“It’s the strangest kind of transition period and it’s impossible to say how things may shake out once the 2015 Denver Broncos take the field.”
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Discussing professional sports we often speak of windows in reference to periods of championship opportunities. Windows open when conditions are just right – when players are in their prime, when the talent on a team is in balance, when all the right pieces have been put in place despite the constraints of a salary cap. Windows close when players age, when free agents begin to be drawn away from rather than toward a team and when organizations switch gears and shake things up from the top down in the interest of propping open a new window later on down the road.
From all appearances the Denver Broncos current championship window will be open for one more year at best. But it’s very possible that it has already been slammed shut.
Since 2012 Denver has been a free-agency Valhalla. Since the signing of Peyton Manning the Broncos have attracted many top names. First the offense was bolstered – Wes Welker was added along with Jacob Tamme to make sure that Peyton had capable hands to throw to. Then the defense was bolstered with names like Knighton and Ward, Talib and Ware and Emmanuel Sanders was added to give Manning even more options. But despite the additions the Broncos failed to win a Super Bowl.
Now the Broncos presumably have one more shot before Peyton Manning rides off into the sunset. But what they don’t have anymore is deep pockets. They’ve spent three seasons breaking the bank in free agency and “winning” the period and now the team is sitting on contracts and has become more of a seller than it is a buyer. Meanwhile, other teams in the AFC, most dauntingly the Colts, are busily stacking their decks with the top available players. This week Indy added both running back Frank Gore and wide out Andre Johnson, veterans who were looking for a landing spot where their odds of winning a ring were strongest. The Colts’ championship window is now wide open. Andrew Luck has new toys to play with while Peyton is watching his walk away.
The Broncos certainly still have a bundle of really good players but they are on the downhill slope of their current run. And now they have an entirely new coaching staff as well – one tasked with taking over for one more year with a Hall of Fame QB and with prepping the team to move on without him. It’s the strangest kind of transition period and it’s impossible to say how things may shake out once the 2015 Denver Broncos take the field. It seems unlikely, though, that the Broncos will hit the ground running. They’re probably going to start the season somewhat slowly while everybody gets used to each other. Assuming that’s the case I have a hard time seeing the Broncos finishing the season as the first or second seed in the AFC.
The Broncos will win the AFC West again and therefore be in the post-season. But they will won’t have a playoff bye and their road toward the Super Bowl will be that much longer. Also, the teams they face in the playoffs will be that much better. Vegas has Denver’s Super Bowl odds at 10-1 right now, behind only the Seahawks, Patriots and Packers but it’s a sucker’s bet. They don’t belong in such rarified air. I wouldn’t take them at 25-1 with everything hinging on an aged quarterback who has proven throughout his career that he shrivels in the biggest games.
One can argue that the Broncos’ championship window in closing but the case can also be made that has already been slammed shut. Manning’s presumed final year in Denver may only be the coat of paint that sticks the window shut for that much longer while Gary Kubiac and company figure out how to pry it open again for the future.