Paul Klee’s three thoughts on the state of the Broncos leading into Sunday’s game vs. the Titans:

John Elway, frustrated man

Friday evening outside Empower Field at Mile High, at a celebration of the Broncos’ rich history, the dangers of an all-time great player returning to the spotlight were on full display. As John Elway faced a series of tough questions with the look of a man who’s struggling to find the answers, Peyton Manning stood 100 yards away, laughing it up with Broncos all-timers Rich “Tombstone” Jackson and Shannon Sharpe. All I could think: why would Peyton ever expose his peerless legacy by stepping into an executive role in the NFL? “I think the hardest thing about losing is you get into a situation to where something bad happens in a game and you say, ‘Here we go again.’ And that is a very tough thing to break,” Elway said during an event that honored Hall of Famers Pat Bowlen and Champ Bailey and the Top 100 Broncos. “That’s what we’ve got to get out of. I think it’s hurt us a couple times.” The losing is wearing on Elway. Anyone who once could break par and now can’t shoot 85 will understand where Elway is coming from. With a 1-4 record and the Oct. 29 trade deadline closing in, here’s hoping Elway was simply bluffing when he claimed the highest-paid Broncos aren’t on the block. “We’re trying to win football games. No one from our side is on the trading block,” Elway said. We’re going to try to continue to win football games.”

Phillip Lindsay, made man

Somebody’s behaving like he’s already made it. Couple weeks after Phillip Lindsay fired shots at “bandwagon” Broncos fans, he lobbed one in the direction of Broncos media as they were told the open locker room session was over: “Get the (expletive) out of here,” he said. Careful, Golden One. There are only a few ways Lindsay can smear his status as a fan favorite around these hills. One of them is to pick a fight with the same fans who’ve supported his career from Denver South to CU-Boulder to the Broncos and the same media who make him sound like a mix between Walter Payton and Jesus. Seriously, name another local athlete who’s praised more often, even while their team stinks. But sudden fame often gets in the way of accountability. Perhaps Lindsay should forgo the blame game and focus on winning one. His records in Boulder and Denver: 2-10, 4-9, 10-4, 5-7, 6-10, 1-4. That’s 28-44. That’s one winning season in six. The chip-on-your-shoulder thing was cute for a while. When the losing continues, it sounds like whining.

Alexander Johnson, unknown man

Did the Broncos find a keeper in Alexander Johnson? Time will tell, but I can’t be the only one who had Al Wilson flashbacks during Johnson’s debut at linebacker. “AJ” erupted like a live volcano in the Broncos’ win against the Chargers. The play that jumps out was his interception of Philip Rivers in the end zone. But he also made an instinctual play to stop Austin Ekeler at the goal line, setting up Kareem Jackson’s big fourth-down stop on the next snap. “I was able to read him, follow him, watch his eyes,” Johnson said. Now let’s see if Johnson can stand up over the long haul. His career is Example No. 1 of why the NFL is the most forgiving enterprise known to humankind: rape charge (dismissed), DUI charge (dropped), guilty plea to simple possession of marijuana. When a guy has that many red flags and a team still takes a chance on him, it’s usually a pretty good sign he can play. And it said in this space last season that Johnson can play. His first start on defense in four years — since his Tennessee days — earned him an ‘A-plus.’

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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