ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For many Denver Broncos fans, at least those from the past three decades or so, the 2010 season has always been the low point of their association with their beloved team.
The 4-12 finish was the fewest number of victories in any season since Pat Bowlen became the team's owner in 1984. Josh McDaniels was fired as coach and John Elway was hired to run football operations, and since then, the Broncos have enjoyed six consecutive seasons of 8-8 finishes or better, five consecutive division titles, two Super Bowl trips and one Super Bowl win.
But 2017 has unfolded as a potentially historic season of struggle for the franchise. The Broncos are 3-8 and on a seven-game losing streak; Sunday they hit the road to try to end that skid against a coach who was with the team the last time it had to climb from the depths of losing.
Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was Denver's wide receivers coach in 2010 when things went bad; by 2013, when he was the team's offensive coordinator, the Broncos set the NFL single-season scoring record at 606 points. Peyton Manning set records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) that year and the Broncos advanced to their first Super Bowl since Elway's final game as a player in Super Bowl XXXIII.
Gase certainly has his own struggles to deal with right now, with the Dolphins 4-7 and mired in a five-game losing streak of their own. But Gase said he learned some things during the Broncos' 2010 season.
"I think that whole 2009, 2010 period was a great experience for me," Gase said Wednesday. "I saw a lot of good. I saw some things that made me realize you do it a little different. When things aren't going right, it's about kind of resetting the clock, coming in the next week, getting a good week of practice, and then going out on Sunday and trying to find a way to win the game."
Many of the Broncos players fighting their way through the current losing streak have memories of the no-nonsense Gase from his time in the team's meeting rooms. And Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was Gase's defensive coordinator with the Dolphins last season before Denver hired him this past January.
"Adam's a smart guy, he's a great football coach, he's a good friend of mine," Joseph said. "Obviously, both teams are going through some struggles right now."
Broncos running back C.J. Anderson said Gase's blunt assessment of players, including even Manning at times, is what he remembers. Anderson was an undrafted rookie who made Denver's roster in 2013 and played in five games for that prolific offense, then rushed for 849 yards in 2014 with Gase calling plays. The next offseason, Gase publicly said Anderson had gotten "a little chubby sometimes."
"That's my dude, man, that's my dude," Anderson said Wednesday. "That's the type of guy [Gase] is, super competitive, things like that. ... Goose don't hold back; I think the biggest thing is he knew what button to push to get the full competitiveness out of you. You know, the chubby comment was one of them ... there were times he was like, 'C.J., you're slow,' right in a meeting, 'you're just slow, you don't break enough tackles.' Things of that nature. And he did it with [Manning] too, pretty cool."
And as Elway raised plenty of eyebrows earlier this month when he said the Broncos had gotten "a little bit soft," Gase, too, has tried to shake his team from the doldrums. After the Dolphins' 40-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in London last month, Gase pulled no punches.
"I'm tired of this," he said then. "I'm tired of the offense being awful. I am going to play the guys that know what to do. The fan base might not like it, but oh well. We're the worst offense in football. It's hard to go lower than that. ... At the end of the day, guys have got to take this stuff home and study it."
Wednesday, Gase admitted such public criticism is a tough thing to do, as Elway had to address it in the wake of his comments as well.
"It's probably something I shouldn't do," Gase said Wednesday. "I, uh, get a little upset sometimes and lose my head. I was just not very happy with the way we were playing after that Baltimore game, and it was just one of those things where it was a controllable factor, and I felt like some guys weren't handling their business in the right way. I got asked a question and was honest about it."
Gase called Joseph a "grinder and a battler," with each head coach saying this week he'd like the other to find some success at some point after Sunday.
"I know him -- he's tough, he's smart, he'll figure it out," Joseph said. "Hopefully not Sunday."