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Are you confident in the direction of the Broncos?

Mile High Report weighs in at the halfway mark.

Denver Broncos v New England Patriots
Can the Broncos find their way back to winning?
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Injuries aren’t an excuse when they’re just a fact of life. Three different quarterbacks have thrown passes for the second consecutive year. The two best players on the Broncos roster have played 31 total snaps. One big reason the Falcons torched the Fangio defense is it had to carry a struggling offense without either of its veteran corners.

It isn’t just injuries, but it’s impossible to ignore their role in the Broncos’ 3-5 start. It hardly soothes the pain of what’s probably another losing season, or the fact that the last time Denver had four straight losing seasons Richard Nixon was in the White house.

All this losing has left Broncos’ Country gnashing teeth. Some have blamed the quarterback, others the coaching staff, still others want to say it all falls on John Elway. Truth be told, we’re overdue for a vibe check.

How confident are you in the direction of the Broncos?

Scotty Payne

Probably too early to ultimately tell on Lock, but it’s not looking good. I think Fangio has done alright, but his future with the team is ultimately tied to John Elway. Trending towards another sub .500 season, potentially another failed QB and potentially another failed HC. The leash is short and it might be time for some new blood in the Broncos front office.

Taylor Kothe

Overall, I feel slightly positive about GM. Scotty’s points about a short leash are true, but at the same time a lot of the bad this season has been things that are utterly out of Elway’s hands. He’s drafted pretty well in recent years, and appears to have absolutely killed it in the 2020 draft. FA signings have been more miss than hit lately, but there have definitely been some good ones as well.

I kind of think the biggest knock on Fangio as a HC right now was his inability to work things out with Rich Scangarello. Scangs definitely had some development to do as an NFL OC. But while Shurmur hasn’t been bad, I’m left wondering what this offense and this season look like if Lock was running the same system for the 2nd year in a row.

QB has been shaky for sure. There are periods of frustrating, head-scratching moments... and then there have started being some streaks of the most effective and explosive offensive output we’ve seen since early in the 2014 season (outside of Lock’s Texans game). In fact, Sunday’s 27 point output in a loss equals or exceeds the 2nd highest score for Denver from the 2019, 2018, & 2017 seasons each. So I’d say I feel slightly uneasy about Lock... but I’d also say that it’s way too early to bail on him. Let’s see where we’re at after the last 8 games are done. And if we’re starting to see more consistent solid play by then, along with those streaks of explosiveness, then a premier option would have to drop into Denver’s lap for Lock to not be the likely 2021 starter. But if we’re not seeing that progress by then, then Denver will need to address the QB position.

Joe Mahoney

I like what Vic Fangio has been able to do under these adverse circumstances. I think that he will get another year even if we finish 6-10 or 7-9.

Without a real owner in the house, John Elway’s job is completely safe. The drafting has been much better in the last three years IMO (although I will never understand why we didn’t take a developmental OT in 2019 or 2020).

The contrast between what the Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders have been able to do (find franchise QBs) has gotten les stark in the last few games, but it still is hard to swallow. Herbert (6th overall pick), Mahomes (10th) and Carr (36th) were all taken ahead of where we took Drew Lock at 44, but let’s not forget we took Brock Osweiler 57th and Paxton Lynch 26th overall. The last time the Broncos drafted an above average QB was Jay Cutler in 2006 (11th overall).

Drew Lock has not played very well this year since coming back from the shoulder injury. His 4th quarters against the Chargers and the Falcons were good, but they really don’t make up for the other three quarters of terrible play in the past two games. So far this season Drew Lock is currently 39th out of 46 qualifying QBs in terms of passer rating in the first three quarters of the game.

However, if you just look at 4th quarter stats, he moves all the way up 36th. Wait, What? How can this be? He led us to victory in the 4th quarter against the Chargers and almost to victory against the Falcons. Don’t be fooled folks. He has not even played that well in the 4th quarter of games this season.

I know his 5 4th quarter TDs are nice, but his 4 4th quarter INTs is worst in the league. Passer rating is very dependent on INTs (if you throw them, your rating will suck). Overall right now Lock is currently 30th in passer rating ahead of only Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold and Cam Newton. Wentz was the #2 overall pick; Darnold the #3 and Newton the #1. The rest of the AFC West has combined to throw 58 TDs and 8 picks. The Broncos as a team are at 11 TDs and 12 picks.

Jeff Essary

I’m still fairly confident in the general direction of the team. We said after the draft this year that building weapons was a good thing for either Lock or the QB that came after Lock. Nothing has materially changed for this team since the offseason, besides injuries and Lock getting hurt. The plan was always a good one and still is - let Lock have this year, give him additional help and see what his body of work looks like at the end of the year. Early returns aren’t super great, but the results not working out doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right approach and there’s certainly an argument to be made that injuries have derailed the season significantly.

Elway still put together a good offseason. He’s got another big one coming up with big contracts to key players he needs to come through on, but I don’t have any complaints about Elway currently. He’s done everything he could for this year. Several of Denver’s draft picks have already started contributing and look like good fits, Garrett Bolles finally has begun to progress, and the defense has survived a ton of injuries and upheaval, showing they have some pretty good depth.

Similar story with Fangio. He has made lemonade out of lemons on the defensive side with all the injuries and I think has done a pretty good job so far here in Denver. As for Lock, who knows. We’ll see where things land at the end of the season, but I can’t imagine Denver not looking for at least competition at the QB spot, unless something turns around in the back half of the season. Denver is in search of a franchise QB until they’re not, and Lock certainly hasn’t shown enough, yet, to make you want to hitch your wagons to him past this season.

Joe Rowles

After boo-gate last week I may need to check if I can still call a spade a spade.

Here’s the thing about Drew Lock. If his most ardent defenders have to cherry pick stats while fans squint and cling to every other issue like it’ll save him, there’s a problem. Lock is still struggling with anticipation, ball placement, footwork, pocket management, etc. What’s just as concerning is Lock’s desire to play hero ball when the checkdown is there. It’d ruin Lock to break his affinity for the big play. But until he learns what he can get away with, he’ll lead the league in stupid turnovers.

When you step back and consider what Vic Fangio has done with the hand he’s been dealt, it’s really something. Bradley Chubb and Von Miller have played together for all of four games. Due to injury he’s had to play five different quarterbacks. By the end of the Falcons game the Broncos were counting on their fourth string right tackle, undrafted corners, and Sylvester Williams. It’s so bad, it’s a meme.

Yikes.

Zoom out and things become scarier. The only way John Elway could have more job stability is if he bought the Broncos.

The good news is where Elway’s been good, he’s been great lately. When healthy, the wide receiver room is at least four deep with starting caliber players. Shelby Harris is one of the best interior penetrators in the league. Alexander Johnson is an elite run stopper. Albert Okwuegbunam looked like an early candidate for the steal of the 2020 tight end class until his knee injury. I could go on.

The bad news is Elway can’t outrun his mistakes. He’s burned through coaches like bad diapers since Peyton Manning retired. When Gary Kubiak stepped down, the Broncos were considered the top job for coaching candidates. Now?

It’s hard to say what the future really holds for the Broncos because so much hangs on Drew Lock. If he finds his way, Denver could be a contender in the AFC West for years to come. Anything else and we have to hope Elway can swallow his pride and find a real answer. For that reason I’m stuck between hopelessly optimistic given the young pieces with a coach who knows how to maximize them in Fangio and the existential dread that is John Elway on a QB search.

How do you feel about the direction of the Broncos?