BRONCOS

Trip to London has given the Broncos a desperately needed escape

Oct 28, 2022, 7:08 AM
Nathaniel Hackett...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Broncos needed a break. A respite. A timeout.

Less than two months ago, they entered the 2022 season with high hopes. They exuded confidence. They boasted about being fazed by the situation that faced them.

Then, it all unraveled.

It began in the season opener, a 17-16 loss at Seattle. Russell Wilson fell to his former team, opening the door for ex-teammates to take shots at the quarterback. Nathaniel Hackett settled for a 64-yard field goal in the waning moments of the game, creating the first reason to question the first-year head coach. And it’s been downhill ever since.

That loss could’ve been a springboard for the Broncos. They could’ve built upon the positive, of which there were many, and corrected the mistakes, of which there were plenty, and improved with each passing week. Instead, the team has fallen into a death spiral that seems impossible to escape.

With each passing week, it’s a new disaster. They were mocked by their fans in a win over the Texans. In their last three home games, Denver’s offense has scored nine, nine and nine points. They’ve been booed by their home fans relentlessly.

They’ve lost winnable games against the Colts, Chargers and Jets. Instead of sitting at 5-2 or 4-3, they’re languishing at the bottom of the standings with a 2-5 record.

Wilson looks rattled. Hackett looks shellshocked. The swagger of eight weeks ago feels like a distant, distant memory.

It’s all happened so fast. A four-game losing streak has derailed the season, put jobs on the line and made many wonder if the Broncos traded the farm for a lemon.

As things have snowballed out of control, the team felt like they needed to hit the “pause” button. They need to stop the bleeding, assess the situation and figure out how to fix things. Unable to find a solution in real time, Denver needed a moment to triage their situation.

That came this week.

The Broncos boarded a plane on Monday, 24 hours removed from their latest disappointment, and flew seven time zones away. They landed in London on Tuesday, free from the stresses of home.

There’s no chatter to avoid in England. No on is talking about the Broncos. It’s a welcome reprieve from the unrelenting judgement of home.

There’s no sports talk radio to ignore. The TVs in the hotel room don’t feature channels dedicated to breaking down what’s wrong in Denver. Every soundbite isn’t analyzed in detail.

Instead, the Broncos are existing for a week in anonymity. They’re practicing at the esteemed Harrow School, a prestigious academy that has welcomed much more important visitors. They’re answering questions from a reduced media throng, a group that has traveled 4,500 miles to grill the head coach or quarterback. And they’re temporarily living in a place where the locals are much more worried about Saturday and Sunday’s matches on the pitch than the football game at Wembley Stadium.

London doesn’t care about the Broncos. And that’s just what the doctor ordered.

It’s difficult to right the ship in the middle of a season. It’s even more of a challenge when everyone is watching.

During their trip across the pond, Hackett and company have been able to escape the microscope. They’re able to work without the prying eye of attention.

As a result, it feels like the pressure valve has been released. The day-after-day stress of a season gone awry has been relieved. The bigger picture has come into focus.

This became evident when George Paton spoke to the media on Thursday. The Broncos general manager was able to look at the big picture; he was able to think about more than fourth-and-one decisions, ill-timed interceptions and the latest injury report.

“I support Nathaniel (Hackett) 100 percent,” Paton said about his embattled coach. “He’s been in this for seven games as a head coach. The scrutiny he’s faced is unprecedented.”

That might be a bit of an overstatement. The GM should’ve been in the Mile High City for John Elway’s first season; that 1983 campaign was wild. But the point is valid.

Every move Hackett has made has been scrutinized. There’s been no ramp-up time for the first-time head coach. From the start of training camp through the first seven games, his every step has been graded, reviewed and assessed.

And it’s taking a toll. The jovial head coach has lost his affable demeanor. The carefree offensive mind looks stressed beyond belief; he appears to have aged seven years in seven weeks.

Had the Broncos stayed in the states, things would’ve only gotten worse. The coach would’ve been grilled about his anemic offense. Hackett would’ve continued to be questioned.

Instead, he caught a break. So did his quarterback. So did his team.

After weeks in the spotlight, the Broncos got to step offstage. For a few days, they weren’t the talk of the town, whether positively or negatively. For a moment, they didn’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

It feels like the break has offered the team a fresh perspective. It seems like it’s freed them of the pressure and stress of trying to reach expectations. For the first time in months, the Broncos appear loose and relaxed.

Perhaps that’s what they needed to save their season. A win on Sunday against the Jaguars will keep the 2022 campaign on life support, providing a two-week break during the bye to really reboot.

Earlier this week, it didn’t seem like there was much that could help the Broncos. But perhaps, they traveled 4,500 miles to find the one thing they needed most – a chance to exhale.

We’re fixin’ to find out. But for now, things feel different around the orange and blue.

***

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