The 2013 Denver Broncos have had many obstacles in the way of their ultimate prize: Super Bowl XLVII. How have they weathered the storm?
Ever since the 2013 NFL offseason began, the Denver Broncos have been faced with an inordinate amount of obstacles.
You could even go back to that fateful day in January when the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the #1 seeded Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. But we'll begin our narrative with 2013.
When the new league year began, the Broncos endured the Elvis Dumervil "Fax-gate" fiasco. The Broncos had asked Elvis Dumervil to take a $4M pay cut, or they would cut him. Doom, as all Bronco Maniacs called him, was set to make $12M in 2013 and with the emergence of Von Miller and the new salary cap burden of Peyton Manning's contract, the Broncos felt that they could get by without him if need be.
But they were still willing to pay him a very handsome $8M for 2013. At great length, taking it all the way down to the wire, Doom decided that he was willing to accept this pay cut but then the ridonkulousness of "Faxgate" reared it's ugly head.
Doom's agent, Marty Magid, failed to get the signed contract submitted in time for the 2pm MST NFL deadline. And as a result, the Broncos cut Doom, relegating him to the status of an unrestricted free agent. The faxed contract finally came through at 2:06pm MST, 6 minutes late. Doom's career as a Bronco was over.
It was a career that saw him notch 63.5 sacks, since being drafted by the Broncos in 2006. He even won the sack crown in 2009 with 17. He and Von Miller, seemed like a match made in pass rushing heaven. Doom and Gloom. But alas, it was not to be. And the Broncos lost a first team All-Pro and 3 time Pro Bowler.
Ouch. This was a huge disappointment for Broncos' Country. But at the end of the day, Von Miller was still in Denver, right? Right? More on that later.
Then the "Summer of Booze" hit the Broncos' front office. Their Director of Player Personnel, aka "G.M.", Matt Russell, and their newly hired Director of Pro Personnel, Tom Heckert, were both arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Russell's was the more egregious as he registered a blood alcohol content of .246 (more than 3 times the legal limit in Colorado) and he crashed his vehicle into a parked Police patrol car.
Double ouch. This was a major embarrassment to a venerable Denver Broncos franchise, rich in history, honor and success. The two executives were subsequently suspended, but the damage had been done.
Just as the Broncos were gearing up to begin Training Camp, they had to endure the media frenzy as a result of this massive cluster....you know. Ahem.
Then word began to leak on Twitter that Von Miller was facing a 4 game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse protocols. These reports came from "anonymous sources" within the inner circles of the NFL, which Von Miller and the Denver Broncos vehemently denied. At first.
But as the truth began to unveil itself, it became clear that Miller had screwed the pooch. Big time. And it was going to hurt the Broncos.
Long story short, as we all know, Miller was almost suspended for the entire 2013 season, since he was technically a repeat offender, but his lawyers and the Broncos negotiated a 6 game suspension instead.
Dammit! The Broncos had already lost Doom. And now they'd be without Gloom for the first 6 games of the season. Thankfully, they had signed Shaun Phillips in free agency and he, along with help from Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers, were able to hold down the fort during Miller's absence.
And then, Champ Bailey injured his foot in a meaningless game vs the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason. Since his injury, Bailey has only seen action in 4 regular season games this year. And it's hurt. But once again, the Broncos were fortunate in having signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason and DRC has done an amazing job in place of Bailey.
Just when Broncos fans were beginning to think the worst was behind them, the Broncos' All-Pro left tackle, Ryan Clady, was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury, following their week 2 match up with the New York Giants.
Clady had just signed a big shiny new deal with the Broncos. And up until this point in his career, he'd been an iron man, never missing a start since game 1 of his rookie season.
And to lose their head coach, John Fox, for 4 weeks, while he underwent a heart procedure? Insult to injury, people.
The Football Gods were putting the 2013 Denver Broncos through the refiner's fire. And yet, the Broncos have been able to successfully weather the storm. The question is, how?
The scale of loss the Broncos have sustained this year from a talent perspective, is vast. Including losing Von Miller for the season last week.
They say that the cornerstones for building a Super Bowl winning team are as follows:
Stud Left Tackle (check, Clady)
Shutdown Corner (check, Bailey)
Elite Edge Rushers (check, Miller)
Elite Quarterback (check, Manning)
Going into the 2013 Training Camp, the Broncos could confidently check off every one of those requisite positions of elite-caliber talent. Ryan Clady, Champ Bailey, Von Miller, and Peyton Manning.
All but 1, the quarterback, have been lost to the team. How have they overcome these obstacles?
The answer lies at the bottom of the list above. Elite quarterback. The broad shoulders of Peyton Manning have shielded the Broncos from calamities that would decimate most NFL teams and bring them to their knees.
How does Manning do it? We all marvel at what this 37 year old veteran, coming off of 4 neck surgeries has been able to accomplish.
He has the Broncos averaging 38.1 points per game. He just broke Tom Brady's single season touchdown record last week, with 51 and he's not done yet. He only needs 265 yards to break Drew Brees' passing yardage record.
The Broncos are sitting at 12-3 and the #1 seed in the AFC and are extremely likely to end up at 13-3 and go into the playoffs with homefield advantage throughout.
With the losses the Broncos have endured so far this year, it seems as if these accomplishments are enough of a payoff to marvel at for years to come.
But it's not enough. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have their sights set on the ultimate prize. They seek to become the champions of Super Bowl XLVII.
With the odds that they've overcome so far, who's to say they won't accomplish it? If I were a gambler, I wouldn't bet against it.
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