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The enigma of the Broncos coaching and front office

Questions abound about the Denver Broncos’ coaching staff and front office. Let’s have a little No Bull discussion on the subject.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Several community members have recently taken the time to ask me both in the comment section and via email about doing a No Bull review on our coaching staff and front office

The idea has been churning around in my head for a few weeks honestly and while I doubt what I have is exactly what you want to hear, I do have some thoughts to share that I think are worth considering.

Baseline caveats

I think it is important for a discussion piece like this to set some boundaries lest the knee-jerk reactions of the community take the context into corners it isn’t meant to be in.

First off, let me say that trying to “review” coaches and front office executives is an exercise in futility. These aren’t football players that we have tape on and can easily review their decisions to see how good they are. Part of the business of working in the front office and coaching staffs on a football team is secrecy. Transparency isn’t something you can get and that makes everything we want to discuss supposition and opinion. Add to that that many of these coaches have very short resumes including a very green head coach in Vance Joseph. It makes it pretty hard to really feel like anyone has a serious pulse of the team in these arenas.

So sure, it is the offseason and it is slow, so let’s discuss the different aspects of the front office and coaches. But let’s not take ourselves too seriously. We aren’t in the war room with the executives and coaches during draft day or during the season.

That being said, I’ll tell you how I see it and share the questions and observations I’ve got on the subject and you can all hit up the comment section below to add in your two cents. Maybe all of us can learn something from it or something to look at as the season progresses.

Front Office

Let’s start with the top: John Elway is the beginning and end of anything you want to question about what the front office does for the Denver Broncos. Sure, Joe Ellis heads the business end of things, but nothing surprising or odd has been going on with how the Broncos have been approaching the business side of their operations. They still spend plenty of money on the players and in general seem more interested in building the team than they are in tearing it down to save money and starting over.

Now, let’s set that aside and talk for a moment about what is worrisome about Elway’s Broncos. The core issue you can say the Broncos have been having that is they have been honestly sucking at drafting talented players.

And don’t let the press conference speech throw you off. John Elway can talk about swinging and missing all he wants. His track record isn’t good in this arena as I mentioned in this article.

The team needs talent and at some point, that talent needs to start coming more and more from the draft instead of Elway churning higher priced free agents to get talent answers.

Gary Kubiak is supposedly here to help in this area and if you look at his record dating back to the Texans does have sprinkles of good NFL talent throughout.

But what about Kubiak’s time with the Broncos as their Head Coach? He was in the room in some of the recent drafts after all including 2015’s abomination of a draft by the Broncos. I’d love to know what it is about Kubiak today that is going to add to the Broncos in 2018 that he wasn’t able to add in 2015. Did Elway just not let him have a say? Who knows.

The Scouting department needs some scrutiny

I do think one area that could use some churn is the scouting department of the Broncos. At the end of the day, Elway can’t scout everyone himself. He needs info to base his decisions on and even if you think Elway is working 100 hour weeks this time of year to get the right guys, that’s just not enough time to collect all the data needed on players and form a serious big board with which to work off of (also let’s be real...no way is Elway working that hard...that’s what he has Scouts for).

It isn’t all bad as I’d honestly love to shower some love on the guys that keep finding undrafted talent like Chris Harris, Jr., C.J. Anderson, etc for the team. Whoever the Broncos have looking for diamonds in the rough in the small schools are absolute wizards and deserve raises.

The flip side of that is that anyone wanting to find a reason to cry can take a peek back at the past five years or so of the first 2 rounds and see the players this team passed up to draft some really under-performing prospects. Paxton Lynch is probably the biggest name that comes to mind in this arena. It was a big-time swing and a big-time miss for us to trade up and get a guy that doesn’t have what it takes to cut it on the NFL stage.

We should expect a lot of growth from the Head Coach in 2018

I hear those of you who pile on Vance Joseph for the inept year we had in 2017. I think the scrutiny is fair. It doesn’t change reality though. In reality, Vance didn’t know what he was getting into when he stepped into the head coaching role. He at least is saying things when asked the tough questions that seem to me to be honest and insightful.

He needs to manage the coordinators more.

He needs to hold those coordinators more accountable and be able to change their direction if he doesn’t agree with what they are doing.

Keep in mind that the team hired Mike McCoy without Vance being in on the hiring decision. I honestly don’t know how anyone expected that to work well.

Also, I’m pointing to Vance more than Woods about the Broncos dip in production defensively early in the season last year as they really tried to work more zone concepts into their defensive play calling. Again, that’s just my gut speaking with no real solid evidence to back it up, but I don’t think it is likely that a coach like Woods who has known this personnel as long as he has would be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

I think the best thing that Vance could do this year is getting the coordinators and coaching staff all on the same page as far as what the philosophy of Broncos football is.

If Bill Musgrave is going to design an offense for the team, spell it out and get everyone on board with what it means and how the coaches are going to approach making it work.

If Joe Woods is going to get the vaunted Bronco defense back to greatness, the same thing applies.

One important last “if”

If you are a person like me, you like to read between the lines and find meaning that isn’t being necessarily talked about. I spoke about it in the article I did at the end of the 2017 season about lessons the Broncos need to learn (same as the one linked above). It seems from the outside like Elway is affecting far too many of the coaching decisions including play time for players and how they are used (Shane Ray inexplicably getting starts over Shaquil Barrett who in every way outplayed Ray in 2017). That has to stop and as silly as it sounds, Vance Joseph is the guy that needs to carry that torch. Sure, Elway is the higher guy on the totem pole, but if Joseph is going to succeed, he needs to tell Elway that Elway’s voice will always be appreciated and listened to, but when it comes to on the field decisions, that’s Joseph’s arena.

Give the coaches an honest shot this year

The team was a hot mess for whatever reason last season. They have a slew of young coaches and coordinators that are tasked with turning it around in 2018 and I have to think they can do that. Cheer them on as we move into the season. If we have another 5 win season, lay it on thick when you ask for Joseph’s head on a pike. But until that happens, take a step back and look at the mess the Broncos have been in since their magical 2015 season. They have a lot of work to do and a great opportunity with some really potent draft capital to take steps towards getting us back in the hunt.

Hit up the comments and let me know your two cents on any of the above? Are the Broncos wasting time with their young Head Coach? How close is Elway to really being discussed as a potential firing for the team in order for them to get right?