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Mason's Mailbag: Super Bowl afterglow edition

Posted Feb 13, 2016

The Broncos' place in history and a look ahead to the free agents set to hit the market get the offseason Mailbag started.

As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.

No. When you win the Super Bowl, you earn a credibility that no one can take away.

The Broncos had plenty of credibility because their previous Super Bowls were back-to-back; only one team since then has done that (the 2003-04 Patriots). If the Broncos have "greater credibility," it's not because of the style of play, but because now they're one of just nine teams to have won at least three Super Bowls:

Six: Pittsburgh
Five: Dallas, San Francisco
Four: Green Bay, New England, N.Y. Giants
Three: Denver, Oakland, Washington

Further, each championship is unique and underscores the credibility and legitimacy of the winning team.

Take the Giants of Tom Coughlin's years. You look at their records in those Super Bowl-winning seasons and you shrug; at 10-6 and 9-7, the 2007 and 2011 world champions were two of the homelier teams in terms of overall excellence to take home a Lombardi Trophy.

But they have their own unique place in history, forged by being the only club to beat the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick-era Patriots in the Super Bowl, and a series of tough road wins that made those games possible, including an upset of the Packers at Lambeau Field along the way each time.

Their place in history is defined by grit, resilience, persistence and excellence when it really counts, traits that will define Coughlin and Eli Manning when their cases for the Pro Football Hall of Fame are debated.

Denver goes in the defensive-centric category with the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens, 2002 Buccaneers and 2013 Seahawks, as defenses that were so effective that no rules tweaks could hinder the effectiveness. (The pre-1978 defenses didn't operate under the same rules designed to help the passing game.) But what the Broncos can lean upon in making their case is the quality of the quarterbacks they neutralized in the postseason: Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and league MVP Cam Newton.

Compare those to the starting quarterbacks faced by those other defensive-centric teams:

1985 Bears: Phil Simms, Dieter Brock, Tony Eason
2000 Ravens: Gus Frerotte, Steve McNair, Rich Gannon
2002 Buccaneers: Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, Rich Gannon
2013 Seahawks: Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick, Peyton Manning

As you can see, only the Seahawks compare, and I would argue the Broncos' road was slightly rougher. Both the 2015 Broncos and 2013 Seahawks faced two quarterbacks who are certainly Canton-bound, and Cam Newton of 2015, earning league MVP honors, is far better than Kaepernick in 2013.

So this Broncos team will be remembered. But the credibility of the Broncos' success was already there; last Sunday just brought them into another echelon, which they would have reached no matter which edition of the Broncos took home the club's third Lombardi Trophy.

Because he had his worst punt of the day then, shanking a 27-yarder. Just because the game was decided doesn't mean you don't want to do the best job that you can, to the final moment of the game. That's what you want: each player giving his all to the final gun, even if the game is decided, and being upset at oneself for a bad play is perfectly all right; that emotion quickly faded as the clock wound down.

Bruton's case is one of the most fascinating on the roster, and whether he stays is likely beyond the team's control.

He's highly effective in his role in the dime sub package in which T.J. Ward moves up into the box where he effectively handles a linebacker's role. But at the same time, there isn't a starting role for him, not with Ward and Darian Stewart being so effective. This could be one of those "tough decisions" to which John Elway alluded Tuesday.

There's no doubt the Broncos would like to have Bruton back. But another team could offer him an opportunity the Broncos cannot at this point: the chance to start. If you were Bruton, what would you do? I recall long-time special-teams standout Keith Burns leaving in free agency -- twice -- for the chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere. I don't begrudge a player for pursuing that; there's nothing wrong with pushing for more, if the opportunity arises. At the same time, Bruton has a clear, abiding love for the Broncos and Colorado, evidenced in his words, his community involvement and even his ink. 

His status will bear monitoring, but no matter what he chooses, I think Broncos fans should wish nothing but the best for him; you will not find a better representative of the organization than Bruton.

Elway has made it clear he wants both back, mentioning them by name during the press conference he and Gary Kubiak held Tuesday before attending the parade in downtown Denver. But with the outlay to Von Miller -- which, even if it's just the franchise tag, will likely be above $14.1 million -- the path to keeping both Trevathan and Jackson involves at least one other restructure, a release, a reduction in the 2016 cap outlay to the quarterback position, or, likely, all of the above.

"Our budget is only so big, and so we've got to make it work within that," Elway said.

Elway did not use the words "hometown discount," but he made it clear Tuesday that he intends to use the quality of the situation as a selling point.

"The great thing is we play for a great owner, we live in a great town, we've got a great head coach, we've got great coaches and players that want to play here," he said. "That does come in. That falls into the equation, and it depends on how much that equation fits for each player."

And that equation will likely determine whether Trevathan and Jackson return.

Which team do you think will win in their prime between the 1998 Denver Broncos team vs the 2015 Denver Broncos team? Thank you.

-- Robert Coxe

I'm going to tick some people off with this answer, I'm sure ...

The 1998 team was a better overall team on paper, clearly. It could win with explosive passing plays. It could win by grinding down the game with Terrell Davis, who had, in my opinion, the best season of any running back in the last 20 years (sorry, A.P.). Even though the offensive line had lost Gary Zimmerman to a well-earned retirement, the group kept right on humming with Tony Jones.

But the 2015 defense is perhaps more capable than any of recent vintage of disrupting that highly efficient offense.

It took countless hours studying film for Elway and his staff put together this defense. But there was one overriding thought, especially when it came to pass rushers: As a quarterback, who and what would you least like to see on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage? That helped tip the scales toward Von Miller in Elway's first draft, and he has been everything you would hope the highest NFL Draft pick in Broncos history would be.

The 2015 defense would be disruptive to the 1998 offense.

But I also think the 1998 defense could force the 2015 offense into mistakes, and after avoiding giveaways for just over 90 minutes of game play from the Week 17 win until early in the AFC Championship Game, the turnovers returned, with three thereafter, including two in Super Bowl 50.

And let's not forget that the 1998 Broncos were a truly great team, perhaps one of the 10 best to win the Super Bowl. In my opinion, that was the best Broncos team ever assembled, and I've seen all of them play since 1982. That gives them the slight edge in this hypothetical matchup.

Hi Mase,

Thanks for all of your work this season. It is always interesting to read your analysis. Do you have any insight regarding the availability of certain player jerseys in the Bronco Shop? I'd love to get a white Chris Harris Jr. jersey with the Super Bowl symbol, but only Peyton, Demaryus, and Miller seem to be available. Do you think more might players might become available for this particular style?

-- Nicholas Deyoe

That doesn't appear to be in the cards. The Broncos don't have a heck of a lot of control over which players they get for Super Bowl jerseys sold at retail; that's a league and Nike call.

Andrew!! I just got done reading your story "on top of buses" just wanted to tell how much it touched me. How well written it was. Being a broncos fan since 1977 and always wishing the former broncos who never won a super bowl could enjoy a super bowl parade and get a ring. Well I'm sure Le-Lo, Meck and Randy felt like they just won the game themselves. Great job!

-- Randy Lashock

Thank you, and that was the best part -- you sensed that they did feel like they won it. The years between their playing days and the present seemed to melt away. It's a reminder that by being a Bronco, you get to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and something that keeps getting bigger with each passing year as more players come through those locker-room doors and etch their imprint on the history of the franchise and the Front Range as a whole.

Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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