It has been anything but a slow offseason for the executives at the UCHealth Training Center. After hiring nearly a new coaching staff in lieu the retirement of Gary Kubiak, John Elway and Vance Joseph still had plenty of areas to address on the football team.
While the starting quarterback remains unsolved—and likely will for quite some time—and the starting left tackle is completely unknown, there is another void that is nearly as important that has gone under the radar: leadership. After the retirement of Peyton Manning last offseason followed by the retirement of DeMarcus Ware this offseason, the Broncos have lost their two biggest voices on the team in just 12 months.
"Losing [DeMarcus Ware] obviously that's' a stinger in your locker room,” Joseph said. “But we have a number of guys that can take over that role.”
Although Joseph hasn’t been around his new players in a team setting yet, he believes the team will be able to make up for the absences of Manning and Ware on both sides of the ball. On offense, he says that established players will need to step up as leaders.
“Offensively we've got [Demaryius] Thomas, we've got [Emmanuel] Sanders—who both made Pro Bowls who are both veteran players who guys will follow,” he said.
It’s widely known that Thomas isn’t typically a vocal teammate. Even with that, Joseph still believes he can step into a leadership role.
"I want 88 [Thomas]—that’s what I call him—to be a dominant player all the time,” he said. “I don't want him to ease into games, I want him to be a guy, and I want him to step out and be a guy. It's time, he's a great player, and he can take over a game, but I want his mindset every game we play to walk on the field and take over the game. Running the football will force [opposing teams] to load the box and give him one-on-one opportunities, and I want him to win every one-on-one. I want him to become a leader of our football team.”
Additionally, leadership will have to come from the single caller on the field, no matter who it is or their age.
“And the quarterback, it's the quarterback's job to be a leader—whether you like it or not, whether you're a rookie or not,” Joseph said. “That comes with your position.”
On the other side of the ball, there is already plenty of leadership embedded on the team, starting with the “No Fly Zone.”
"Defensively we've got a number of leaders,” Joseph said. “That entire secondary—between [Darian] Stewart and T.J. [Ward] and [Aqib] Talib and Chris [Harris]—they’re all leaders. So that part does not concern me.”
While Joseph believes the Broncos have all of the pieces to leadership on the team, he is in no way undermining the importance of it. In fact, he stressed the importance of having solid leadership and how it correlates to winning.
"That being said, the locker room kind of controls and leads how you practice, how you play, your personality, your culture,” he said. “So you have to have leaders to win in football.”
Regardless of who, the Broncos will need to have multiple leaders step up to help the new coaching staff continue the winning culture in Denver.