The final game of the Broncos season is unfortunately coming today, and it’s not ending how Broncos Country would have hoped.
But that doesn’t stop the ultimate fans from looking forward to the game, hoping for some great entertainment and being excited about the possibilities for next season.
FrenchFred is the perfect ultimate fan to close us out on the season - as a fan from across the pond, he has to work a little bit harder to follow the team, and that dedication is perhaps what allows him to appreciate this team even more than many living in the heart of Broncos Country.
And before we finish off the final Ultimate Fan Guide of 2017, a huge thank you to French Fred and all of our previous ultimate fans. You have all made the season much more fun than it might have been and also provided a lot of important perspective about why we love the team even on a down year.
Here’s to a great game to finish out 2017 and an even better season in 2018!
Week 17: Chiefs at Broncos
MHR - It has been a disappointing season and now the final game will be against Chiefs’ backups - what outcome are you rooting for?
FrenchFred: A big-time WIN! I always root for a win, and twice as much when we face the Chiefs…I don’t care which position we will draft since it will be the same fun anyway as we will get the exact same number of draft picks in all cases. Somehow, the lower we pick the better as there will be more possible scenarios to imagine.
MHR - After watching Kirk Cousins essentially dismantle the No Fly Zone, what are your thoughts on Cousins possibly being a target for the Broncos?
FrenchFred: I had planned to go on-board if he was able to get 250 yards and a 2-to-1 TD to INT ratio… He did even better and has been very close to being the only 300-yard passer against our passing defense all year long.
I like that he didn’t do anything amazing, took what was there, but still went through his progressions and sometimes hit the big play when available - something we have missed for two years now. Even when wide receivers were open, the QB was missing the read or was checking down to the RB a lot (Oz did that a ton against the Redskins, even when we needed to score a lot of points to come back).
MHR - Paxton Lynch will be starting for the second time this season, hopefully this time getting to play a full game. What do you hope to see and do you think watching him play against No. 2s will be a good enough picture of his ability?
FrenchFred: What I want to see is control of the offense, control of the pocket, going through progressions, even if he is slightly slow to do so. And occasionally hitting big time throws (a game like the one Cousins just had, and it should be possible against mostly backups).
What I expect as a minimum to have hope he can turn his career around:
2 TDs minimum
1 Turnover maximum
Not more than 7 0-yards-per-attempts
Not more than 4 scrambles
Not more than 5 sacks
Those 2s are still NFL players who are very close to seeing the field week in, week out, not like preseason games when many of the players are going to be looking for jobs outside the NFL in a couple weeks. So you can learn some lessons; it's not about the level of competition, it's about how well he processes the field.
MHR - Do you think just having one game to watch Lynch is enough for the Broncos to decide his future on the team?
FrenchFred: It's a bit conflicting, but what I learned throughout my working life is that sometimes you need to take advantage of the one opportunity you have. If Paxton goes on the field thinking he will have another chance, then he is not the QB this team needs. Being an NFL QB is all about the ability to overcome the most adverse situations and getting the job done when you it's a Win-or-Go-Home situation. So I would have liked for him to be forced on the field to have learned through growing pains, but it's not the way chosen by the coaches and GM, so let him have a chance in a Win-or-Go-Home-Search-For-A-New-Job situation.
MHR - C.J. Anderson is now fewer than 60 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season. Do you think he can make it and how many yards do you expect from him this weekend?FrenchFred: Yes, and that is great because he is playing real hard every single game despite fans mostly wanting to part ways with him because of his supposedly high cap for 2018 (not that high compared to his all-purpose yards this year).
I would expect 55-60 yards, then the coaches will play the other younger running backs.
MHR - Losses this season seemed to be a mix of coaching mistakes and poor player performance. Where were the biggest coaching breakdowns versus player execution issues in your mind?
FrenchFred: Well, it's pretty much a conflicting situation, coaches not getting the players to perform to the best of their abilities, and the players putting too much pressure on themselves, leading to even more mistakes with games that mattered more and more.
All was going well, the players were responding right to the coaches until the bye week where all of them seem to become complacent. It led to individual player mistakes and some inability of the coaches to make the necessary adjustments to make the players more comfortable.
But in the meantime, the coaches tried different formulas to make the players rebound (more on that in the next question), but it seems like some crucial players just couldn't get over their own limitations and/or inexperience.
Trevor Siemian couldn't get over his inability to beat a certain coverage, or get to his second read like he did earlier in the year. He was seen as a guy with ice in the veins, but in fact the pressure made him unable to process the field like he showed he can do when he has the right mindset. It's like his own mistake broke him to a degree where he could not be repaired anymore. This has been true to a certain extent to a lot of other players like Brock, Marshall, McManus, Bolles, etc... (still great hopes after a solid first season, better than expected)
MHR - There were several head-scratching decisions this season, such as continuing to give Isaiah McKenzie the ball after multiple screw-ups while benching Jamaal Charles after just one. Is this coaching staff incompetent or just inexperienced?
