COMMENTARY | Yeah, you could say the past month hasn't exactly gone as planned for the Denver Broncos.
From a pair of front-office execs picking up DUI charges and drawing suspensions to the leaked announcement that NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller is facing a four-game substance-abuse penalty, pending his appeal, to center Dan Koppen's training-camp ACL tear that's already forced the team to go its third option at center, it's been a rough-and-tumble July for one of the league's leading Super Bowl contenders.
And these unwanted headlines have been on top of defensive end Elvis Dumervil's departure and center J.D. Walton's ankle injury.
That's a lot of offseason ouch.
Still, the best thing about all these missteps, bad breaks and highly questionable decisions is that it's still only July. There remains more than a month before the start of the games that count, let alone the ones that really matter -- the playoffs and the Roman Numeral contest itself.
On the flip side, there's also still more time for additional adversity to rear its ugly head. In fact, definitely count it.
But here's saying these are challenges the Orange and Blue need to embrace and aspire to overcome. After all, if recent NFL history has shown us anything, it's that the road to the Lombardi Trophy is littered with unexpected detours, sudden switchbacks and seemingly impassable obstacles. Very rarely is there a direct route or a smooth ride to the summit.
Here's a review of some of the winding routes to the top traversed in recent seasons:- Last year's Super Bowl-champion Ravens played most of the season without a trio of their top defenders -- linebackers Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and cornerback Lardarius Webb -- changed offensive coordinators late in the year and overcame a 1-4 regular-season finish.
- The 2010 Packers finished the season with an astounding 15 players, including six starters, on injured reserve played the second half of the Super Bowl without two more key starters in safety Charles Woodson and receiver Donald Driver.
- The '03 Patriots shocked their fans and rankled the entire roster by releasing popular veteran safety Lawyer Milloy days before the season opener, and then promptly lost that opener 31-0 to Milloy and the Bills. There was no New England mutiny, however, as the Patriots rebounded to go 18-1 the rest of the way en route to their second Super Bowl title.
- Those 2010 Packers, the '07 Giants and the '05 Steelers all snuck into the playoffs as No. 6 seeds before proceeding to win three postseason road games and the Super Bowl.
Even the Mile High City's own back-to-back world championship squads overcame their modest share of adversity as the '97 Broncos shook off Bill Romanowski's late-season, face-spitting incident and their '98 counterparts played a quarter of the regular season without an injured John Elway starting under center.
In almost each case just chronicled, the eventual champs not only weathered the season's trials and tribulations but seemed to come away the better for it after doing so.
Only time, of course, will tell if the 2013 Broncos will join this list, and, to be certain, it's going to take a sharp focus, strong veteran leadership and an unwavering resolve to get there.
Elway, who's been there, won that as a player, is looking at things from a whole new perspective these days as the team's executive vice president of football operations and believes the 2013 Broncos are ready to give it a go.
"We're back to football, and that's the best thing," Elway told the Denver Post in a recent interview. "In my job, just like the team will go through some adversity this year, we went some adversity in the front office. And we'll deal with it, handle it and hopefully be better for it."
And if they can, recent history shows a third Lombardi just might be the payoff.
Ken Pomponio has spent the past 25 years as a sports journalist who has been published extensively in print and online. He's been an avid follower of the Denver Broncos and the NFL since early childhood, and can be followed on Twitter @kenpomp.
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