Losing stinks. Nobody likes it. Especially professional athletes. But every athlete has to deal with it.
The question for the athlete becomes: how do you deal with losses? Do you learn from it? Does it strengthen your decision? Does it make you better?
Or does it break you?
These Broncos are struggling with such questions right now. The reasons for the 3-6 record are many, and it’s easy to blame. But all 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.
As an NFL player you have a lot of no control. The game plan. The grid. The play call. The other guys they bring in to take your job. None of these things are worth your energy, and they can all take you out of your game if you think about them.
There is an instinct to start protecting what you think is your own interests in difficult times. To pay attention to number 1, as it were. But this is not tennis. This is football. Your interests are the interests of the team. If you are labeled a loser, it can stay with you for the rest of your career. That is why it is in everyone’s interest to rectify the ship. When it sinks, everyone goes down.
My longtime offensive coordinator at the Broncos, Gary Kubiak, told us on the eve of the last preseason game, when many of us faced impending cuts: “If it doesn’t work out here, there are 31 other teams that will “Watch out. Leave everything you have on that space. The tape lives forever.”
This also applies to regular season matches. The team may lose, but your playing quality will be apparent to anyone watching the movie. Have you quit your team? Or did you fight to the end? Were you one of the reasons things went badly? Or were you a ray of hope?
Here’s what the Broncos need to find out: who can be trusted and who should be cut loose?
At this point last season, the Miami Dolphins were 2-7 after starting 0-7. Many argued that they should “refuel” to get a more favorable draft choice. Head coach Brian Flores took a different route, choosing to instead try to build a winning culture – to find out who would weather the storm as professionals and go to work day in, day out.
The Dolphins closed the season 5-11, bringing that momentum this season to a 6-3 record, surprising everyone in the league except themselves.
It’s not just the quarterback that needs to be evaluated – it’s every man on the roster. So who wants to be here? And how badly 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.