Denver Broncos made significant change at every level in hopes of ending playoff drought

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos re-convene in two weeks for training camp, they will do so with changes at nearly every level of the franchise.

The team's new ownership group is led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, his daughter Carrie Walton Penner, her husband Greg Penner and also includes co-CEO of Ariel Investments as well as chair of the board of Starbucks Mellody Hobson and former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Their $4.65 billion purchase of the franchise is expected to be approved by the NFL in the weeks to come.

The changes don't end there. Coach Nathaniel Hackett and his staff just arrived in January, and general manager George Paton has only been on the job since January 2021. It is the first time since 1981 -- when Edgar Kaiser became the team's principal owner, Dan Reeves became the coach and Grady Alderman the general manager -- the Broncos have had the team's owner, head coach and GM all arrive in such a short span.

Toss in the trade for quarterback Russell Wilson in March, and the Broncos have had turnover in the last 19 months at all of the most essential positions of an NFL franchise.

"It's change, man," said Broncos guard Dalton Risner, a 26-year-old Wiggins, Colorado, native who has routinely said he has followed the team his entire life. "A lot of change. We all think it's for the better, we all feel good about where we're headed, but you can't hide from change around here. It's everywhere."

Back in 1981, the Broncos had no Super Bowl trophies and only one Super Bowl appearance. They now have three such trophies and have reached the title game eight times. Among the changes the new regime hopes to make is a return to the playoffs, which the Broncos have not done since winning Super Bowl 50 following the 2015 season.

"I think if you're in this league long enough you know you're always getting evaluated," said Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb. "That's every year. But no question, this is different. It's just different. But everybody knows the tradition here, and everybody wants to get back to that."

Paton, who led the search for a new coach earlier this year and has had the authority to make all of the football decisions since his arrival, has consistently answered all questions about the change at the top with "our job is to win, to put ourselves in a position to win and do it over the long haul the right way."

That has been a message that has soaked in. Essentially be successful, help the team win and all of the decision-makers will be pleased.

"It's going to be never ending," Hackett said at the end of the team's minicamp last month. "No matter how many years you go, you're always going to be developing and getting better."

"I think it's about understanding what is happening, but also understanding you have to do what's necessary in your own job at the base of it all," Risner said. "Just that thought I'm going to grind my ass off. For me I'm going to fit any scheme of coaching they ask me to fit, if I have to gain 40 pounds or drop 40 pounds, whatever I've got to do out there I'm going to define how I approach it, how I handle it. I just think that's what you do."