MERILATT MONDAY

Everyone should jump on board the Broncos bandwagon

Nov 27, 2023, 4:00 AM | Updated: 12:13 pm


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A free pass. A mulligan. A do-over. Carte blanche.

Pick any term or phrase. Any and all can apply.

If someone wasn’t willing to jump on the Broncos bandwagon before now, that’s okay. It’s totally understandable.

They’re a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015, the second-longest current postseason drought in the NFL. They haven’t had a winning record since 2016, a six-year run the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Denver for 50 years.

It’s reasonable to be skeptical of the Broncos. They haven’t provided a lot of recent reasons for optimism.

It’s been VJ, Vic and Hackett. It’s been Siemian, Lynch, Flacco, Lock, Bridgewater, et al.

It’s been one plan after another, a revolving door of head coaches and quarterbacks. It’s been one disaster after another.

This year, it started off like the biggest mess of all. Denver had brought in Sean Payton, a high-priced head coach, to work with Russell Wilson, a high-priced QB. And it wasn’t working, to say the least.

The Broncos started the season with a dismal 1-5 record. They lost their first three home games, falling to the lowly Raiders, Commanders and Jets. They lost 70-20 in Miami, allowing the Dolphins to score at will in one of the worst defensive appearances the NFL has seen in decades.

It was totally understandable for people to not believe that this year would be any different. There wasn’t any reason for them to believe.

The Broncos were 1-5. They were widely regarded as the worst team in the NFL. They had seemingly embarked on the road to the No. 1 overall selection. The were a rudderless ship, aimlessly going nowhere. It was time to trade away expensive players, load up on draft picks and rebuild.

No one thought they were going anywhere. Well, most people didn’t.

So now that they’re 6-5, above .500 after Thanksgiving for just the third time since Super Bowl 50, there’s no reason to tell the naysayers that they can’t jump on the bandwagon. Now that the Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL, it’s time to welcome everyone on board.

They can act like they always believed in Russell Wilson, now that the quarterback has thrown for 20 touchdowns and tossed just four picks. They can see that it’s not about stats, but rather about a belief that winning is the only thing that matters.

They can talk about how they never lost faith in Sean Payton, now that the head coach has engineered the longest winning streak the Broncos have enjoyed since 2015. They can see that things weren’t going to get fixed overnight, but it would take some time to get things on the right path.

They can say they believe in Vance Joseph, perhaps the most-maligned coach in franchise history, who has turned the league’s worst defense into one of the best in a matter of weeks. They can talk about being glad that Justin Simmons, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy weren’t traded away, learning that talented veterans are more valuable than mid-round draft picks.

It’s okay. It’s fine.

The Broncos are hot. The Broncos are fun. Let’s all enjoy, dare we say it, the ride.

Payton has his team ready to go every week, playing the cards he’s been dealt to perfection. VJ has his defense flying around, forcing 15 turnovers in the last four games. Wilson is making plays, throwing and running for touchdowns, escaping pressure and pulling off victories.

This is what everyone wanted. This is what everyone hoped for. This is what everyone has been longing to see.

It didn’t arrive on time. It maybe came a little too late for this season to be salvaged. Time will tell. But it’s here.

Yet, some people don’t want to jump on board just yet. Perhaps that because they’re still reeling from past disappointments.

But this isn’t the 2018 Broncos. They were 6-6 in early December, only to finish 6-10. That team had VJ and Trevor Siemian.

This also isn’t the 2021 Broncos. They were 6-7 in mid-December, only to finish 7-10. That team had Vic Fangio and Drew Lock.

This team has staying power. The winning formula is sustainable.

They have a Super Bowl-winning head coach at the helm. They have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback behind center. That’s a huge difference between the then and now.

Payton knows what he’s doing. His offense just put up 29 points (well, 27) against the No. 1-ranked defense in the league.

Wilson can still play. He’s scrambling around, making big throws and avoiding mistakes. He has a QB rating of 103.4 this season.

With these two guys at the two most important positions on a football team, the Broncos have a chance. Every week. Against anyone.

During their winning streak, they’ve beaten the Packers, Chiefs, Bills, Vikings and Browns. Four of those five teams have winning records. The other just beat the Lions on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit.

This is real. This isn’t a mirage.

So enjoy it. Broncos Country has been a miserable place for the last 2,000 days. It’s been full of losing and drama. It’s been littered with embarrassment and defeat. It’s been a dumpster fire of missteps and misdeeds.

Right now, all of that is in the past. That’s all gone. At the moment, the Broncos are the best story in the NFL.

They’re 6-5. They’re in the playoff hunt. They play one of the biggest games on the NFL slate next week, traveling to Houston to take on the 6-5 Texans.

They’re relevant. They’re interesting. They’re legit.

No one thought this would happen. So it’s okay to not have seen it coming.

Hop on board. Go for a ride on the bandwagon. Everyone in Broncos Country has earned it.

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