Klee: Broncos Country needs perspective, not a pity party

By: Paul Klee
February 8, 2014 Updated: February 10, 2014 at 2:12 pm
photo - Peyton Manning during warmups before the Broncos game against the Chargers Sunday, January 12, 2014 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Peyton Manning during warmups before the Broncos game against the Chargers Sunday, January 12, 2014 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

DENVER - When the day comes to induct Pat Bowlen into the Broncos Ring of Fame, a fraternity he created, the team owner will argue his own selection.

In a statement, probably, Bowlen will defer to ambiguities like "this has always been about the fans" and "the players and coaches deserve the credit for our success."

That will happen; wait and see.

He's wrong, too. The Broncos' consistency has everything to do with Bowlen. Since he bought the team 30 years ago, the Broncos have played in six Super Bowls. Only the Patriots have played in as many over that time period. Those six Super Bowl berths, under Bowlen's watch and through his generous checkbook, are more than 27 teams have in their franchise history.

So enough with the pity party, Broncos Country. You've got it really good. Wallowing in the mud of a Super Bowl defeat is unbecoming of a state as beautiful as this one.

The win-or-be-fired crowd won't like this. It wants John Fox's head on the same platter as Peyton Manning's legacy. Those clowns belong on a message board somewhere, typing words like "unacceptable" and "too conservative" and "IMO."

Was this a perfect Broncos season? Definitely not. They didn't win the Super Bowl. With Bowlen as owner, that's not a goal; it's the only goal.

These Broncos won 15 games and lost four, broke every scoring record in the book and advanced to a Super Bowl. And they weren't even as good as last season's team.

That's the point.

Bowlen's Broncos don't hang runner-up banners. The emotional fallout from a 43-8 butt-paddling by the Seahawks is greater because of the elite standard his teams set.

I requested an interview with Bowlen, to report his thoughts on the season, the future of the team and his $96-million investment at quarterback, Manning.

Mr. Bowlen doesn't give many interviews these days, I was told. No argument here; his record speaks for itself.

March is the 30th anniversary of Bowlen's purchase of the Broncos. Over three decades, the Broncos own five losing seasons. No team has fewer. His teams have averaged 10-plus wins per season. In that time, only two teams have more wins than the Broncos' 307 (San Francisco, 319; New England, 308).

You've got it good, Broncos fans.

There's a segment of the Broncos fanbase that is forgiven. That segment hasn't seen O.co Coliseum in Oakland, for a Thursday night game, with black tarps hiding the top deck. Those tarps are the real Black Hole. It hasn't seen the crumbling dungeon that is San Diego's stadium. It doesn't know why Chiefs fans were quarantined from sharp objects after wild card weekend.

Do Broncos fans know how lucky they are? In the AFC West alone, the Chiefs haven't been to a Super Bowl since 1969, the Chargers since 1994. The silver-and-whack Raiders haven't enjoyed a winning record since a Super Bowl loss in 2002.

I went on a radio show the other day and was asked if this Broncos season was a disappointment. Really?

I should have channeled Manning in his response to his cold-weather critics: "I wasn't trying to answer it because I didn't give it any validation in the first place."

It's really, really hard to reach the Super Bowl. Only two teams - the Steelers and Cowboys - have been there more often than the Broncos. And the Cowboys haven't been in almost two decades. Four teams have never been. Ask Cleveland if it feels your pain.

If there was a lost opportunity, it wasn't the loss to the Seahawks. The Seahawks were the superior team, in every way, on almost every snap. The lost opportunity would be last year. There was no Seattle storming out of the NFC. The Broncos were That Team, winners of 11 straight, a top-five offense and a top-two defense, before stinking up the Ravens game. Wallow away on that one.

But maintain a slice of perspective, at the least.

Another radio host asked me how the Super Bowl loss impacts Manning's legacy. I'm the wrong person to ask about that. They should ask the Marines who attended Denver's game at Carolina last season. In a quiet moment outside the postgame locker room, Manning shook hands and took photos with a dozen or so troops while his teammates waited on the bus. The troops didn't call out to him; Peyton walked to them. I can tell you what they think of Manning's legacy.

Fans take these losses harder than the players. It's sad but true. Fans are like parents who watch their kids lose a Little League game and cry on the drive home.

That hurts. But averaging 10 wins per season under Bowlen, earning a trip to the Super Bowl this season with an excellent shot at a Super Bowl next season?

Cry me a river.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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