ENGLEWOOD — The juxtaposition was striking.
Following two of the worst seasons in franchise history -- back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1972, a sweeping overhaul of the coaching staff -- general manager John Elway believes again.
He believes in Joe Flacco, the team's fifth starting quarterback since Peyton Manning retired. He believes in coach Vic Fangio, a 40-year prowler of the sidelines getting his first chance to call the shots. He believes in the defense, which Fangio will guide and exploit the strengths of rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb and supreme corner Chris Harris Jr.
"Everybody is under pressure. Expectations? I will let you guys set that. I never went into a season thinking we would be 10-6. Bottom line is that we have to execute, play well, get a little lucky," general manager John Elway said. "I am excited."
It begins at the quarterback position. It has been a mess since Manning left. Flacco represents the fifth starter -- the sixth if you count preseason No. 1 Mark Sanchez -- post-Manning. That sentence explains the lack of a success in a nutshell. I asked Elway what he has seen from Flacco since acquiring him in the spring.
"When you watch Joe Flacco, he has the ability to make every throw. He has a strong arm. He moves well in the pocket," Elway said. "I think a lot of guys, their success comes from the system. I am excited about the system that (offensive coordinator) Rich (Scangarello) is bringing from San Francisco. And getting traded two-thirds into a career, (Flacco) has something to prove."
The Broncos' rebound centers on improving a forgettable offense. Elway hopes Scangarello, a first-time playcaller, will caffeinate an attack that has submarined the last three seasons. Flacco starred in Baltimore in 2014 in a similar setup. He also has plenty of weapons in running back Phillip Lindsay, who will be eased into camp, and star receiver Emmanuel Sanders, on a schedule like Lindsay, and rookie tight end Noah Fant.
If the offense is functional the defense should hold serve. If not better. Fangio brings a high IQ and a defense with versatility and the ability to match up on a weekly basis. It starts with Von Miller. Fangio believes Miller belongs in the pantheon of the greats he has coached. But he admitted, Miller "has more to give. It's in the details."
Miller told me he embraces the challenge.
"I haven't won defensive player of the year. I haven’t led league in sacks," Miller said. "I feel like I am a coach’s dream. Whatever (Fangio) tells me, I will do it."
Miller said he and Bradley Chubb want to be on field 80% of time. Fangio definitely wants that. It traces back to death by inches. Everything matters -- and must -- if this team is rebound after a 10-21 record the past two years.
"I am always motivated. But we should be motivated given the disrespect toward us entering this season," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "If guys are not motivated going into this, I don't know if I want to play with them. I am excited about what we can do. The talent is there. We have the potential to be great."
--Elway said rookie Dalton Risner is the leading candidate to start at left guard, and that he hopes quarterback Drew Lock will be signed when camp begins on Thursday. Luck is seeking a QB premium boost in his contract that the Broncos are not budging on at this point.
--The Broncos will ease Lindsay and Sanders into camp reps. Sanders does not expect to do much the first 10 days since that would have been normal time off if not for the Hall of Fame game early start. Sanders will not start on the PUP list.
--Fangio acknowledged that coaching from the sidelines will be an adjustment. He said that Scangarello will be in the booth. Fangio has only coached from the sidelines once as a coordinator.