The Denver Broncos once again look shoddy on special teams. Color me unsurprised.

Despite the fact that any NFL or collegiate coach will tell you that special teams is one third of the game, I can distinctly remember back even to the days of Mike Shanahan, when he would speak to the media, flash that knowing grin and say, “this season we’re going to get it right on special teams.”

He never did, and in the six years that have followed, no one else has either. There was Dante Hall’s record-breaking game. In 2005, when the Broncos went 13-3 and on to the AFC title game, the team was 28th in the league in kickoff coverage. Let’s see, then there was the 2007 game when Devin Hester took two punts to the house against the Broncos. And who could forget Super Bowl XLVIII where Percy Harvin dashed the team’s final hopes by returning the opening kick of the second half 87 yards for a touchdown? Finally, last year the Broncos finished 23rd and 28th in kickoff and punt coverage respectively.

So you see, when the Broncos were torched for a 103-yard touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks on Friday, plus another 40-plus yard kick return and an 18-yard punt return, all by Tyler Lockett, it was hardly an earth-shattering event.

Denver’s brass appears to have finally gotten serious about special teams this offseason. Incoming coach Joe DeCamillis has a sterling reputation as one of the best in the business, and he had no trouble admitting that Friday’s performance was embarrassing.

“I watched (the Seattle game film) about 20 times and felt as pitiful on the 20th time as I watched it on the first,” DeCamillis told media on Tuesday. “The great thing about it is, when you go home, you have such support from your wife. No, not so much. She’s the worst critic. She’s like, ‘We’re not even going out. You played pitiful. I don’t want to be around you.’ She just wants accountability just like I do.”

I applaud his candor on his unit’s performance and the Broncos for investing in a proven coach at the position, but with a unit that has been bad for this long, DeCamillis faces an uphill battle.

In some ways, the special teams issues of the Broncos can be traced back to the draft. In simple terms, the Broncos have had only marginal success hitting on early round draft picks, who typically don’t play special teams or haven’t had much experience in that phase of the game. On the other hand, Denver has had relatively high success generating starters out of the late rounds of the draft, making otherwise valuable special teams pieces too valuable to risk in scenarios as dangerous as punt or kick coverage.

In other ways, one also gets the suspicion that despite the lip service about special teams being one third of the game, there’s a segment of coaches who don’t actually believe in that principle. What you often get from those coaches is an eclectic collection of whatever backups happen to be around, with a smattering of discarded veterans filling in the gaps. Unfortunately, that sounds too much like the Broncos’ formula in years past.

“We didn’t play real well in the first game (I coached) in Chicago last year, to be honest with you,” DeCamillis said. “And then we ended up being first in the league in kickoff coverage, so I’m hoping that same thing happens. That’s what I’d like to see.”

After Friday, I’m inclined to believe that the only way that DeCamillis repeats that feat is if one of his kickers can boom the ball out of the end zone on every kickoff.

While the battle of the kickers has been front and center for the Broncos in recent days, the more pressing special teams issue is quickly becoming apparent. No one thinks that poor coverage is going to haunt you, until Percy Harvin returns a kick 87 yards in the Super Bowl against your team. The Broncos seem to have finally realized that special teams matter. Whether that’s enough for them to save that unit this season, remains very much in doubt.