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ENGLEWOOD, CO - MARCH 15: The Denver Broncos Pres. of Football Ops./GM John Elway and Head Coach Vic Fangio speak about the team during a press conferences to introduce their new quarterback Joe Flacco (not pictured) March 15, 2019, in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
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Has Broncos GM John Elway given head coach Vic Fangio a mandate?

(Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos end-of-season press conferences are always chock full of interesting nuggets of information leading to all kinds of conversation and speculation.

Monday was no different, including Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis revealing for the first time the possibility of the franchise being sold.

But, that wasn’t what grabbed my attention. For me, it was general manager John Elway giving head coach Vic Fangio a mandate: Get this team to the playoffs next year.

Listening to Elway, it was clear he believes this team is ready to emerge from a  four-year dry spell. He believes the worst is over. Elway talked about how the Broncos have “bounced off the bottom” and are now trending up. He was asked if he believes this can be a playoff team. After a dramatic pause, he unequivocally said, simply, “Yes.”

When Fangio was asked the same question, he deflected with some, “Well, if we win enough games I guess so” type of response that drew the obligatory fake media laugh. But, make no mistake, Elway is expecting a big jump from this team next year, and he’s expecting Fangio to make it happen.

Is it realistic? Elway correctly pointed out the division goes through Kansas City, who just swept the Broncos in 2019, with Denver getting outscored 53-9 in the process. It’s unrealistic to think the Broncos will be able to make up that kind of gap in just one year, no matter how excited they are about the future of Drew Lock.

So that leaves the wild card. Can this team go from a seven-win team to nine or 10 wins? Right now, as currently constructed, I’d say no. However, this offseason figures to be a fascinating one with the Broncos having plenty of holes to fill, even before you start to calculate the high number of free agents they stand to lose.

The flip side to that is there is an opportunity to improve. Denver will have double-digit draft picks, including five in the first 100. They will likely be among the top 10 to 12 teams in available salary cap space. They will not be one of those unfortunate teams chasing and over-drafting a quarterback. They will be free to go out and make solid choices designed to improve this football team.

All of this is on Elway. It’s a huge offseason for him. Listening to him talk, I believe he feels he’s up to the task. I believe he feels he’s had a good past two seasons and is poised for another one. I believe he’s confident he will hand Fangio a team set to go to the playoffs.

Then it’s up to Fangio to deliver. Or else.

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