It has been a quiet couple of weeks on the No Bull front and I’ve been trying to put some thought into what is the bigger picture problem that the Broncos have. That’s led to an awful lot of looking back to see where we came from and what the team has done to improve when things have been bad in the past.
Let me preface this by saying that for whatever reason, I’m not feeling my normal levels of “rah rah, Go Broncos” that I have in the past. Fans of other teams have even told me something to the effect of “welcome to what normal feels like.” I like to paint happy trees (RIP Bob Ross) for our fan base and try to focus on the positives. I especially like to do this when I talk big picture instead of just reviewing one game at a time.
That’s not where we are as a team though...I can mathematically tell you that we aren’t eliminated from the playoffs. But my eyes tell me this season is over and has been for a few weeks.
But enough bemoaning the season we are in...let’s talk about the situation for the team and what needs to change...
Problem #1: We don’t have a sound quarterback on the team
You don’t have to have a good QB to have success in the NFL...not in the short term. Ask our players who won a ring in 2015. Peyton Manning was very much not a good quarterback that season...and pound sand with the talk of how he “raised all boats” and “got us into the right play.” We won that Superbowl in spite of his play, not because of it.
Honestly, to get to the root of the problem, we have to climb up above the normal team functions a bit and look at the General Manager of the team: John Elway.
When he came on the scene, Tebowmania was gaining steam behind Kyle Orton, who wasn’t an answer to any question about long-term starting NFL quarterbacks. So Elways’ first order of business was to find a legit option. Lucky for his job security and for us as fans, Peyton Manning became a real possibility and Elway masterfully got Manning signed.
The problem with the QB position started in 2014. Manning’s body started giving out and he lost a heck of a lot of his already somewhat limited arm. The last half of that season Manning just didn’t look like Manning anymore. I’d hesitate to say we only saw glimpses of the real Manning in the 2015 game against Green Bay...maybe a flash here or there to go with it.
But the choices Elway made for the future of the team led us down the path of Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, and Paxton Lynch.
Brock Osweiler is a backup quality NFL player.
Trevor Siemian is a real estate agent masquerading as a NFL player.
Paxton Lynch is a lottery winning kid who likes video games.
By my count, that’s three swings and three very big misses.
And now here we are in 2018 halfway into a lost season where the team decided a wily veteran like Manning is the right answer. The team sung Case Keenum’s praises all off season long. It is so good to have a guy at QB who “gets it.”
The problem is that the cake is a lie. We all wanted Keenum from 2017 to be at least 75% of what Keenum in 2018 would look like, but that’s just not who he is as a QB. We’re back to having Kyle Orton at the helm of the team and even our lingering hope for Chad Kelly went up in smoke.
Solution #1: Get a Quarterback
I know this sounds crazy, but let’s just put the focus right where it needs to be: if you want long-term success in the NFL, you have to have a QB. Teams are pulling in young guys all over the place and grooming into NFL weapons. It is happening in Philly. It is happening in Kansas City. It is happening in frigging Cleveland for crying out loud.
John Elway needs to stop giving excuses about how hard it is to find a QB. They are out there. You just need to be willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Most of the young guys that are the new news in the NFL were picked by big time trades happening. Selling future 1st round picks to make some noise needs to not only be an option on the table, but a significant option as far as the future strategy for this team goes.
But there’s another problem that needs to be solved in this equation as well...
Problem #2: We don’t have a sound coaching staff
Again, let’s angle back to the guy calling the shots: John Elway. It is very important to realize that this coaching staff who couldn’t coach their way out of a junior varsity high school game is the result of John wanting to go cheap.
From what I have seen in the past couple of years, when Gary Kubiak wasn’t working out, Elway figured it was time to bring in some young, cheap options for our coaching staff with a nice big sprinkle of nepotism. Instead of Wade Phillips, we have Joe Woods. Instead of Kyle Shannahan, we have Vance Joseph.
The thought process seems to me to be that the Broncos had in place a core team of talent that could carry a young coaching staff through their first couple of years and keep things competitive. The defensive talent alone was so good that surely the team would be at worst 8-8, right?
The problem is that that’s not how the NFL works. Yes, young coaches can come in and have vast success. But they don’t do it by coming in and being “old school” in their mannerisms and thinking. Sean McVay isn’t the talk of the NFL because he decided to get great talent on the team and just keep using the same offense that Jeff Fisher was running.
With coaching staffs you either need a veteran coaching staff with sound systems that they are able to still adjust and modify with ease or you need invigorated coaching staffs that are innovative and dedicated to making something new and effective.
None of the past 3 coaching staffs that Elway has hired fits that bill outside of the microcosm of Wade Phillips’ defense in 2014 and 2015.
Solution #2: Blow up this coaching staff and start over
Don’t get me wrong here...I am a big fan of continuity for NFL teams from a coaching staff perspective. But the Broncos have the wrong kind of continuity going on. They leaned on Manning’s system to turn into a powerhouse offense and make up for the shortcomings of Mike McCoy and Adam Gase. They leaned on Wade Philips to get their 3rd Super Bowl championship. They are now leaning on depth coaches from the Kubiak tree and a young guy from the Philips tree to try and make a successful coaching staff.
All of them are too green (outside of Bill Kollar who is amazing). One of the lessons I’ve learned in life is to judge things by the fruit that they bear. The fruit of this coaching staff is putrid. We’re going on 2 years of soggy, nasty underwear stank up in here.
There is no future of this team that is going in the right direction that includes Vance Joseph as a head coach. I’m honestly a little puzzled that he survived the bye week.
Problem #3: This team needs accountability, integrity, and leadership
There are players and even coaches on this team that have these three things in spades, but that’s not what I’m talking about. One of the biggest things that this Broncos team lacks is top-down quality that comes from every level of the employees being held to the Broncos standard.
This is likely a failing of winning Super Bowl 50 in all honesty. The GM, front office, coaching staff, and players all got complacent. The standard wasn’t being still looked at. And now they have fallen into a hole.
Of the 3 big problems I see here, this is the one that I think turns around with just a little spark. The foundation of the team is its players and I can not say enough that this season I’ve really appreciated how hard they have tried. The games we lose are close because of the effort that a lot of the players are giving and I honestly feel they are trying to hold each other accountable to the best of their ability. Guys like Chris Harris, Jr., Derek Wolfe, Von Miller, Case Keenum, and Domata Peko are all talking the talk and walking the walk.
But they can’t overcome the lack of accountability that comes from higher up the ladder. Bad coaching is just allowed to happen. Poor personnel decisions are treated as no big deal. John Elway is likely not on the hook for a lot of the problems he’s caused because he can easily point to this year’s draft success.
Solution #3: Rededicate yourself to excellence
The egos need to go. Vance Joseph and his acting like he’s a big dawg is a frigging joke. He’s still chirping about nonsense with the latest being that the Broncos need to start faster. Shout out to Tim for pointing out right away that the Broncos actually are #2 in the NFL in 1st quarter scoring.
John Elway needs to get out of his own way and get a coaching staff here that is dedicated to winning. Elway needs to focus on the personnel and keep his meddling out of the game day decisions. He should also think really long and hard about letting the new Head Coach or Offensive Coordinator head up the QB selection process.
But behind all these little things is deciding that the Broncos Standard that Pat Bowlen put in place for decades is front and center. Pat isn’t in a place where he can hold people accountable and if the Broncos don’t start doing that the right way (the Pat Bowlen way), then this team has a lot of bad football ahead of it in the coming years.