The differences between the Broncos and the Spurs are stark and far outweigh the similarities. The current Broncos were built much more in line with the way the Heat were assembled, i.e. big name free-agency signings. The Broncos have a star player that is subject to scrutiny for his performances in big games, much like LeBron James, fairly or not. Oh, and not to mention the Broncos play football. Last I checked, the Spurs play with a round ball.
But, the two teams do have something very important in common, something that I am desperately hoping the Broncos can learn from. They both came up short on their respective game’s biggest stage last season.
Now, I do acknowledge the fact that the Broncos loss was far more historical in its futility, than the Spurs loss to the Heat in 2013. But the fact remains that both teams experienced a great deal of agony in their defeat.
The Spurs took last year’s loss to heart, and responded with an impassioned fire, burning deep within their collective psyche. The precision with which they dismantled a Heat team on the verge of claiming dynasty status was incomparable. It was frankly the most impressive performance in a NBA Finals that I have seen since the Lakers of the early 2000’s.
Peyton Manning has been known to seek out counsel from other experts in their respective fields. In fact, he received a slap on the hand from the league when it was uncovered that he met with Nick Saban on the same day his offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, also met with Saban, both presumably seeking similar services.
It would be wise for Manning, and the coaching staff, to reach out to Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan to learn more about what forces shaped their incredible resilience.
It certainly wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for this year’s Super Bowl to be a rematch of last year’s brutal beatdown. The Patriots got better. The Colts could take another step towards becoming contenders. But outside of those two teams, the path is relatively clear for the Broncos in the AFC. The Seahawks defense took a hit, especially with the loss of Brandon Browner, but they still have plenty of firepower to remain dominant. While the NFC is incredibly tough, nobody would be surprised if the Seahawks made it to the big game again.
If this happened, it would essentially be the same situation that the Spurs just experienced in their rematch with the Heat. The Broncos would be foolish to ignore how the Spurs adjusted with such mastery, and sustained their passion for revenge throughout the year.
The last time a team that lost the Super Bowl, returned to make an appearance the next year was 1994, when the Buffalo Bills failed to enact their revenge on the Dallas Cowboys. They did manage to keep the game a bit more respectable, only losing by 17 instead of the 35 point drubbing they took the year before. But, that also marked the Bills 4th Super Bowl loss in a row, so perhaps they aren’t the best role model for this year’s Broncos.
You can see how difficult it is for a team to make a return visit to the Super Bowl, after losing the year before. It is definitely an uphill battle. All the more reason for the Broncos to gain any leverage possible, regardless of how superfluous the tactics may seem.
So what else can the Broncos learn from the 2014 Champion Spurs, besides systemic and sustained success through continued adversity?
Selflessness. Peyton Manning, although not an inherently selfish player in my opinion, may need to relinquish some of the decided control he has over the offense. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t still read the defense, go through the requisite gyrations, hand gestures, and audibles prior to the snap. All it means, is that the Broncos may need to feature the running game more prominently this year, and Manning needs to be ok with that.
The Seahawks took full advantage of their apriori knowledge that the Broncos were essentially a one trick pony. The record-setting numbers, and air-it-out at all costs mentality may need to take a back seat in favor of a more balanced attack. That will require selflessness on the part of much of the offense, starting with Peyton.
I would hope that every single Broncos player is willing to put their ego aside for a common cause, victory when it matters most. The Spurs know how to do this. Their Big 3 spend many minutes riding the bench during the regular season because they know how to bide their time for the playoffs. There is a reason they looked like the fresher team. They were.
I don’t care if the Broncos win 10 games next year, as long as they make it to the playoffs. The regular season has become meaningless to Broncos fans. We don’t need any more records to fall. We just need a team that shows as much heart, determination, and skill as the ‘2013-2014 Spurs. Damn it, we need to bring the crown back to Denver.
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