FrenchFred: This is the type of mistake an experienced coaching staff would not have made. You don't bench the veteran RB after just one fumble despite good production on the field while keeping a serial fumbler out there to lose more games. I would also include Devontae Booker here as he has fumbled a lot this year and has not been benched either.
Now, inexperience and incompetence are often linked so I hope that experience will serve them well. If they don't learn from that big time mistake, they will get fired pretty quickly...
Everyone, even the greatest, make mistakes, but those who succeed are those who learn from them.
MHR - Will a new quarterback solve the Broncos biggest problems next season?
FrenchFred: We have seen throughout the MHR film reviews that the coaches were putting some good scheme and WRs were running wide open at times, but the QBs were missing the read or were missing the throw. I have no doubt after watching Kirk Cousins that a good QB could succeed with the current coaches, especially Bill Musgrave.
The question is: will Paxton give me enough hope he can be that QB? Will Elway go all-in on Cousins? Will Elway surprise me by going another direction (mega trade for Josh Rosen, or selecting Josh Allen in the top 10?)? Another way?
That's the beauty of the offseason - there are tons of possibilities, whatever the outcome of the season.
MHR - There will be a lot of Broncos free agents and/or players who could be cut due to salary cap issues this offseason. Which Broncos do you hope stay on the team for 2018?
FrenchFred: I would go for all the big-time contributors if possible: Aqib Talib, Demaryius Thomas, C.J. Anderson, Shaquil Barrett (to take the opposite side of Von).
Even if we get Cousins, I would like to keep those who have been really doing great despite being put in bad situation. In this case, I would hope the FO will get the necessary money by cutting other players who have not been that productive this year, e.g. Derek Wolfe (through retirement to avoid a major injury, I like his play, but it's too dangerous for his future to continue like that), maybe Emmanuel Sanders, but if there is a way to keep him... All other dead weights have to go, and that include Paxton through a very low trade if he fails to impress me at all next game.
MHR - Assigning blame for this season is a ‘20/20 hindsight’ exercise, but if you were John Elway how would you evaluate the season?
FrenchFred: Well, it all goes hand in hand. That's the reason it was so disappointing to watch the Broncos this year. The QB just made all issues more visible. With a competent QB (or one who would have replaced Trevor more efficiently), we would have had a meaningful game against the Chiefs, all coaches would be praised (or, at worst, just questioned instead of currently being trashed daily), and the FO would still look like geniuses.
Unfortunately, the QB play regressed suddenly, the defense never played to its strength (with a lead) and special teams began to feel the high pressure to not screw up and then completely failed. The coaches had then to fix a different unit every game (one time the offense, another time the special teams, rarely, but occasionally, the defense).
The FO failed to get a palliative solution through a trade as it probably hoped Paxton would be ready sooner and would get a lot of playing time to get some much-needed live experience. Everything that could go wrong, went effectively wrong for this team, and it was hard to get out of that negative spiral. Though I still think it was right to get Bill Musgrave as OC.
All in all, if I had to put a percentage of the blame to each unit, it would be: QB 40%; Coaches 30%; OL 10%; ST 10%; FO 10%
MHR - So give us your priority list (in order) of things you would fix in the offseason on this team via free agency, draft, firings/hirings, etc.?
FrenchFred: That's a tricky question for me because I would love to see Paxton light it up during the last game and show some real promises that he can be a competent QB. But I have my doubts it will go that way.
So then I would love to get the steal of the draft at QB (maybe Josh Allen in the 2nd round) despite our current position and then find a gem at LT/RT (depending if we move Bolles to RT or not). That's like a one chance in a million, so it is not quite a realistic approach at the moment.
My third option, which is the one everyone at MHR preaches, is for Elway to sign Kirk Cousins, and live to his reputation of being a great FA acquisition manager. That would allow the Broncos to draft a stud LT/RT in the first round for the draft, get a stud guard later and get back into contention as soon as next year, depending on what we lose by acquiring Cousins.
My fourth option, which will not be very popular, would be to acquire Blake Bortles from the Jaguars through a reasonable trade after he has a good (not great) game in the playoffs but the Jaguars lose. Somehow it would allow us to get a much cheaper QB, keep all our good players, and go in the draft to acquire that stud LT/RT in the first round and get a stud guard later...
I don't see another viable option to get back into contention in one offseason.
MHR - It’s easy to get down on this season, but let’s end on a high note - what were some of the highlights this season for you?
FrenchFred: Not in order, I would say:
C.J. was a highlight in a very difficult season for the offense and not so many carries as other good backs got around the league.
The defense playing lights out most of the season despite very difficult field positions to defend.
The run defense improving that much from a previous year that was not good.
Bolles being better than expected despite his struggles lately.
Gotsis being very good.
The run offense having a much better year despite some injuries.
All in all, the 2016 weaknesses got taken care of but other weaknesses unfortunately appeared.
MHR - As a Broncos fan in Europe, how would you compare the NFL and more specifically the Denver Broncos to your futbol team of choice? Are there things our American sports franchises could learn from European ones?
