As we look forward to today’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the aftermath of the Chargers game is prominent in my mind. From what I saw, fan reactions to the win tended to fall into two camps: those who focused on celebrating the win for its own sake and those who focused more on the way it impacted the Broncos’ draft position.
Neither perspective is necessarily wrong. Let’s make that clear from the outset: you be a fan your way. I’m certainly not in the business of trying to tell anyone what a “true fan” of the Denver Broncos should think or consider most important. But I do want to make the case for winning in 2018.
It’s good for the Broncos as a team & as an organization.
This is, by far, the most important reason on the list. Obviously, a win like that one is great for the locker room after a season and a half of major struggle. But it also goes way beyond that.
The Bowlen-era Broncos have built an incredible winning tradition and have plenty to show for it. The team & organizational culture that helped make that possible is extremely important, and so maintaining it is important as well. A win like the one we just enjoyed over the Chargers is an shot in the arm for that in the midst of a series of seasons lost to quarterback limbo, and one the team badly needed.
The very worst thing that could happen to the Broncos right now is the loss of that winning culture. And that’s a very real danger for a team facing a multitude of issues including a QB carousel, a head coach who’s in over his head, an owner whose declining health has incapacitated him, an increasingly nasty succession battle between various heirs, and a potentially unreliable group of trustees steering the whole ship.
Cleveland was once home to the greatest NFL dynasty, but as the tides of ownership shifted and the losses piled up amidst the chaos, the Browns ended up becoming the joke they’ve been for the last couple of decades. They may finally be pulling out of that rut, but they still serve as an excellent example of why the Broncos should strive to avoid that fate at all costs.
There’s too little to gain by losing.
Frankly, tanking isn’t worth it this year. There’s a pretty bad QB class arriving in the 2019 NFL Draft and the Giants, Jaguars, and potentially even the Raiders will all be in line ahead of us for the cream of that sub-par QB crop. So why even get worked up about a 5 spot swing in draft position when the most critical roster problem most likely isn’t solvable by that route anyway? If the Broncos pick in the middle of the 1st round in 2019, there’ll be a quality player there at CB, OT, or D-line. Go ahead and grab a QB on day 2 if you must (hopefully to appease a new head coach) and go into the draft seeking moves to maximize the team’s opportunity to fix the QB spot in the far better 2020 QB class.
The 2018 draft class is rocking and rolling, with major contributions from players found throughout the draft and beyond. It might not be so bad if the 2019 draft is part 2 of the process of readying the team to help a young QB find early success the next year.
It makes the team more attractive to new head coaches.
I tend to think that there’s little Vance Joseph can do at this point to save his job, even if the team starts winning. He’s too often been the reason they lost.
So if the Broncos will be looking to hire a new head coach next offseason, wins are a good thing. They’ll make the team more attractive and will showcase the talent and potential of the roster. John Harbaugh is a name that’s been tossed around a lot lately- is he more likely to sign with a Denver team that played hard, competitive football with the NFL’s best and then never gave up? Or with a Denver team that played that hard, competitive football... and then rolled over and surrendered to the idea of losing when those games didn’t go their way?
When the Broncos hired Vance Joseph, they were by far the most attractive team to potential head coaches by virtue of having a stacked roster and a Lombardi trophy that had barely had any time to collect dust. But that’s not exactly the case anymore.
Now the Cleveland Browns will be looking to hire, having seemingly finally found the franchise QB they’ve been so desperate for. The same could be said of the New York Jets, and the Baltimore Ravens will be an intriguing option as well. Heck, the Green Bay Packers could end up looking for a new coach to pair with Aaron Rodgers. That’s hard to compete with!
If the Broncos want to land a John Harbaugh, they need to sell themselves a bit. They need to notch a couple impressive wins on the resume to show what this team is capable of with the right coach and the right QB. The Chargers were one. The Steelers could be another.
The draft is no sure thing anyway.
A top 5 overall pick is certainly a nice thing to have. But while you sometimes land Bradley Chubb, you also sometimes land Dante Fowler. The same can be said anywhere in the draft, and in the days that follow it (Hi, Phillip Lindsay!). If the Broncos were to value draft position over wins and then drafted a major bust... well, it doesn’t get much more pathetic than that. Go for the wins and take them when you can- they’ll be there forever.
Then trust the GM to make the moves necessary- John Elway isn’t dumb. He’s seen what draft maneuvering by teams like the Eagles, Rams, Chiefs, & Bears has resulted in. And he’s already shown his willingness to make a big, splashy move to land the right player when the time is right. Bold moves can overcome all sorts of draft position challenges.
Not everyone is going to agree with my take on this, and that’s fine. But give me the wins every time. They’re more fun.