Bring it in, Bronco’s fans. I’m here to give you a big bear hug. To talk you off the ledge. It has been a miserable few weeks watching the boys in white and orange, yes. But this isn’t the end of all things for the Broncos, just the true end of an era.
How did we get here? Two years ago, the Broncos were Super Bowl champs, showcasing an elite defense and a slightly efficient offense that did just enough scoring while not turning the ball over. I want to examine what has happened in the time in between, and also address some of the comments that I’ve seen and heard from fans, and determine if those are true or merely overreactions. So take a deep breath, maybe put on some Stranger Things or Sunday Night Football while muting Chris Collinsworth. It’s going to be ok!
Fan Comment #1: Vance Joseph should be fired.
I’ve seen this a lot. Besides the QB, the coach always gets the blame when the team is playing poorly. Let me start this section by saying Joseph hasn’t done much to impress anyone. Today, he said in his postgame interview the Broncos had a good week of practice. That’s terrific Vance. How does that have any relevance in a game where the other team scored 51 points against you? It would be like a terrible husband saying he used to be a really great guy until he got married. I understand you have to be positive, even in defeat, but the coach speak that never changes week to week grows old to fans, and worse, it starts to mean nothing to the players. “We have to play better”. Powerful stuff. Still, it’s early in the season, and in my totally subjective opinion, barring total disaster, it’s silly to fire a coach without giving him at least a year and a half on the job. Last year towards the end of the season, people were wanting Gary Kubiak to be fired. Kubes doesn’t look so bad now.
Verdict: Overreaction for now
Fan Comment #2: The Broncos need a new QB.
Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler have underperformed (to put it kindly) at the NFL’s most important position. Osweiler has been thought of as only a backup QB since he returned to Denver after a disastrous season as a starter in Houston. Siemian, to me, is a perfect example of how bad this team’s transition plan was after Peyton Manning retired. Similar to my stance on coaches, I believe you have to give a guy time to determine whether or not he can be a legitimate starter. That time has come and gone for Siemian. Last year against the Bengals and this year against the Cowboys are the only really great games I remember him playing. A seventh-round pick, Siemian simply does not have the physical or mental tools to be successful at the NFL level. He continually makes the wrong
Similar to my stance on coaches, I believe you have to give a guy time to determine whether or not he can be a legitimate starter. That time has come and gone for Siemian. Last year against the Bengals and this year against the Cowboys are the only really great games I remember him playing. A seventh-round pick, Siemian simply does not have the physical or mental tools to be successful at the NFL level. He continually makes the wrong reads, and has a penchant for drifting backward instead of stepping up in the pocket. I know the offensive line is atrocious, and it’s been an issue for several seasons. But the reality is that even with a great offensive line, Siemian’s ceiling is very low.
And what of Paxton Lynch? The guy couldn’t beat out Siemian and looked like a slower version of Tim Tebow in the preseason. He looks like another QB drafted by Elway on his way to being a bust.
Now that Jimmy Garrapolo is in San Francisco, I’m hoping Denver opens up the checkbook and pays Kirk Cousins. Or maybe they trade for Alex Smith, who at least has the mobility to survive behind a bad offensive line in Denver. At this point, I would say the QB of the future isn’t on the roster. But I don’t see Denver getting a high enough draft pick for a college star QB. And at this point, I don’t trust Elway to evaluate that position. Which feels strange to say.
Fan Comment #3: The defense is still elite.
This is a tough one, especially after today’s game. Every defense has a bad game, and certainly, this defense has been carrying the load ever since the Super Bowl team two years ago. But even the staunchest lover of Von Miller and company have to be concerned when comparing this team to the past defenses. There have been few turnovers, and the energy seems to be missing. Again, the offense leaving them out there and putting them in bad spots over and over again is clearly taking
There have been few turnovers, and the energy seems to be missing. Again, the offense leaving them out there and putting them in bad spots over and over again is clearly taking its toll. But there is just too much inconsistency week to week. They shut down Ezekiel Elliot and Melvin Gordon, then get burned by the Eagles and Giants running games. Even Aquib Talib, maybe the most demonstrative member of the No Fly Zone, had a penalty followed by a bad read on an option pass that led to a TD. Darrian Stewart has frequently been out of position or just beat by the speed while covering WRs and TEs from San Diego and Kansas City.
In the last two seasons, the Broncos have seen many great players depart, whether via FA, retirement or by releasing a player. This happens to every team, but Denver hasn’t replaced that talent effectively. Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, Demarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Vance Walker are all gone. Shane Ray, Brandon Marshall, Adam Gotsis, and Justin Simmons have tried to fill those players place, but it just doesn’t feel like the swagger is there this year. This defense reminds me of the Seahawks, who had an elite defense for a few years but have since been in a slow decline.
All in all, the Broncos still have some great players on defense, but teams are finding ways to beat those single players while going after weaker links. Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. are some of the best players at their positions, but Von is getting doubled and chipped frequently, while Chris Harris Jr. has had some trouble with crossing patterns made possible by rub routes or lack of a pass rush by Denver. So while this defense is still good, the lack of turnovers and total talent across the board makes me believe they are not elite anymore. If only they weren’t on the field so much. Three years has taken a toll.
Fan Comment #4: John Elway is a terrible GM.
I’ve heard this more from beat writers than fans, but I believe this is a largely unspoken issue with the Bronco’s struggles. John Elway is a legend in the Mile High City. He is easily the most successful professional athlete there ever was here. But let’s look at his draft record over the years. There have been some good ones for sure, like current contributors Derek Wolfe and Justin Simmons, who has nicely replaced T.J. Ward as a starter in the No Fly Zone. Matt Paradis, Riley Dixon, and Shane Ray all look as though they can have solid NFL careers. The duds are bad. Two bad QB’s, whose only attribute seems to be being tall. Cody Latimer, Adam Gotsis, Ronnie Hillman, Ty Sambrailo, and Michael Schofield are some of the misses. Elway is best at getting elite FA’s to sign with Denver in the offseason. Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Aquib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware were huge splashes and factored heavily into Denver was so successful for four seasons. The biggest FA signing in the last two seasons? Ronald Leary.
Elway was largely responsible for helping bring a third championship to Denver, but the last two seasons he has evaluated offensive positions poorly in the draft, leading to a terrible offense that is almost unwatchable. Fans have a short memory and even Elway isn’t immune to criticism. Still, I believe that Elway has the power to lure more free agents to Denver, and if he can get another big time QB and shore up the offensive line, the Broncos will compete in the AFC West for a playoff berth.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Don’t panic, Bronco fans. This is a rough patch for sure, as we are in the post-Manning era. Hopefully, Elway can get us some help in the offseason, but a weaker 2nd half schedule should see some wins for the good guys.