ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On one hand, Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak knows what the season after a Super Bowl win looks like.
On the other hand, after more than three decades in the NFL as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Kubiak also knows as difficult as winning a Super Bowl is, winning back-to-back makes the first trip look easy.
“You’re always thinking about what your approach is going to be with your team the next time," Kubiak said. “Obviously, coming off a Super Bowl win, how do we go about it? We’re going to have a lot of new faces. We’re going to be a different football team and it’s going to be a different year. My approach is going to be that we have to have the same standard in what we do and how we do it ... My approach will be about our standard more than anything. I’ve never been one to talk about, ‘We’re going to do this,’ or, ‘We’re going to do that.’ I think we need to get this next football team as good as we possibly can. I think we got everything we could out of last year’s. I feel good about that but now it’s time to move on."
The Broncos won’t open their offseason program until April 18. It will be the first time the team has been together since one million or so folks turned out to see the team’s victory parade in downtown Denver.
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has said he thinks the team has the talent to keep itself in the Super Bowl conversation.
But the Broncos have already wrestled with the first-world problems of a Super Bowl win. Peyton Manning retired, free agents left seeking to be recognized for their efforts by teams that would pay more and players, especially Miller, have enjoyed the post-title whirlwind.
Kubiak has seen it before, up close. He was Mike Shanahan’s offensive coordinator when the Broncos won the Super Bowl to close out the 1997 season and then essentially went wire-to-wire in 1998 as the league’s best team and won a second consecutive title. Kubiak said this past week he remembers how the Broncos "went back to work" following the first title.
One key is regaining the grit and focus it took to win in the first place. The Broncos were historic in their close-game work this past season, winning 11 games in the regular season and postseason that were decided by seven or fewer points.
“The nucleus of our team -- there are a lot of guys coming back that were very successful and played extremely well," Kubiak said. “We’ve got to show them, along with the guys we’re bringing in, that we’re going to continue to help them get better and give them a chance to go back out this year and put themselves in position again."
And Miller, who the Broncos designated as their franchise player to keep him off the open market, may not attend the Broncos' offseason program. Ryan Clady and Demaryius Thomas skipped offseason workouts when they were tagged in past seasons.
Linebacker Brandon Marshall, who got a one-year tender as a restricted free agent, has told teammates he may skip the team’s offseason workouts as he looks for a long-term deal. Through it all, Kubiak has lauded the team’s depth.
“It’s obvious we’ve lost some very good players, but we’ve got a lot of good players on our football team, too, so we need to remember that and grow from there," Kubiak said. “I think you’re always going to have those types of things happen to your team."
Kubiak said one of the biggest reasons the Broncos were able to repeat back in the later 1990s was because they fixed things they needed to in order to improve. Kubiak said one thing was becoming more consistent in the passing game, and the Broncos went from ninth in the league in passing in ’97 to seventh in ’98.
The ’98 team also became the Broncos’ first 500-point team in the franchise’s history.
“It’s like I said; we’re going to have new faces and just putting that group together," Kubiak said. “As a coach, you’ve got to figure out what makes that group tick and what gets them playing at their best. I think it’s exciting because you do know there is so much work to do. It’s not like you’re walking back in there and saying, ‘OK, this is the same group of guys.’ It’s going to be different. I’m excited about it and challenged by it and challenged by some of the things we’ve got going on. I think our players are, too."