Losing stinks. No one likes it. Professional athletes especially. But every athlete has to deal with it.
The question for the athlete becomes, how do you deal with losing? Do you learn from it? Does it strengthen your resolve? Does it make you better?
Or does it break you?
These Broncos are grappling with such questions as we speak. The reasons for the 3-6 record are manifold, and it’s easy to pass blame around. But the only thing a player can do in this situation is look in the mirror and ask, “What can I do to help?” The answer is simple: your job.
Much is out of your control as an NFL player. The game plan. The schedule. The play-calling. The other guys they bring in to take your job. None of these things are worth your energy, and all of them, when dwelled upon, can take you out of your game.
There is an instinct, when times are tough, to start protecting what you believe are your own interests. To look out for No. 1, so to speak. But this is not tennis. This is football. Your interests are the team’s interests. If you get branded a loser, it can stick with you for the rest of your career. That’s why it is in everyone’s best interest to right the ship. If it sinks, everyone goes down.
My old offensive coordinator with the Broncos, Gary Kubiak, used to tell us on the eve of the last preseason game, when many of us were facing imminent cuts: “If it doesn’t work out here, there are 31 other teams who will be watching. Leave everything you have on that field. The tape lives forever.”
This holds true to regular-season games as well. The team may lose but your quality of play will be clear to anyone who watches the film. Did you quit on your team? Or did you fight until the end? Were you part of the reason things went bad? Or were you a bright spot?
This is what the Broncos need to find out: Who can be relied upon and who must be cut loose?
At this point last season, the Miami Dolphins were 2-7 after starting 0-7. Many advocated they should “tank” in order to get a more favorable draft pick. Head coach Brian Flores took another route, choosing instead to try and build a winning culture — to find out who would weather the storm like professionals and put in the work day in, day out.
The Dolphins finished the season 5-11 and carried that momentum into a 6-3 record this season, surprising everyone in the league but themselves.
It isn’t just the quarterback who needs to be evaluated — it’s every man on the roster. So who wants to be here? And how bad to you want it?
Nate Jackson is a former wide receiver/tight end for the Broncos who lives in Denver. He works part-time for 104.3 FM The Fan.
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