Once again, Broncos Country, I come bearing gifts. And after last week’s stunningly bad performance by the Broncos at Mile High, I know you need one.
TheGueroLoco is a rookie to this series, but like Javonte Williams, he’s marching right on down the field, carrying tacklers with him, because he doesn’t care about obstacles (like bad games that prevent a fun bye week). No, he’s here to entertain and inform.
So, as I always do when the Broncos make me so mad I want to throat-punch people, turn on a game from 2015 or 1997 or heck, 2011, and remind yourself it will get better because it has been so good.
And then read this fabulous UFG to propel you to the next game.
Week 11 - Broncos on the Bye
MHR - Two good games in a row was just too much to ask of the Broncos, I guess. If you made it through the entire Eagles game, what were you thinking about this team throughout the game?
TheGueroLoco: My first reaction was that this is the most inconsistent team in football. One week they embarrass the best team in the NFC East, and the next they get embarrassed by arguably the worst team in the NFC East.
As always with this team, though, I was wondering: What are we doing on offense?
MHR - The best description I’ve read of the Broncos offense is “anemic.” It’s there and has some really great players, but it can never seem to put together a consistent game and establish an identity. Is there an identity that the Broncos can use to their advantage in the final seven games?
TheGueroLoco: Is there? Absolutely! That identity is: give it to Javonte Williams and let him do his thing. Then find a way to get it to Courtland Sutton. The real question though, is, will Shurmur find an identity for this offense beyond throwing short on third down? I think after 26 games (25 depending on who you think really made the game plan last week) of Pat Shurmur we all know that is not happening.
MHR - At this point in the season, with a 5-5 record and just after the bye, do you recommend keeping Teddy Bridgewater as the starter or would you advocate Drew Lock? (in full disclosure, I’m not in favor of Lock but RIP both of us in the comments now, lol )
TheGueroLoco:I was hoping you would ask this question. I have been thinking a lot about this offense the last two years. In reality, it’s the same offense, with the same failures, it just accomplishes the same failure differently. The offense is horrible on third down and not so great in the red zone. The difference is the Teddy version is “more efficient” and does not turn the ball over as much.
This is the difference between Teddy and Drew. On third down Drew does whatever it takes to get it past the sticks and give his guys a chance to convert. Sometimes he misses, sometimes he hits, and sometimes he throws a pick.
With Teddy he throws it 2-3 yards short of the marker (somehow he even does this on third and short) and then our guys get tackled just short of the first down. At one point during Sunday’s game we were 1-for-6 on third down despite Teddy being 5/6 passing on third down. So would you rather punt on 4th and 7 or 4th and 1? I heard a shocking statistics on Broncos Country Tonight. Teddy completes 67% of his 3rd down passes, but only converts on 32% of third downs. That 35% gap is the highest in at least 27 years. He is TOO conservative.
My answer is bring in Drew. Not because I think he is the long term answer, but because I think with the offenses we are facing we need points. It’s also clear Teddy cannot throw guys open and unless someone is WIDE open he won’t pull the trigger. Drew is high variance, but when he hits, we will score. The fact he will throw into the tight window and take chances gives us a better shot. Teddy has proved (unless the offense is personally insulted in Dallas, Texas) he can’t put up 30 points, and we are going to need that against the division foes and Bengals down the stretch.
MHR - The Javonte Williams-Melvin Gordon tandem has been surprisingly good, yet the Broncos rarely stick with the run game. Would you like to see this team recognize its strength as a running team, or do you like a more balanced run-pass approach. Or do you approve of the current method - pass 35 times, run the ball 15?
TheGueroLoco: I’m not shocked they have been great. I hated the Melvin Gordon signing, but in hindsight (other than backbreaking fumbles) he has been fantastic. He was the offense for stretches last year. We knew Javonte was going to be a beast, he had an NFL skill set coming out of college, at a position that is easy to translate to the NFL. On one hand, I want to feed Javonte nonstop, on the other hand, I feel that running backs only have so much tread on the tires. So, we might as well run Gordon until the wheels fall off. Never mind, that second part sounds stupid saying it out loud, feed the BEAST that is Javonte Williams!
