(973espn.com) - Motivation is a tricky tool to use when you happen to be in a high-profile environment exposed to significant media attention.

Use a kick in the butt instead of a pat on the back in the average business and the Denver Post isn't there with a voice recorder wanting an explanation.

If you're John Elway, however, and you head up the football operations of the Denver Broncos, it's more like an E.F. Hutton-like situation -- everyone is listening.

In case you haven' been paying attention the Broncos, who are still not all that far removed from a Super Bowl 50 championship have dropped five straight games and made a quarterback change from the mistake-prone Trevor Siemian to the less-than-inspiring Brock Osweiler. A third to Paxton Lynch, meanwhile, could be right around the corner.

Maybe even worse than that, the one constant in the Rockies and the foundation of this era of Broncos football -- the defense -- has gone AWOL, surrendering a 50 burger (51 to be exact) in Philadelphia before following that up by allowing 41 against New England.

That has put Elway's decision-making on trial in the wake of Gary Kubiak's retirement due to health issues. The move toward first-year coach Vance Joseph, a defensive-minded mentor, meant the exit of Wade Phillips, one of the great defensive coordinators in league history who now happens to be on the ground floor of the Rams' resurgence in Los Angeles.

Elway admitted the 3-6 Broncos “got a little bit soft” in recent weeks when discussing his team at a ceremony for Hall of Fame inductee Terrell Davis and Ring of Fame honoree Red Miller on Friday.

To the general public that's not exactly a four-letter word that strikes a chord but in the NFL 'soft' is as big an insult as you can hurl at a player especially when you shield the guy at the top with the kind of context you didn't afford to those on the field.

“There’s going to be growing pains as a head coach, especially as a first-year head coach, Elway explained.

It's almost like Elway, a Hall of Fame player himself, heard the 'S word' come out in an extemporaneous way and then tried to slam on the brakes and hit reverse or perhaps the far more likely explanation is he's not happy yet also trying to shield himself from what's turning out to be a poor decision with Joseph.

The Broncos simply aren't the Broncos of old any longer and any perceived championship window has officially been slammed shut.

The players and the coach deserve plenty of blame for that but they have to get in line behind Elway.

“Obviously it’s been a little bit tougher situation, but sometimes you learn a lot more in tougher situations than you do when things are going good," Elway claimed. "Vance, in my mind, is doing just fine and continues to get these guys to play hard and the energy is still there. So we’ll work our way through.”

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@Sgmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen


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