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Having an offense loaded with talent isn’t the key to winning games

Credit: Vincent Laforet /Allsport

Since winning the Super Bowl 50, the identity of the Broncos has been its defense. Heading into the 2020 season, for the first time in a long time, the identity appears to be shifting back towards the offense.

The Broncos have surrounded quarterback Drew Lock with multiple weapons on offense. It’s great the Broncos are loaded with talent on offense, but if those players don’t have the right attitude and approach, this offense could be wasted.

If the current Broncos offense wants to know how to reach its full potential, they need to look back on the greatest teams the Broncos ever produced.

The 1996-98 Broncos had a plethora of talent that included all-time great Broncos, players like John Elway, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey. That offense was consistently good for those three seasons and results was one of the most-prolific runs in NFL history. Davis was clearly the focus of the Broncos offense during those seasons, but his teammates ability to play within that system is what made those Broncos teams truly successful.

Davis was unstoppable in the 1997 playoffs. As Denver played at Pittsburgh against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, Davis once again led the way. However, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the Broncos needed to convert third-and-six. At this moment, they did not go to Davis.

The play call was for Elway to throw to Sharpe. Davis was the best player on that team, but he wasn’t the best option for that scenario. The play call was correct, as Elway connected with Sharpe and the Broncos were on to the Super Bowl.

Elway and Sharpe had no issue with allowing Davis to be star of the offense and Davis had no issue with Elway and Sharpe being called upon in the most-crucial moment of the game. The end result was the opportunity to play for the Lombardi Trophy.

Super Bowl XXXII was Terrell Davis’ time to shine. Davis had 30 carriers for 157 yards and three touchdowns. As for the rest of the stars, on paper they were not as impressive.

Elway was 12 for 22 for 123 yards and no touchdown passes. Sharpe was the leading receiver with an eye popping five receptions for 38 yards. Ed McCaffrey had two receptions for 45 years and Rod Smith did not catch a pass.

The stats don’t tell the story, however. Sharpe, McCaffrey and Smith blocked all game. They played the role they needed to play to win. Elway had a very below average game as a passer, but he ran for a touchdown and converted a big third down with the famous “helicopter play.” McCaffrey had his block and finger point in the face late on a big Davis run.

Nobody remembers that Smith didn’t catch a pass in Super Bowl XXXII because Smith didn’t care. He did what his team needed him to do that day, which was block and get out of the way.

The end result was the Broncos pulling off the big upset and winning Super Bowl XXXII by a 31-24 count over the Packers.

The following year, the Broncos played in Super Bowl XXXIII against the Falcons. Davis had just completed a 2,000-yard rushing season, so Atlanta would make stopping him their No. 1 priority.

With the focus on Davis, the Broncos passing game would take center stage. Smith, who had zero receptions in Super Bowl XXXII, had five catches for 152 yards in Super Bowl XXXIII. McCaffrey added five catches for 72 yards. Sharpe was injured very early and still managed two receptions for 26 yards. The MVP was Elway who finished his final game with a stat line of 18 of 29 for 336 yards and one touchdown. Davis had a nice game with a quiet 25 carries for 102 yards.

Perhaps the biggest example of the Broncos unity on offense was that fullback Howard Griffith scored two touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXIII. With the attention on Davis, Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak opted to give the ball to Griffith inside the five on two separate occasions and both times Griffith scored.

To this day, you have never heard one player on that offense complain about “touches” or “targets.” Not one of those players had a problem with Griffith getting the ball in the red zone. All that mattered was that the Broncos scored touchdowns and won the game

Super Bowl XXXII was all about the running game and Super Bowl XXXIII was all about the passing game. The result was that every one of those players collected two Super Bowl rings.

John Elway, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey are five of the most-celebrated players in Broncos history. What made them so successful was that they weren’t out to prove they were better than one another, rather they were out to win football games.

Also, yes, I’m aware Sharpe would always tell Elway “I’m open,” but Sharpe also learned to block and always did what was asked of him. He never took plays off. He also played a huge role in helping the Ravens win a Super Bowl. Very few selfish players have three Super Bowl rings.

This current Broncos offense has a lot to be excited about. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay and Noah Fant are all capable of making big plays and scoring touchdowns. It is vital to the Broncos that each of these players understand that their moment will come, but it may not be on every play or in every scenario.

In 2013, Peyton Manning set every record a quarterback can own, and he lost Super Bowl XLVIII. In 2015, Manning understood for the Broncos to win Super Bowl 50, his job was to hand the ball off, control the clock and let the defense dominate. Manning’s stats that day were far from the best of his career, but his willingness to do what the coaches asked of him won him his second Super Bowl championship.

The current Broncos offense needs to look at the Broncos three Super Bowl winning teams and understand the most successful teams in franchise history were also the most selfless teams in franchise history.