To your second point, game script dictates everything in the NFL. If you are behind you will throw way more than you run. If you are ahead, you will run way more than you throw. So every time you hear stats like, “this team is undefeated when it runs it X amount of times per game,” NO KIDDING? If you are up two scores you will use the run to milk the clock and prevent turnovers. If you are behind, you will abandon the run and chuck it down field for quick scores so you can catch up.
So fans get all excited, and point to those stats, and say “see we need to run the ball.” When the reality is that the number of times you run it when the game hangs in the balance is not as important as the total number. If that makes any sense.
To get there you have to be good at both, and have good balance. I would like to see closer to a 55/45 split in favor of passing, but running with a purpose. The reason you want a split that is pass heavy is that passing is more efficient than running.
It seems like Shurmur calls a run into the middle of the line at least once a drive, just so he can say he called a run. That is not running the ball with a purpose. Put Eric Saubert next to Garett Bolles, pull Quinn Meinerz and let Javonte run off tackle until the opposing defense proves they can stop it, cuz so far no one has.
Rushing attempts this season:— PFF (@PFF) November 17, 2021
Javonte Williams - 103
Jonathan Taylor - 161 pic.twitter.com/dF9hJX9eDF
MHR - Speaking of Williams, Pat Surtain II has been a great rookie as our first-round pick, but Javonte Williams might have been the biggest steal of the 2021 draft. What would you like to see the Broncos do in the next couple of years to pair with Williams and keep this running game alive?
TheGueroLoco: For the record, I think Jonathan Cooper is the steal of the draft. 7th round picks rarely ever become more than special teams players, and practice squad tackling dummies. Cooper looks like a potential 2nd or 3rd Edge Rusher.
To answer your question though, it all depends on the coaching staff. If they run it back with this crew, bring back Melvin Gordon for $3-$5 million on a one year deal. If they bring in a new coaching staff, I think it would be wise to find a scat back type of player. Having a speedy, shifty guy like Tarik Cohen to keep defenses off balance, and making Javonte the primary running back, a la Alvin Kamara, makes the most sense to me.
MHR - Pat Shurmur has earned the ire of much of Broncos Country this season (and for good reason), but his offense was rolling against the Cowboys and then when Mike Shula took the helm last week in Shurmur’s absence, the offense was abysmal. So what are you to make of Shula’s reign? Does he need to be gone or does he need a different QB?
TheGueroLoco: Is Mike Shula Pat Shurmur? Is Pat Shurmur Mike Shula? (*editor’s note: Finkle is Einhorn?) Should we just call them Pike Shulur? They have been joined at the hip for a few years now. I think Shurmur brought him over because they want to coach and call the game the same way. I also think you are giving Pike Shulur (sorry I am rolling with it at this point) way too much credit for what happened in Dallas. The players stepped up and made plays. The only reason the play calling seemed different is because we had such a big lead, we ran the ball more.
I watch a lot of Tim Jenkins breakdowns because I do not understand film at a very high level. It seems like we ran the same plays we usually do, or at least the same concepts. In Dallas, we hit more than we missed and guys picked up YAC to get first downs. Teddy also got the ball a little further downfield than usual. Shurmur and Shula need to go, and they can take Teddy with them! I have no confidence that anyone, save Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers, could make a Pike Shulur offense look good.
Best in the league.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 19, 2021
And he's not done yet. pic.twitter.com/1KmIEDunHV
MHR - The Broncos’ defense was supposed to be our “identity” and we just needed an offense to be decent. Yet our defense has been gashed by the run game too many times for teams not to establish it, and our pass rush isn’t really stopping anyone. Are injuries the biggest issue or do the Broncos need some upgrades?
