By any name — rebuild, retool — the Broncos are under construction

Mar 27, 2024, 1:18 AM | Updated: 10:34 am

ORLANDO, Fla. — At some point in the coming months, earth will be moved and construction crews will take up temporary residence at Centura Health Training Center, erecting a new Denver Broncos headquarters building out of the earth that abuts the west side of the team’s practice fields.

But before any substantial construction, the hill on which fans have sat to watch training camp since 2015 will come down. It’s the tear-down before building an edifice that the Broncos hope will serve the club for at least as long as the run of the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre that sits at the northwest corner of Broncos Parkway and Potomac Street — 34 completed seasons and counting.

So, whether you’re talking about the Broncos or the building in which they work, the words “under construction” are — or will be — apt.

After all, coach Sean Payton described the offense as not even having “laid the foundation” during the 2023 season.

“I would say we’re not building on that foundation yet,” Payton said on Jan. 9. “We’re still putting the pilings in based on what I saw.”

That could be said of much of the team. Even the offensive line, a top-10 unit last year, must work in a new center — and it’s likely to be one with barely any NFL snaps to their name.

And while there is a focus on trying to extract something out of this year, make no mistake: The focus is on the long term, at least for CEO and controlling owner Greg Penner. While he entrusts Sean Payton and George Paton with the day-to-day task of roster building and on-field performance, Penner made it clear at the NFL Annual Meeting that sustained success beyond the moment is the focus.

“We’re passionate about being competitive. That’s both in the short term and the long term. You can call it sort of whatever you want, but our focus is on putting the best possible team on the field this coming year,” Penner said Monday.

But then he added a crucial sentiment.

“I don’t think there are any shortcuts or quick fixes,” he said. “We’re going to do this the right way and have this team be competitive this coming season, but also be in a position to build for the future.”

Penner subsequently expanded on this in an interview with KUSA-Ch. 9.

“What we’re trying to do is build this in the right way for sustained success,” Penner said. “I’m not sure what the right term for that is, what you want to call it.”

Perhaps you can call it a rebuild. But it also hearkens back to the idea of John Elway, who a decade ago spoke of not wanting to win “now,” but to “win from now on.” And as long as he had Peyton Manning at quarterback or Gary Kubiak as head coach, he was able to do that. When both stepped away in a 10-month period from March 2016 through January 2017, the grim times began.

And what caused the Broncos to sink deeper into the mire from which they are trying to escape was a series of short-sighted moves that demonstrated a lack of philosophical alignment, leading to bizarre offseasons like the 2019 one in which the Broncos signed a 10-year veteran to play safety and drafted a Round 2 quarterback in Drew Lock to sit behind a declining 12-year veteran starter — Joe Flacco — who had no interest in assuming any kind of mentor role.

Say this for the Broncos’ work in recent weeks: It has been disciplined. They took the larger salary-cap hit on Russell Wilson this year, meaning they went into free agency with price points beyond which they would not stray. Thus, despite interest in players like Sam Darnold, the Broncos still have just two quarterbacks.

And while the absence of a new QB is a cause for frustration among some circles in Broncos Country, they don’t have to play this Sunday, so what’s the difference right now?

“I can tell you, we don’t think there are quick fixes or short cuts,” Penner told KUSA. “We think — like, we’ve got to make some tough decisions that enable us to be successful, not just in the future, but, we think will actually help us for this coming season.

“Our goal is to build on the improvements we had last year and every day, we’re going to try and make decisions that put us in a better place to win.”

The process will necessitate patience from a supporter base that — understandably — has exhausted its reservoir over the last seven losing seasons.

But it’s an approach that should have been taken long ago. It just took new management from Penner to actually do it.


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By any name — rebuild, retool — the Broncos are under construction