The Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2015. In 2016, they didn’t even make it to the playoffs.
So what happened? Linebacker Brandon Marshall has some ideas.
“I wouldn’t blame it on one specific thing,” Marshall told reporters on Thursday. “I think there were some distractions and maybe a Super Bowl lull. At the end of the day, nobody cares about that. All they care about is, did you make plays or not? And I didn’t. I want to reverse that this year.”
Marshall was specifically concerned about his performance down the stretch last season.
“It kind of sat on me,” Marshall said. “I had a bad feeling. I had a bad taste in my mouth all of last year. Even during the season, I was like, ‘I’m not making any plays. I’m not making plays.’ It just felt weird. I wanted to do something about that. I plan to have a complete opposite season. I plan to make all the plays. That’s what I tell my group. LBs, we make all of the plays, that’s what we’re supposed to do. Linebackers are supposed to lead the team in tackles. We’re supposed to be the playmakers on defense and I think that’s what we need to get back to.”
So how did a Super Bowl win impact the team the following year?
“Before we won the Super Bowl, I didn’t even think about it,” Marshall said. “I was so mesmerized to be on a winning team and thinking that we’re about to go to a Super Bowl. I never thought that was a real thing. You would see teams that win a Super Bowl and then next year didn’t make the playoffs. I never thought that it would happen to us because of who we have on our team. I think it’s real. One of my old trainers put it to me like this, ‘When you reach all of your goals, or when you have something that you work for your whole like and you reach it, naturally, you take a deep breath.’ Even though you reached that, we have to set new goals and new aspirations and work towards that. Once you reach those old goals, I guess those goals won’t do it for you anymore.”
He makes a good point. When a team has finally made it to the top of the mountain, it’s not easy to muster the will to slide back to the bottom and begin the climb again from scratch, knowing that the best they can do is to match what they did.
The challenges of continuing to strive for that which a team already has achieved makes Marshall respect one of Denver’s top rivals even more.
“They are always in the AFC Championship or the Super Bowl,” Marshall said regarding the Patriots. “They have a great quarterback, Tom Brady. They have a great staff. Bill Belichick is probably the greatest coach in NFL history. I will definitely give him that. All of those things come into account. But I do think it’s weird because no matter who they put in or who they put on the team, they still play well. It doesn’t matter. The one constant is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They pick and plug guys and they’re still successful, which is crazy.”
Marshall can now understand exactly how crazy it is, given that the Broncos weren’t even able to get back to the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl. The Patriots have been to the AFC title game for six straight years, making it back both after losing a Super Bowl and winning one. Now, the Patriots try to get back to the AFC title game, another Super Bowl appearance, and maybe a sixth Super Bowl win in 2017, regardless of how many times they’ve previously been up and down the mountain, while the Broncos simply try to end a one-year playoff drought.