The 2014 football season ended abruptly for the Broncos. After finishing first in the AFC West, the team lost in the division playoffs in a rematch of their week one meeting with the Indianapolis Colts.
"We didn't have as much success on the field as we'd hoped last year," said President and CEO, Joe Ellis. "It ended poorly. We have a new look and a fresh start this year… I'm optimistic after last year to [move] forward with a new staff and generate some new excitement."
That excitement Ellis refers to is something that pulses through the new coaching staff's philosophy. One of the specific topics Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway addressed as the team began the search for a new head coach was a lack of fight following the playoff loss.
"I think if there is one thing that you would like to have and you want to feel—at least in the last game you want to feel like you go out kicking and screaming," he said in January.
That becomes a main directive for Head Coach Gary Kubiak and the staff as they prepare for this season, and he knows what he has to do.
"We're here to win a championship," Kubiak said on Thursday. "That's our goal as a football team. But I have to keep the players focused on the things you have to do to put yourself in a position to do that."
"As long as we go out kicking and screaming, that's all we can do," said John Elway. "But if we don't do that then there's an issue. That's why I think this staff's got the right mindset. Gary's got the right mindset."
The idea of kicking and screaming comes naturally to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders as he heads into his sixth season in the league.
"I think that that's my mindset regardless," said Sanders. "That's me. Every play, I want to give it my all… I think that every coach in the National Football League and every GM wants their players to be like that. I'll tell you what, I feel like we have a nucleus of guys that have the same mindset and that Elway wants to be."
While the mindset may be different for the current roster, Elway and Kubiak have been in this situation together previously. The hope for both is to rekindle the mentality that was generated during Elway's final seasons and the last time the team hoisted a championship trophy.
"Fortunately, I've been a part of that standard before and I chose to be part of it again," said Kubiak. "So those are things that we're going to talk about. We're going to talk about our work attitude. We're going to talk about being as good as we can be in all three phases. There are a lot of new things going on… The bottom line is once you get to that last month, you have to be playing better than everybody else."