The Broncos are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and have potential to be an elite Super Bowl contending team for a number of years, but they’re missing one piece to have success. Denver is missing a veteran leader. The Broncos have not had that veteran leader since the departures of Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware.
The Broncos were set to remain a young team heading into 2012, but then Peyton Manning decided he wanted to play for the orange and blue. Denver was not a Super Bowl contending team in 2011 even though they made the playoffs, but once Manning signed with the Broncos, they became instant contenders.
Manning was hands down the veteran leader of this organization and everybody knew it. Players have told me that when Manning talks, people listen! Spending weeks at practices you would notice that Manning would be in charge of the entire offensive part of the practice. Players knew if they messed up with Manning on the field, they might not be able to get on the field ever again.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the Broncos need that exact type of player on their roster. But they do need someone who can get the team back under control if things start going off the rails at times.
The Broncos also added a defensive leader in DeMarcus Ware. Ware had the resume to go into the Hall of Fame; all he was missing was a Super Bowl ring. When Ware signed with the Broncos, he knew how close the Broncos were to winning a world championship. But he also knew that he wasn’t in his prime anymore and that he would need some help from his teammates. Ware didn’t practice as often as he could since he was near the end of his career, so he realized he could be an extra coach on the defensive side of the ball. Ware made a huge impact on Von Miller, as well.
Miller was coming off a suspension and a torn ACL injury in 2013 and most people thought he was heading in the wrong direction very quickly. John Elway went out and signed Ware with the idea that he might be able to bring Miller back in the right direction. Ware did just that, helping Miller to winning the MVP award in Super Bowl 50.
Since the departure of Ware, Miller has tried to take over the reigns as the veteran leader, but it’s just not him. Miller has tried taking the young players like Bradley Chubb under his wing just like Ware did with him. The impact just hasn’t been there from the outside looking in.
There’s been plenty of examples that we’ve seen here in Denver over the years that a veteran leader has really impacted his own team with the success of the team.
Back in November of 2008, the Nuggets traded for Chauncey Billups to lead the Nuggets into the playoffs. Denver wasn’t able to get past the first round of the playoffs under George Karl until Billups joined the team. Billups was a NBA champion and Finals MVP, and knew how to control a locker room and an offense. Billups would help the Nuggets get to the Western Conference Finals and fall just two games short of the NBA Finals.
Even back in 2000, Ray Bourque was traded to the Avalanche and would help the Avs win the Stanley Cup in 2001. Bourque was in his 21st season when he was traded to Colorado, so he had plenty of experience in the NHL. The Avs were unable to get back to the Stanley Cup since winning it back in 1996. Colorado came close to getting back to the cup, but fell short a number of times. Mike Evans of the morning show mentioned that the Avalanche don’t win the Stanley Cup without Bourque.
In the Rockies most-recent playoff appearance, Matt Holliday re-signed with Colorado to help their run back to Rocktober. Holliday ended up becoming a mentor for the young players, including Nolan Arenado.
With the Broncos having such a young roster and lack of playoff experience, the Broncos need to find that person in the locker room that can step up and be that veteran leader. It’s possible that Denver might be able to find a veteran on the open market before training camp opens up.
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