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Kiszla: Have 0-3 Broncos hit rock bottom? Frank Clark says: “This is going to be a season of grit. We’re going to have to take some (bleep).”

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How low can the Broncos go? I fear there is no bottom, because this team has no foundation of strong leadership to stand on.

The worst part of surrendering 70 points was how the Broncos quit on themselves. At 0-3, the players in Denver’s locker room are no longer playoff contenders, but a punch line. And make no mistake, they hear the abuse that results from giving up 10 touchdowns in a single game.

“That noise is real loud. You’re going to hear it. But it’s about what you retain,” Broncos edge-rusher Frank Clark told me Thursday.

“If you hear the noise, they’re telling you: ‘Oh, man, you suck. You’re (crappy) at your job. Broncos this, Broncos that.’ If we really listened to all that, would we really call them fans?”

Clark, sidelined by a hip abductor muscle injury, had to stand by with the rest of us and watch as Denver get clowned by the Dolphins in a 70-20 loss.

It seems highly unlikely Clark will be able to return to the field Sunday in Chicago to bolster a pass rush that has produced a meager four sacks in three games. “We’re just not doing the job,” he said. “At the end of the day, if you do the job better, you get to the quarterback.”

Champions don’t accept excuses for losing. And that’s what motivated me to seek out Clark in these tough times for the Broncos. Before signing with Denver as a free agent in June, Clark spent four seasons with Kansas City, where he was named three times to the Pro Bowl and won two Super Bowl rings.

If nothing else, Clark knows the habits of highly effective football teams. So how do the Broncos, who have lost 15 of their last 20 games dating back to last season, get out of this mess?

“The first thing is relying on your leaders. You’ve got leaders in the coaching department, you’ve got leaders on the players’ side,” Clark said. “You’ve got to rely on your leaders, the guys a team chooses to lead them through the times of adversity, through the times of struggle and in times of triumph. You are always going to look at a specific set of guys that define: How will this team react? What is this team made of? That’s the foundation of the team.”

Then Clark said something that caused me to glance over my left shoulder, peer beyond the stall where the gear of Russell Wilson was stashed and take a good look around the locker room.

According to Clark, it would be foolish to believe a quarterback can build the foundation of a winning culture by himself.

“Russell came here to Denver last year to be quarterback. His job ain’t to save anybody and be Superman,” he said. “His job is simply to be the quarterback of this team.”

Clark did not point a finger of blame at any teammate for the Broncos falling in the trap of habitual losing.

“You’ve got to understand the struggle comes in this game, and when the struggle comes, it comes hard. We – and I say we, because I am now part of this team – have been in a struggle since last year,” Clark said.

“And you get to a point where you want to change the tide … Nobody wants to be the talk of the town, no one wants to be the topic of negative conversation. All we’re trying to do is get better.”

I was left to wonder: How strong is this team’s foundation? Who are the leaders the Broncos can count on in hard times?

We want and expect it to be Wilson, but he has been under siege from almost the first minute he pulled on an orange-and-blue uniform. And the most talented veterans who have logged serious service time with this team, from safety Justin Simmons to receiver Courtland Sutton to offensive tackle Garett Bolles, have known nothing except losing in the NFL.

Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) watches the end of the game against the Las Vegas Raiders from the bench at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver on Sept. 10, 2023. The Broncos lost, 17-16. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)
Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) watches the end of the game against the Las Vegas Raiders from the bench at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver on Sept. 10, 2023. The Broncos lost, 17-16. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

That leaves cornerback Pat Surtain II alone on an island. He might be a shutdown corner. But Surtain needs help to fix this mess.

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