We’re SOOO not used to this.
As Bronco fans we’re not accustomed to losing like this and playing like the worst or second worst team in the league. Those who have been on the planet significantly longer than I have can probably recall a time when the Broncos were perennial losers, but I can’t. There are many times when it is just painful to watch this year’s team.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) I know how to deal with this since I follow a college team (where I played, which is one of the smallest schools to play FCS football) that has won two D1 games total over the last five years. You deal with it by finding reasons to pay attention. So here are five reasons why you should still be paying attention to the Broncos.
- The QB situation is about as clear as the East River after a rain storm. The QB situation has become a train-wreck, but that doesn’t mean that this is still plenty to learn. Can Trevor Siemian play well enough to tease us yet again into thinking he might turn into a real NFL QB? If he shits the bed in his next start like he did in his last two, do we throw Brock Osweiler back in? If Paxton Lynch is out for the next three games, does he get the final two starts? If he’s out for next four games, do we even bother starting him in the final game of the season? Do we have enough information at this point to call him a bust and essentially move on? Most if not all of these questions will be answered in the next five games.
- The Paxton Problem: If we have determined that he is not capable of being a starting NFL QB, do we try and dump (trade) him on another team? Does he actually have any value? Is he even capable of being a competent BACKUP QB in the NFL? If he is capable of being a competent backup, then he would still be a cheap backup QB who is under contract for both 2018 and 2019. Admittedly he is not as cheap as Trevor, but Trevor is only under contract through 2018. Trevor Siemian will have a cap number $718k next season. While Lynch’s cap number is almost four times that, cutting Lynch does not save any money and would actually hurt us because of the dead money. Even cutting Lynch after June 1st would still cost the team almost Siemian’s entire cap number in dead money ($600k).
- Who wants out and who wants to be back in Denver for 2018? There are rumors flying around that three or four high profile players want out of Denver. Who plays in the remaining five games (and how they play) might tell us everything we need to know about who those three or four high profile guys are. Less playing time for them might lead to more playing time for our young players.
- Do we see more usage and/or development from our young players? Keep in mind the Carlos Henderson, Chad Kelly and Jake Butt are all done for the year. OK, in theory we could bring Butt off the IR, but I doubt that happens. So let’s look at the last two drafts and talk about each player individually for a bit. We’ve already discussed Lynch. Adam Gotsis has turned into an above average run stopper, but he still does not provide any pass rush. IOW, he is no Malik Jackson (at least not yet). Justin Simmons has turned into an above average safety. He still has room to improve, but he could become one of the best in the game. Devontae Booker looks to be a weapon as a receiver, but average to below average as a runner. Connor McGovern remains a mystery. Maybe we see him thrown into the fire in the final five games so that we, the fans, can see if he is a bust or not. If he does not play now that the season is lost, we will be forced to conclude that he is not capable of playing in the NFL for whatever reason. Andy Janovich could be an asset for us on offense, but we have not used him (much like we have not used Jamaal Charles). Will Parks looks like he could still develop into a solid contributor even if he never turns into a starter for us. Riley Dixon is having a down year after playing well last season. Garrett Bolles looks like he might be a fixture for us at LT for the next four seasons. DeMarcus Walker could at least be worked into the lineup to see if he can do anything at his light weight as a pass-rush DE. Brendan Langley has all of the physical tools to be a good NFL corner, but he is very much a novice in terms of technique. Can he learn “on-the-job”? Isaiah McKenzie has made too many phsyical and mental mistakes this season to expect him to see the field much, if at all, in the final five games. DeAngelo Henderson looked good against scrubs in the pre-season, but so far this season he has not seen the field on offense and has not been game day active since week 3 (when Booker got healthy). An additional story line is the potential development/rehabiliation of Cyrus Kouandjio, who we picked off the scrap pile. He was starting to develop into a serviceable LT for the Bills before they let him go.
- Does the team as a whole give up (embrace the tank) or do they continue to play to win in the final five games? Whether you want them to completely tank (lose 12 straight) or win out and finish at 8-8, I’m sure the players, or at least most of them, want to win. If Vance Joseph no longer has the ability to motivate this team, then maybe the assistant coaches will be able to get great effort out of the guys like Henderson, McGovern and Zach Kerr. I could see this team finishing the year 6-10 which would could put the top three QBs in the 2018 draft out of our reach without a trade up. The average draft slot for the first, second and third QBs taken in the NFL draft this century is:
- 1st - 3.2 (highest is 1 - many QBs; lowest is 18th - Chad Pennington)
- 2nd - 13.8 (highest is 2 - many QBs; lowest is 65th - Giovanni Carmazzi)
- 3rd - 16.9 (highest is 8 - Ryan Tannehill; lowest is 75th - Garrett Grayson)
The last time we chose the “3rd best” QB in the draft it turned out poorly for us. Even if we lose out and finish 3-13, the best draft position we will get is 3rd. The Browns are 0-11 and the 49ers are 1-10. I don’t see the Browns winning three of their final five and I don’t see the 49ers winning two of their final five. If we assume that the Browns use the #1 overall pick on a QB, then we might be in a good position to get the second highest rated QB in the draft. The 49ers think that Garapololol is their QB of the future so I doubt they use their #2 pick on a QB. The Giants likely will since they have moved on from Eli Manning. They are currently 2-9. The Colts and the Bears don’t need a QB in the draft. The Jets, who are currently 4-7, could take a QB in the first round. The other teams are 4-7 don’t need a QB (TB, HOU and MIA). So let’s focus on the Giants since they need a QB and they might end up with a higher draft spot than Denver. The Giants have three games that they might be able to win with Geno Smith throwing the ball for them - @Oakland, Dallas and Arizona. The Raiders and the Cowboys have two of the worst pass defenses in the league. Arizona is decent against the pass and good at stopping the run, yet they, like us, are near the bottom of the league in points allowed (26th).