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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Von Miller wishes Sunday's season finale meant something and he yearns for the day his sage advice hits home with his younger teammates.
With the AFC West crown locked up, Kansas City (9-6) gets to treat Sunday's game at Denver (5-10) essentially as an exhibition, playing backups and resting starters for the playoffs that begin next week.
The Broncos are closing out one of their most disappointing seasons in franchise history, one that began with high hopes and a 3-1 record before a historic eight-game skid rendered them also-rans for a second straight season.
"I'm not eager to play the second guy," Miller said of Chiefs rookie QB Patrick Mahomes II, who's making his first NFL start. "He is the guy of the future, though. So, it's good to go and play against him for the future.
"But you just would like the circumstances to be totally different. You would like for this game to mean more than what it means, and you would like for all of the starters to play."
The Broncos haven't been to the playoffs since Miller's MVP performance in Super Bowl 50, when his two strip sacks of Cam Newton ignited Denver's 24-10 win over Carolina on Feb. 7, 2016.
Since then, they're 14-17, raising questions about the direction of the franchise, including the front office, the coaches corner and the roster — even the dominant defense, which is ranked No. 2, behind only Minnesota.
"We'd still be living in the past if I say we're still a championship defense," Miller said. "We still have a really good defense that can win championships. Yes, we do have that. We've just got to build on that. And I think we will."
That's because Miller still believes in general manager John Elway.
"If you just look at the leadership we have here, two times not going to the playoffs is just not going to ride. There's going to be some drastic changes this offseason and I'm all for it," Miller said.
"I want to get back in the mode of being competitive and winning. We have championship leadership here. We might not have a championship defense, but we still have championship leadership, championship facilities, championship staff here. As long as we have that nucleus, the championships will come."
With Peyton Manning retiring last year and DeMarcus Ware calling it a career this year, Miller took on more of a leadership role this season, something that came naturally.
"I always had a big personality in that locker room. So, I always felt like I had a huge role in the way this team flows and the energy of the team," Miller said.
Like his boss, Elway, Miller isn't afraid to tell it like it is .
"I love telling people uncomfortable stuff," Miller explained. "I love keeping it brutally honest. I think that's one of my best characteristics. I love keeping it brutally honest with not only my teammates but my family. I just like keeping it real. Maybe it's just a little sick feeling I get from telling people the truth.
"My profession is all about the truth. What you put out on the field is what it is. You can't sugarcoat that," Miller added. "And I feel like over time if the rookies develop that same mindset, we'll be a hell of a team to beat in the future."
At times this season, Miller practically had to beg teammates to join him in the weight room. Other times, Miller was among the veterans incredulous over a seeming sense of entitlement the younger players displayed.
That dynamic created an uncomfortable stew that boiled over last month when star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. got into a fight with rookie receiver Isaiah McKenzie in a Thanksgiving Day practice scuffle that Harris blamed on McKenzie disrespecting the veterans.
Coach Vance Joseph recently implored his established stars to take the raw rookies under their tutelage, but Miller's not so sure his words of wisdom have hit home with those players.
"I don't know. I mean, I don't know," Miller said, adding he only hopes the rookies realize he's speaking the truth.
"And I hope they just appreciate it and over time, if we continue to have that relationship and that dialogue with each other, we'll build on that and our team will be phenomenal, if we could just keep it real."
Miller concurred with Elway calling the team soft last month in the midst of their eight-game slide, their longest losing streak in 50 years.
"That was the team that we had, it was a soft product that we were putting out on the field," Miller said.
"He was brutally honest about it and you can only respect him for that. Individually, not. But as a team and the product that we were putting out there, it was soft."
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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