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton and other veteran leaders.
Elway, Paton and Hackett can remain the “good guys.” Let the players be the ones to play the heavy. Let them squelch the day off.
That’s what winners would do. That’s what leaders would do. That’s what people who aren’t simply paying lip service to wanting to do everything possible to win would do.
Having to work is a punishment. Getting to work is a privilege.
The Broncos fall into the second category. They have a golden opportunity in front of them, one with much greater rewards that winning the three-legged race or balloon toss.
On Wednesday, we’ll find out if the positive vibes coming out of Dove Valley this offseason have been true or not. Is it reality or hyperbole?
The team’s decision to work or play will answer that question.