The dust has settled. Coaches have been fired. Depression has set in and we’re all still searching for answers. Maybe we should take a look in the mirror.

No, none of us played a down or spent one second coaching the Denver Broncos this season. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have contributed to the malaise that seemed to overtake the team midway through the season, culminating with the awful one-and-done playoff loss.

Even before the season began, this Broncos team really had no “edge.” They were getting called “soft” by even their ardent supporters and offered a collective shrug. Even after getting routed in last season’s Super Bowl, they collectively still seemed to be missing that proverbial “chip on the shoulder” that usually comes from getting embarrassed like they did in the Meadowlands. They never seemed to be able to muster any semblance of an “us against the world” mindset, which while sometimes hokey, can often be a rallying cry, too.

Could it have helped propel them to better things? From day one, they were the opposite of underdogs, even when Las Vegas said they were. Not around here. Around here, the Broncos are A-list celebs, every one of them. Big timers.

They are “overdogs” 24/7/365. They rule this city.

We as fans and media have made it this way. We are not just fans, we are over-the-top fanatics. We are Broncos obsessed. We paint our houses and our cars predominately orange. We name our kids after Broncos players we’ve never met. It’s hero worship on steroids.

One radio station boasts “Broncos talk every 15 minutes” and they sell themselves short. It’s more like every five seconds. At another station, a host told me once his superiors told him, “If you’re not talking about the Broncos (year ‘round) you’re not moving the needle.” In other words, those who make the decisions about what gets talked about on sports radio believe that you as fans can’t possibly get enough Broncos talk, regardless of the time on the clock or time of the year. So it’s Broncos, Broncos, Broncos, Broncos, Broncos; 24/7/365.

This kind of breathless adulation happens around the country at some high-profile universities, but it’s not the same. In those cases, it’s about the school, the ‘ol alma mater. It’s about the school colors and multiple sports. It’s about the name on the front of the jersey – not the name on the back. The players are kids who rotate through. A select few become stars/celebs, most do not. None have a radio show of their own.

It’s different in the professional ranks at places other than Denver. Here, it’s about a single football team all day every day. We attach our civic identity to it. The players aren’t deaf or blind. They soak it in. How could it not go to their heads?

This kind of “they’re the only thing that matters in life” outlook that permeates the city has got to rub off on the players. About half of them seem to have their own radio shows and the other half have fat endorsement deals and numerous commercials. They are idolized like no other. Short of criminal activity, they can do no wrong.

Ask yourself: If Broncos training camp started tomorrow – with the stench of the Indy game still fresh – how long would the line of fans be at Dove Valley to watch practice? All is quickly forgiven because, well, it’s the Broncos, for goodness sake.

The Broncos not only own Denver, they can have their way with the city any time they want. If John Elway announced tomorrow that the team wanted to burn down the City and County building, and bulldoze a couple museums so they could build a new practice facility, the citizens of our fair city would offer to do the shoveling if they could get a few feet closer to their heroes.

Put it this way: If Mayor Hancock announced tomorrow that they were going to hold a parade to celebrate another AFC West division title, thousands upon thousands of you would show up to get a glimpse.

It’s not healthy. There’s too much adulation, and not enough accountability. In other places, like Philadelphia or Dallas or San Francisco, the media would be drilling down for reasons why Peyton Manning could not literally walk five yards for a key first down instead of throwing a damaging incompletion while the Indianapolis game was still up for grabs or why Denver decided to play what amounted to a prevent defense for all 60 minutes. Routine press conferences would be filled with probing questions that made coaches and players uncomfortable after a poor performance. There are some markets where, yes, even the great Mr. Elway would be on the hot seat after the team he oversees took another pratfall on national television.

This is not to suggest that the Broncos are not the best sports franchise in this market, because they are; and frankly, it’s not even close at the moment. The organization has a commitment to winning above and beyond what any other franchise in this town comes close to. They’ve raised the bar themselves and that should not be taken for granted. But there needs to be some level of perspective with those who follow the team like a group of religious zealots. There needs to be some part of us that believes that there are other things in life – and sports – that actually matter.

Perhaps if we regain some perspective, the players may, too. They aren’t heroes. They are just football players who need to play better in big moments so that then they can be treated like champions.