“It’s tough to have a consistent culture” – The Denver Post


Justin Simmons is standing at a lectern on the club level of Empower Field, talking about roots.

He is here two days after his Broncos lost to Kansas City and fell to 3-10 to present the franchise’s nomination for the NFL’s inaugural Inspire Change changemaker award to teenagers Nashara Ellerbee and Naja’Ray Wes. He speaks with ease about the pair’s accomplishments in the Montbello neighborhood because he didn’t just read about them on a white sheet before the program. He attended the meetings, kicked around ideas, provided his platform, did the work.

His roots, like theirs, are deep in this city by now, and most of the people in the room on this December day have watched them grow for years.

Down below, heat lights cover the field on which the Broncos have lost four consecutive games, coaxing the Kentucky Bluegrass to strengthen its hold despite the inhospitable conditions.

Simmons is straining to facilitate on-field growth, too, despite circumstances far from ideal. The Broncos captain is everything in the locker room that he is in the community — a leader, a captain and a standout performer — but the seventh-year safety has seen nothing but constant churn since arriving in Denver as a 2016 third-round draft pick out of Boston College. No playoffs. A revolving door of coaches.

His frustration came to a head after Denver lost to Las Vegas on a walk-off Davante Adams touchdown in mid-November.

“It’s Year 7 for me, (head coach Nathaniel) Hackett is my fourth head coach and that’s just wild to think about,” he steamed that night. “There’s so much turnover. Everyone wants to point the blame on certain people. I was just having a talk with a lot of the guys that have been here, the select few that have been here over the years, and we talk about culture. We have a tight-knit group, but something is not going right, obviously.

“It’s our job, my job, a guy that has been here now for a while, to figure that out.”

Simmons has played one year for Gary Kubiak, two for Vance Joseph, three for Vic Fangio and now most of one season for Hackett. He’s played for four defensive coordinators and two general managers. He’s patrolled the Broncos secondary through the end of the Bowlen ownership era and into the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group’s early days. Virtually everything in the organization has changed — many parts several times over — in the past seven years except for the free safety.

Former Denver Broncos head coaches from left to right: Gary Kubiak, Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Nathaniel Hackett. (Denver Post file photos)
Former Denver Broncos head coaches from left to right: Gary Kubiak, Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Nathaniel Hackett. (Denver Post file photos)

The NFL is the notorious home of fleeting careers and journeymen. Simmons has experienced neither and yet change, transition and tumult have happened all around him.

“For a lot of different reasons,” Simmons told The Post. “Kubiak, my first year, health reasons, had to step away. We bring in ‘VJ’ and unfortunately it didn’t work out. Then you head over to Vic, but then there’s the GM switch, so you go from John (Elway) to George (Paton). Vic had that continuity for three years, you build the rapport and things, unfortunately, didn’t work out there. Then you bring in Hackett and you finally are out of that weird, awkward ownership stage and now you have new owners and they have their views and their opinions.


Source link