FrenchFred: There are no comparisons. First off, I am a fan of Olympique de Marseille, which won a lot in the late 80s, and was the best European team with AC Milan at the time but has done almost nothing since a cheating scandal in 1993 (got relegated to the lowest professional level).
The games are too different to make a correlation and nowadays soccer is less and less appealing as only the richer can do something at the European level. I like the cap imposed in the NFL just for the thrill of being able to create a dominant team in just a few years if you are good at drafting and managing free agency.
Franchises are built differently because of the uniqueness of the closed market in the NFL.
More technically, the issue with the NFL is that the game is played in phases compared to soccer and rugby that are more dynamic and where the transition between attacking and defending is instantaneous.
So if the NFL could learn something, it would be mainly around the idea of shortening the game while increasing the show. If I had specific decisions to make, I would:
Eliminate the kickoff completely, there are so few taken out of the end-zone and not many goes farther than the 30 yard line. The new rules implemented have only decreased the interest of the kickoff. The play is most often not getting any interesting result, while lasting only a few seconds, and it seems like it takes forever to get the next snap...
Erase the extra point as it is now and make it a normal pass/run play from the three-yard line.
Stop the clock after any play (out of bounds runs, incomplete pass, but also normal run play and pass play), but only for 10-15 seconds (to be researched more in detail by the NFL), like that offenses would get back to play much faster and the last 4 minutes of a game might not take 30 real time minutes... The only play were I would allow a complete stoppage of time would be to "spike" the ball. It would also make for more interesting endings as the kneel down would have less time taken off the clock.
Exclude temporarily (e.g. 5 minutes of actual game time) a player who commits dangerous infraction like a facemask or diving at the QB’s knees deliberately as players should be able to avoid those vicious hits (taken from handball, rugby and hockey).
If I were a football HC, I would invite real rugby coaches to teach how to tackle properly without putting yourself in danger...so many players are going head first to make a tackle.
As discussed in detail already, I would simplify the catch rule and especially the notion of control of the ball in order to make it clearer to the viewers and even commentators. As I don't think the current wording is getting results in adequation with the viewers wishes.
Stats for Paxton Lynch? 200 yards at 6 zero-yard attempts, and a 1:1 TD to Turnover ratio
Stats for each Broncos RB? 1 TD, 55 yards for CJ, 40 yards for Booker and 25 yards for the third back
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each Broncos receiver? 1 TD for DT
Longest FG for McManus? 42 yards
Number of sacks to Lynch? 6
Number of sacks to Mahomes? 3 sacks, we are quite disappointing this year in this department
Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall
Broncos player with the most penalties? Lynch, 3 delays of game
How many holding penalties Garett Bolles Sunday? 2, including two ticky-tack penalties, some of the sort that never get called against the tackle facing Von Miller.
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1 INT, 2 FF and 2 FR
Next playoff-bound season for the Broncos? You mean "SB-bound season?" 2018
Final Score? 23-21 for the Broncos
Favorite Broncos game EVER? SB 50
Team you hate to lose to the most? Chiefs because of their trolls from the previous years
Team you love to beat? Every single team
Favorite play this season? I don't have any I remember as a favorite play, so I'll cheat a bit and say Von Miller strip sack in SB50.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Von Miller. I got his jersey his rookie year, and he hasn't disappointed me as he is behaving really well and performing even better whatever the situation of the team... I hope he will stay a Bronco for all of his career.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? I have to go with Von Elway or John Miller, yes I can cheat the question again.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Sloter !!! Nah, I'm kidding, just a little LLV bait...I'll go with $wag!!! (*editor’s note: lol)
Superstitions on game day? None at all, I don't believe in superstitions in the least.
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Most of them are just making stupid comments anyway.
Favorite sports cliche? "The best defense is the attack" - a soccer cliché
Favorite sports movie? Any Given Sunday
How did you become a Broncos fan?
The whole story is that I became a fan of the Broncos thanks to my dad. He liked "American football" for the show it is, despite it being almost impossible to get much information on or watch many games. In the early 80s, there was no Internet and only a few channels available to watch it in France.
Despite that, he founded with three other police colleagues an "American football" club close to Paris (France) called the "Dog" of Suresnes (headquarters was my father's house). It only lasted a few years, but during that time, I got offered that complete NFL outfit. That's exactly when I became a fan, despite not being able to watch a Broncos game until the 2000s.
I rediscovered the Broncos when Internet and TV channels began more and more to make games available for me to watch (thank you, NFL for creating NFL Game Pass and having it available in Europe).
And to complete the story, for Christmas some years ago, when visiting my sister working in Boston, I offered my Dad a ticket to watch a live NFL game (a great Patriots vs Dolphins game in freezing weather).
Now I hope I will be able to watch a Broncos game live in the future!
Sometimes a picture tells the story more than words:
Favorite sports cliché?
This poll is closed
The best offense is a good defense
Defense wins championships
It was a good team win
Everyone in this league is a professional.
Hats off to [rival team]. They played a great game.
It’s a tale of two halves.