Super Bowl or bust for Russell Wilson? Pump those brakes, Broncos country.

Standing on the corner in the league’s toughest neighborhood, the Broncos whistle a happy tune in the long shadow of their recent failures, confident that if they get on the bandwagon driven by new quarterback Russell Wilson, So everyone will be a happy camper, way to the Super Bowl.

“We want to go downtown waving the Lombardi Trophy,” receiver Courtland Sutton announced Tuesday, speaking of the morning victory parade as a team that has made the NFL playoffs in six years. Did not make it, reported to training camp.

Hey, after the dark days of Uncle Vic and Musky Drew, we like the sound of optimism and hope at Dove Valley headquarters.

But can we put the brakes on the loose talk of winning the championship?

Wishing won’t make it happen. Denver remains in the AFC West, where Broncos safety Justin Simmons predicts “the best football in the league will be played.”

Even with Wilson’s addition, the Broncos could finish last in the division if his teammates do nothing more than pay lip service to a culture change in a locker room that has become too accepting of defeat. was

“We’ve got to find ways to be great. In terms of us as a team, in past years, it hasn’t been good enough. Let’s face it. Period,” Simmons said.

Wilson is a proven winner. He led Seattle to a 43-8 victory over Denver in a Super Bowl that Broncos country would like to forget. His acquisition from the Seahawks in a blockbuster trade changed the landscape of a franchise mired in a losing streak.

But outside of Wilson, the other 21 projected starters for the Broncos on offense and defense know virtually nothing about postseason success.

During their professional careers, defensive backs Kareem Jackson and Ronald Darby have both won three playoff games. Offensive tackle Billy Turner as well as defensive lineman DJ Jones have won two playoff games. Linebacker Randy Gregory has won a playoff game. It goes without saying that none of this success was enjoyed in a Broncos uniform.

No player likes to be called soft. But what has struck me about the Broncos during their playoff drought is how easily discouraged they have been when the inevitable adversity of every NFL season hits them at the top of the helmet.

During six years of a playoff drought, the lack of legitimate Pro Bowl talent on Denver’s roster was evident, but the lack of toughness between the ears was even more discouraging.

For example: On December 19, 2021, Cincinnati came to Denver. At kickoff, both the Bengals and Broncos were playoff contenders with identical 7-6 records.

Trailing 15-10 in the fourth quarter, Denver marched to within nine yards of the go-ahead touchdown, only for quarterback Drew Lock to make a bonehead read on an option play that resulted in a Bengals defensive end fumbling the football. It was taken away from him. Khaled Karim. It’s death by inches in a game of inches. The concussion was the beginning of the end for coach Vic Fangio, as Cincinnati was unlikely to make it to the Super Bowl.

“You win that Bengals game and you go a little bit further, who knows what happens?” Simmons said. “You go into the playoffs as a wild-card team and things change. Obviously, the Bengals went to the Super Bowl and had a really good chance to win.