ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall was one of the team's players who publicly took offense to president of football operations/general manager John Elway, who said the team had gotten "a little bit soft" since its Week 5 bye.
The Broncos were 3-1 at the bye and haven't won since, dropping to 3-7 after Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals -- their' sixth consecutive defeat. It's the team's longest losing streak since 1990 and led Elway Friday night to levy his strongest public criticism of the team's play since he took his current job in 2011.
Monday, Marshall said he believes he can "respectfully disagree" with his boss.
"I wasn't taking shots at him," Marshall said. "I think everybody was saying 'He's taking shots at the GM' and that is kind of ridiculous. I'm a competitive guy, I've got skin in the game, I'm out here running around busting my tail. ... I see nothing wrong with being a grown man disagreeing."
Speaking after an event Friday night to honor former coach Red Miller and Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis, Elway made his strongest comments about the team's current struggles.
"I think at this point we're still trying to figure out how we can get through it," Elway said. "So, there's no question at the end of the year we'll evaluate it and we'll look back and see what happened. But I will tell you I think we got a little bit soft. To be dead honest with you, we got a little bit soft. We went 4-0 in the preseason, we started out 3-1, then we get a bye week and if you exhale in this league, you're in trouble. To be dead honest with you I think we exhaled and it's hard to recover from that. So, it's a lesson that hopefully we all learned and prevent it from happening again."
Marshall, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., safety Darian Stewart, linebacker Von Miller and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas were among those who said Elway's comments were a topic of discussion among the players during Saturday's meetings. Marshall was asked Monday if he believed Elway simply wanted to anger the team with what was said.
"Probably, well, that's probably how he feels too," Marshall said. "He probably honestly feels that way. I think that was a challenge to the players and the coaches and we definitely took it as one."
The Broncos cut outside linebacker Kasim Edebali as well as tight end A.J. Derby last week and fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday. Marshall said put it all together and it's clear where things stand.
"This is an organization where we have an expectation to win, we expect to win, we're expected to perform," Marshall said. "So, it's not like they can just say 'Well, you guys got time, it's OK.' It's not OK to lose here and we're losing here and it's a big issue. I guess they're letting everybody know it doesn't matter who you are. We're going to find guys that can get it done and that's what they're going to do."