PHILADELPHIA — On Sunday afternoon, just a couple hundred yards away from the Wells Fargo Center—home to the Philadelphia 76ers—a familiar phrase to the region was uttered in the Denver Broncos locker room.
"I think we just have to trust the process," Brandon Marshall said after a 51-23 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, inadvertently quoting the great visionary, Sam Hinkie.
"I still trust the process," Von Miller said later.
Hinkie, of course, made "Trust the Process" famous as General Manager of the Sixers. The catchy phrase, later plastered on t-shirts, coffee cups and everything in between, was a clever way to frame the idea that "we're gonna suck for a while so we can be good later." Trust the process, was branded tanking.
The Denver Broncos looked like a team that was tanking on Sunday. What makes it worse is they weren't.
"We got our asses blown out," Shelby Harris said.
"We got our ass kicked," added Derek Wolfe. "What else needs to be said? We went out there and got our ass kicked."
Wolfe did have more to say, though.
"It's sad because there's a lot of time and work and blood and sweat invested into this season, and to go out there and get our ass kicked like that really hurts."
He may not have meant to speak of the season as if it's fleeting like that, but it's something that all the rest of us are thinking.
"It's not something I'm familiar with in Denver," Marshall said of all this losing. "I've been here with Jacksonville. It's just—it's just weird."
For the record, the Jacksonville Jaguars are firmly in the playoff picture right now.
It all makes you wonder, would it be better for all of this to get worse before it gets better? Do the Broncos need to truly trust the process? John Elway talks a lot about winning "from now on" but this team ain't winning now, so it might be time to focus on the "on."
At 3-5 with the Patriots trotting into Mile High next Sunday, 3-6 feels close and even before then, the playoffs feel as far as the Broncos were from the Eagles—a true Super Bowl contender—on Sunday.
Something's gotta give.
Denver's roster construction, stemmed from the idea that a defense can take you wherever you need to go, has proven it has big flaws, flaws that were masked by a break-filled 2015 Super Bowl championship. It's time for the next chess move.
When John Elway needed a quarterback the first time, he went and made potentially the biggest free agent splash of all time and signed Peyton Manning. When he realized Manning couldn't do it alone, he constructed one of the greatest defenses of all time.
So what's the next move? The one for when he realized a defense is only as good as what it's defending?
Well, we've come to learn that the ol' vet QB trick isn't as easy as John made it look the first time. We've also likely come to learn that first-round QBs aren't really first-round QBs unless they go right away.
So, maybe the Broncos need to roll out that guy that helped them learn the first-round QB lesson, Paxton Lynch, with the best case being he miraculously figures it out and the "worst" case being you trust the process for the rest of the year and get yourself a high pick. After all, they'd come out of the accelerated, eight-game process with a team as talented as one who had been tanking for years.
Drafting early ain't so bad, just ask the Eagles, who traded their way into a quarterback that made the "No Fly Zone" look like an airport on Sunday afternoon. Or ask the originating 76ers, who have a college all-star team playing winning basketball in 2017.
The Broncos are a lot closer to Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold than they are to hoisting a Lombardi. That's just a fact at 3-5. Going down, right now, is more beneficial than going up.
"We're only halfway through," Derek Wolfe said, reminding everyone of something they probably don't want to hear. "What're you gonna do, quit?"
Quit? Well, that's a strong word, "trust the process" is a bit easier on the ears.