What do Broncos players want to see from Rob Walton and his ownership group?
Jun 9, 2022, 6:11 PM | Updated: 6:13 pm
(Photo by Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — At some point in the coming months, some combination of Rob Walton, Greg Penner, Carrie Walton Penner and Mellody Hobson will meet Broncos players. The Penners will likely be around on a day-to-day basis most often.
The new bosses will find a group willing to welcome them.
But they will also step into an environment in which they have no tangible experience. Managing a team is different than running a retail empire or being chairwoman of the world’s largest coffeehouse chain.
And it’s an environment in which players share in the spoils of revenue generation.
So, it might behoove them to ask their players a simple question: “What would you like to see from us?”
GARETT BOLLES: “LOVE”
In the eyes of the six-year veteran left tackle, it starts there.
“Love. When you have people that love you and care for you, I think that speaks volumes,” he said. “Some of us may be older, but we all want to feel that love and we all want people to be there. The last couple of years, we really haven’t had an owner around here. Joe Ellis has done a phenomenal job. [John] Elway has done a phenomenal job, but those guys knew that it was going to come to an end, and I know that we have a group here that wants to be here and wants to win.”
That said, “love” isn’t always about good feelings. Sometimes, it’s about showing the love through contract value — or material expenditures. Creature comforts. That’s what Mark Cuban did when he bought the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks 22 years ago. Cuban put the team in better hotels. He upgraded the team’s flights. He even invested in bathrobes for the players.
The salary cap limits what you can do in terms of player salaries to show that love. But beyond that, there are no limits — other than by choice.
Love can be emotional and material, Bolles notes.
“I think that you can do both. Look what the Rams did — building a new stadium and all of those things. I’m not quite sure what their plans are, but I’m sure that they have exciting plans.
“… He’s excited because he loves football, and he wants to be a part of football. He wanted to put his time into football where he wanted to buy us. It just goes to show you what kind of things he wants to do, and the things that he wants to change. We’re looking forward to it.”
BRANDON McMANUS: “TRUST” AND “ACCOUNTABILITY”
McManus has a unique view, being the team’s NFLPA player representative. The player in that role usually has a direct line to team management, and McManus is no exception.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be in there talking to them,” he said. “As a sounding board, I have no problem giving my opinion, whether right, wrong, or indifferent. I think the previous regime has known that. Whatever they need from me.”
What McManus needs starts with accountability.
“Me [playing] such a black and white position as a kicker, I have to accountable for my results. I think that’s one big thing … it’s always good to hear somebody speak a certain way and defend and believe in that,” he said. “Whatever it is, whether it’s certain beliefs that they have, [just] stick to it.”
And if the owners try to do an end-around and obfuscate their intent, the players will smell it.
“A lot of these guys have grown up in a bunch of different neighborhoods,” McManus said. “They can read ‘BS.’ They know who is speaking the truth and who’s not.”
Truth leads to trust.
“These guys will play as hard as possible for you. Just get them to have that trust level with you,” McManus said. “It’s a partnership. Obviously, they are writing our checks to us, but the closer you see us working together, you’ll have a better, successful team.”
PAT SURTAIN II: NOT QUITE SURE
But that isn’t a surprise. Bolles and McManus are seasoned veterans. For each, the 30th birthday is in the rear-view mirror. Not so for Surtain, who is younger than every one of the 2022 draft picks. Among returning players, only Javonte Williams is younger.
“I really don’t know,” Surtain said when asked what he’d want to see from the new owners. “With that transition of ownership, we’re just going to take it day-by-day.
“Obviously, it’s great, and it’s a great advantage for us moving forward. It’s a great gift for the organization.”
Surtain may not know exactly what he’d say if owners asked him for his input, but by mentioning the “great advantage,” one can imply what he hopes to see: the NFL’s wealthiest ownership group showering some of that largesse on giving the players every last item and benefit that can help them succeed.
After all, it won’t be profit and loss and asset appreciation that determines how players and the public perceive the Walton-Penner stewardship. It’ll be wins and losses.