Elway says Broncos went ‘soft’ after 3-1 start

Arnie Stapleton
Associated Press

Englewood, Colo. — Twenty-one months ago, John Elway was basking in a confetti shower as he put his fingerprints on the third Super Bowl trophy he’s captured for the Denver Broncos and dedicated it to team owner Pat Bowlen, who’s battling Alzheimer’s.

Not much has gone right for Elway and the Broncos since that night in Northern California.

Gary Kubiak resigned.

Peyton Manning retired.

Brock Osweiler bolted.

Mark Sanchez bombed.

Paxton Lynch flopped.

C.J. Anderson crumbled.

Brandon McManus missed.

Russell Okung exited.

DeMarcus Ware departed.

Wade Phillips left.

Calais Campbell snubbed.

Trevor Siemian struggled.

Vance Joseph dawdled.

Brock Olivo ducked.

Mike McCoy pink-slipped.

Ever since Von Miller led the Broncos past Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, the franchise has been in a state of flux.

Kubiak fell ill after a 4-0 start last season and the Broncos haven’t been an elite team since. They’ve won eight of their past 22 games and are mired in a six-game losing streak, their longest single-season skid since 1990. That’s a .363 winning percentage for a franchise that’s been to two of the past four Super Bowls.

If they can’t turn things around Sunday in Oakland with Bill Musgrave calling the shots and Lynch the plays , they’ll have their biggest nosedive since losing a franchise-worst nine straight in 1967.

A half-century ago.

Elway’s mantra of “winning now and from now on” needs an update to an Al Davis-like “Just win one, baby.”

Instability has finally caught up to the Broncos, who have been a picture of change really throughout Elway’s seven seasons as GM with four offensive coordinators (five if you count McCoy’s two stints), four defensive coordinators, three head coaches and six quarterbacks.

That kind of constant change can crimp the growth and mitigate the impact of draft classes.

The Broncos’ five-year reign as AFC West champs that began when Elway rejoined his beloved Broncos as the chief of football operations in 2011 ended last season with a 9-7 mark.

When Kubiak stepped down, Denver’s vacancy was seen as the most desirable in the league because of its championship-caliber defense and the need only to reboot, not rebuild. Their fade last season proved more foreboding than fluke, however.

“To be dead honest with you, we got a little bit soft,” Elway said. “We went 4-0 in the preseason, we started out 3-1, then we get a bye week and if you exhale in this league, you’re in trouble.”