PHOENIX — As the Broncos approach the 2023 season, Owner and CEO Greg Penner, Owner Carrie Walton Penner, Owner Rob Walton and the rest of the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group have clear expectations.
Their hopes for the season, though, don't revolve around specific win totals or outcomes. Instead, Penner said Tuesday that success for the 2023 season relies on building the right culture.
"For me, the expectation — as well as Rob, Carrie and the rest of the ownership group — is around the right process, the right approach and the right culture," Penner said. "It's not necessarily around, 'We have an expectation of [this] number of wins or [that] number of wins.' One thing that we're really confident in is that we're going to take the right approach, and we will have the right expectations of our staff and our players."
Penner said he has learned more about the importance of instilling the proper culture since stepping into his role in August of 2022.
"[There has been a] lot of learning in the last seven-and-a-half months," Penner said. "One is just how passionate our fans are and how much they want to win. The last seven seasons have been tough. At the end of the day, probably the biggest learning — and we saw this fall — was it comes back to we got to have the right people in place. We need the right culture, we have to set expectations, and we need accountability. I think with hiring Sean Payton, we're teed up to be a very different team next year."
Penner said after Payton was hired, he "immediately set a different tone" at UCHealth Training Center.
"I think as a head coach, probably the most important thing you do is the staff that you hire," Penner said. "Right away, he came in and he's built a staff that's diverse — and I mean diverse across multiple dimensions. It's age — you have everybody from [Assistant Head Coach] Mike Westhoff and the type of experience he has, to [Quarterbacks Coach] Davis Webb — diverse backgrounds from different coaching trees, perspectives and all that. That's probably been the most impressive thing."
In addition to a new head coach and coaching staff, the Broncos also invested heavily in free agency. Penner said that while the team's approach won't be the same every season, they saw a need to prioritize acquiring free-agent talent.
"You definitely don't win the season in free agency, and you don't want to have to spend that way every year," Penner said. "We just felt like this year, with a lack of draft picks and the needs we had on the offensive line, that was the approach that we needed to take. We're really happy with how it turned out and the players we got."
Penner said there were plenty of conversations leading up to the start of free agency as the team identified its needs and players that could fill those holes.
"We had players that we were targeting, and we got all of those players," Penner said. "Again, ideally, you do that through the draft, and that will be more of the approach in the future. For this year, it was critical to take this approach."
With those additions in tow, the Broncos will set off to build their new culture and reach expectations.