For my regular readers, let me extend some apologies for the lack of my normal game review this week. Frankly, I was appalled by what I witnessed on Thursday night, and I honestly don’t care to revisit the game in any serious depth.
Instead, I’m going to pan the camera back a bit and talk big picture with Broncos Country. How bad is this loss? How bad is this team honestly? What are the real problems plaguing the Denver Broncos and keeping them from being relevant?
I’ve always been a fan first in my writing and that won’t really change moving forward, but I feel like I’m waking up to reality...and it is a cold, ugly place.
How bad was this loss?
For most NFL teams, a loss like this even taking us to 2-5 wouldn’t be a big deal. It is just one game after all. There’s a lot of football left to be played. Just shake it off and move on to next week.
But the Broncos aren’t a normal NFL team.
This loss was the end of the 2019 season. It will likely spell the end of Emmanuel Sanders and possibly Chris Harris, Jr and Derek Wolfe in Denver (that is if John Elway is going to start doing the right thing at any point this season). The Broncos aren’t a playoff team. They don’t have an answer at QB (unless you like having a QB like Flacco that just mails it in instead of trying to win a game - like we saw Thursday night).
How bad is this team honestly?
I don’t think either side of the ball is that far off from being competitive honestly. I do think Denver has some holes on both sides, though, and they will need a solid offseason to plug them.
On defense, the Broncos lack answers at cornerback in a really bad way. That will get worse in the offseason as CHJ takes his leave (because I think he’s got maybe a 5 percent chance at best of re-signing here). They are going to need some depth at DL and hopefully upgrades or depth at ILB.
If you are keeping score at home, that means we are pretty set in my mind at the OLB and safety positions and at least have starting quality players across the defensive line and at ILB (thank you Mike Purcell and Alexander Johnson).
On offense, the Broncos have some very real holes on the offensive line at both tackle positions (until Ja’Waun James proves he can handle it and stay healthy) and at right guard. I’d add that I’m not in love with Connor McGovern at center. He may be better kicked out as a guard.
The other very VERY big problem for the Broncos is that they have no answer at QB. Joe Flacco has been promising this season, but in a game that the Broncos needed to win in order to have a serious shot at doing something this season, his game shrank tenfold as the threw opportunities away, failed to try to adjust the offense to slow down the blitz, and ran himself into sack after sack.
Add to that that the Denver Broncos have no serious idea how good or bad Drew Lock is and you have about the equivalent situation that the Broncos have been in for the past two years at the QB position. Until an answer is found at QB, the offense is going to be a weakness for this team.
So what is the real problem?
The real problem for the Denver Broncos is that Joe Ellis and John Elway are pretenders trumpeting the “Bowlen Standard” but not actually living up to it.
I was as excited as anyone about John Elway getting involved with the team when he did. I loved him hiring John Fox, finding a way out from under Tim Tebow, getting Peyton Manning to sign with us, and forging a defense for the ages to take us back to the Promised Land in Super Bowl 50.
But that was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
And this team has been swirling into the toilet over the past few years at an alarming rate.
Was it the weaknesses at QB? Was it the changes at coaching? Has the team just lacked players who can live up to the NFL standard?
Yes to all of that.
And yes to trying constantly to make early-round draft picks turn into NFL players when they are not (Shane Ray, Ty Sambrailo, Paxton Lynch, Adam Gotsis, Garett Bolles, Brendan Langley, and Isaac Yiadom come to mind). By the way, if your GM is making players play regardless of how bad they are in the coach’s mind, that’s a big problem.
What I’m getting at is that this team is a mess and the guy calling the shots for it is John Elway. If you want an answer at what is going wrong, I think it starts and ends with the VP/GM of the Denver Broncos.
I was never a fan of a coach (Mike Shanahan) meddling too much in the GM arena, and I’m of the same mind about a GM meddling too much in the coaching arena.
Why did I even mention Joe Ellis? Because he’s the only guy that can do anything to hold John Elway accountable for the past three years, and he’s not doing it. From the outside, it looks like Ellis is quite content to let Elway run this team into the gutter while they both get paid handsomely for quipping about the “Broncos Standard.”
The Cure to What Ails This Team
The Broncos used to have a soul. Sadly, it died on June 13 of this year. More than anything, this team needs a legitimate owner (because, no, the trust is not that at all ... it is a far cry from it).
One of the most maddening things to see both last year and this year is a player at LT who is not up to par starting week after week with no accountability to his poor performance. He just gets to clock in, use the same broken technique play after play, hold and cost this team drive after drive, and not have to answer for any it.
Well, that’s the same situation you have at the very top of the Denver Broncos organization. Joe and John have gotten the Broncos to the point they are now and they get to keep coming to work week after week, year after year while this team and its fans are starving for winning football, not having to answer for any of it.
Let me wrap this up by saying a hearty congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs and their fan base. That was a hell of a job playing NFL football away from home. Your team prepared to play football, your coaches came up with some superb ways to ensure victory, and your team outplayed ours in every facet of the game from start to finish.
I look forward to one day being able to say the same about the Denver Broncos.