ENGLEWOOD • Right there? That table topped with luxury car advertisements and a jumbo-sized Connect 4 board game? That was where the Broncos last season housed their three Super Bowl trophies — right smack in the middle of the locker room at Broncos HQ, for everyone on the roster to see, 24/7.
And over there? That’s the corner where the defense isolated itself, segregated from the offense it held in such low regard. The offense did its thing on the other end, all by its quiet lonesome.
To redirect their win-loss record, the Broncos first had to redecorate their interior. Gone is the worst idea since putting an NFL team back in Oakland, the trifecta of Lombardi trophies that served as a daily reminder of what the Broncos have won in the past without showing the hard work it took to get there.
And the other shuffling of furniture was a small thing that paid off big in a 27-24 come-from-behind win against the Seahawks on Sunday: instead of grouping lockers by position — linebackers with linebackers, running backs with running backs — the roster is intermingled in each edge of the locker room. Pac-12 grads Kevin Hogan (offense) and Will Parks (defense) dress next door. Marquette King dances to his own beat while sharing air with chilled-out DaeSean Hamilton. Idaho ranch hand Matt Paradis kicks it alongside Southern gentleman Bradley Chubb. Case, the quarterback? Keenum’s over there in DeMarcus Ware’s old spot, next to Von Miller. Solid dudes, those three.
The rearrangement was Vance Joseph’s idea: banish the cliques that severed the locker room and turned two-game losing streaks into eight-game dumpster fires. Cultivate relationships. Invest in your neighbor.
It’s one game, so hold off on those airline tickets for Atlanta in early February. (Southwest has non-stops for only $187.96 if.... too soon, too soon.) But there’s something to be said for what was said after the Broncos escaped Russell Wilson and the ‘Hawks with a gutsy win in Week 1.
The offense held itself accountable.
“I made mistakes out there, too,” peaking wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said.
The defense held itself accountable.
“We’ll go to the corrections tape tomorrow,” intercepting safety Justin Simmons said.
Vance Joseph held all accountable.
How ‘bout that?
It’s a biggie, and “VJ” sounded like a politician who’s ready to toss around some capital after he was reelected: “It’s good to win, but we do have standards. Our standards can’t be measured by who we play. It’s got to be by how we play. I told the guys I’m excited about the win, but we can play better. We have higher standards than that, especially defensively, not giving up four explosive plays.”
After a pause, Joseph doubled down on accountability: “That can’t happen.”
Go, VJ! But the stat that matters for this Broncos season is one which nobody can control: number of injuries. If the top-shelf talent on the roster stays healthy the Broncos are gifted enough to win any game on the schedule. If they start losing guys one by one the Broncos aren’t deep enough to survive.
“Injury-wise, guys, we are lucky,” Joseph said Monday. “We got out of the game with nothing.”
Success here starts at the top, where Joseph is making subtle changes to his own approach, and trickles into a locker room where no one’s a stranger. So far, and with the Raiders coming to Mile High next Sunday, that’s all anyone could ask for.
(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)