John Elway and the Denver Broncos have been trying to win. That eight-game losing streak really beat them down, but they wanted to get back on top.
On Sunday, they shut out the New York Jets. It was a dominant win, and Elway sounded thrilled that they finally snapped the streak.
“It’s been really tough,” Elway said, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. “When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t really realize how tough it is until yesterday when we finally got a win and played a really good football game and didn’t make a lot of mistakes. Once we get through that and then looking back on it, it’s really difficult. Especially winning yesterday, it made me realize how difficult it really was.”
That’s great, and it’s easy to see why he’d be happy to win. Losing isn’t something Elway has ever done for long, and you could tell after every loss that he hated it.
That said, the season is over. The Broncos are not a playoff team. They’re playing for the offseason and the NFL Draft. That’s just the reality.
So, should they have won? In terms of draft position, especially if you’re chasing a quarterback, a three-win season isn’t bad. It still wasn’t going to get them the No. 1 overall pick; the Cleveland Browns haven’t won a game and may be only the second team in NFL history to go 0-16 by the time this is all over. But it might have gotten them into the top five.
The problem is that the goals on the field are different from the overall goals. You can’t tell players not to go try to win. Many won’t be in Denver in 2018 anyway, so they need to put as much as they can on tape for their future teams. It’s personal.
But the best thing for the Broncos was to lose. They’re just looking at the future right now. If they’re rebuilding, would a higher draft pick have helped more than a meaningless win?
Perhaps, but there is a silver lining. Elway got to see how good the team can be. If they overhaul this roster, it’s important to retain the talent they really need. The win helps shed light on their potential, which helps them rebuild around it.