"I'm not afraid of being outcoached as much as I am of being outknowledged," Ralston says. "You've got to learn your own players first, and that may take two years. Then you've got to know the personnel of the other 25 teams. That's why I haven't been in any hurry to make a lot of trades. It is really suicidal to try horse trading when you don't know the horses."
Apart from Costa, the only major trade Ralston completed was the one with Houston's Bill Peterson, the NFL's other rookie ex-college coach, for Johnson. Remarkably, the deal cost Ralston only a draft choice.
Quarterbacking is an enduring historical problem—19 have played the position for the Broncos—but in light of last week's performances Ralston sees a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. "I'm a great one for goal-setting," he says, "and I don't think you'd ever set a goal for a pro team that did not include making the playoffs. I think that would take a 10-4 record. It might seem unrealistic, but we feel it's within our grasp if we work. Anything less, saying we'll do it in three years or so, is unfair to our older players."
Another Bronco solidly in Ralston's corner is Jim Turner, the field-goal kicker of the Super Bowl Jets who was traded by Weeb Ewbank after the 1970 season. "He will be successful," says Turner, who played for Ralston at Utah State. "I think John's biggest challenge right now is to learn the mood of the professional athlete. If he can do that, then half the battle is won, because pro and college athletes aren't in the same ball park. I can understand some of the resentment. I guess I'd feel the same way if anyone started telling me how to kick, but a lot of pro vets will look at a college coach and not give him the benefit of the doubt. If they'll look at the coach as a coach, these meticulous things won't matter."
In which regard the Broncos might remember their history and consider the words of Roger Cowan, a Stanford defensive lineman who was watching their workout during the week. Asked if he had enjoyed playing for Ralston, Cowan replied, "Man, I loved the guy. We won it, didn't we?"