TheGueroLoco: Both, honestly. We clearly overestimated this defensive line, and underestimated our inside linebacking core. I never really understood the Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson hate; they were a really solid linebacking duo. PFF ranked them in the top 5 before the season. They are both excellent run defenders, and had improved in coverage prior to the injuries. I think better health at linebacker and upgrades on the interior line will bring a recipe for success. If George Paton can bring one of both Jewell and Johnson back without breaking the bank, then he absolutely should.
The pass rush was built around two former top-5 picks. Neither has played since Von Miller played a half in Cleveland. Couple that with Dre’mont Jones not really making the pass rushing leap everyone thought he would, and it shouldn’t be shocking we have struggled rushing the passer.
MHR - If Vic Fangio is no longer the coach (and it seems that is likely the situation), do you expect this defense to be able to be dynamic like it has been? Will a coaching change there be better or worse for the defense?
TheGueroLoco: I can’t see that the defense will be significantly better without Fangio and the same current personnel (taking out all the injured guys). Fangio is not a great head coach. He is sort of the new Wade Phillips, defensive genius that just can’t make work as the head guy in charge.
There is nothing wrong with that. We all have our ceiling - and Elite Defensive Coordinator is Vic’s. To me, he is still the best defensive mind in the game outside of New England. I wouldn’t mind seeing the next head coach trying to convince Ed Donatell to stick around and keep most of the same personnel.
Wholesale scheme changes take years to pan out. If we switch to a 4-3 or some variation of the “Seattle Scheme” we will have to get new players, and then they have to get used to the system. If we change schemes it will be at least 2-3 years before we have a successful defense again. The Pike Shulur experiment is a great example of that.
MHR - How much of the Broncos’ problems do you think come down to lack of an owner? On the coaches? On the talent level of the players?
TheGueroLoco:I would rank them exactly as you did here:
It all starts at the top. Ever since Pat Bowlen passed away the team has lacked accountability. I don’t think we realize, as we go through our everyday lives, how important great leadership is. It’s one of those things where you don’t notice when it’s great, but becomes glaringly obvious when it is gone. Pat Bowlen was an INCREDIBLE leader, and one of the absolute best owners in the game. He is dearly missed, hopefully his offspring wise up and sell the team soon.
The coaching on the offensive side of the ball, and the game management have been terrible ever since Gary Kubiak left. We have to be better in those two areas.
One thing this roster does not lack is talent. It was regarded as one of the best in the leagues outside of the quarterback position. We obviously have to get right at QB, but until we have competent leadership, who will want to come here?
MHR - Looking ahead to the next seven games, which ones are winnable? Do you think the Broncos have a shot at Chargers, Chiefs or Raiders?
TheGueroLoco: I feel like as long as we have the altitude all the home games are winnable. I have a saying, “the altitude always gets em.” It has not been pretty the last few years, but we tend to win more than half of our home games. We always seem to beat the Chargers.
Arrowhead in December seems impossible, but the Chiefs offense isn’t right and Mahomes has turned the ball over quite a bit. Couple that with the fact that Vic Fangio wrote the book on stopping Pat Mahomes, and I think we can steal at least one of the games against the Chiefs.
That is a long winded way of saying they are all winnable. Realistically, I think we win 3: the Lions, one against the Chargers, and one against the Chiefs. That leaves back in purgatory. Not good enough for the playoffs, and not bad enough to get a blue chip prospect.
MHR - In order, list your priorities for this team in the offseason as you see it now - from management to players, etc. And what would be your choice for handling the QB scenario next season?
TheGueroLoco: Priority one has to be - get an owner. I ultimately don’t think it should be a Bowlen, so they need to sell the team and let Broncos Country move on. I don’t see any other issues on the management side. George Paton has a six year deal, and has done a fantastic job.
Player wise Paton took the first step this week by re-signing Tim Patrick for three years and $34 million, with $18.5 guaranteed. Sounds like a two-year pact with an option for a third. Great for Tim, great for the Broncos. Locking up a starting caliber X-receiver for $10 million a year is a great bargain.
What does this mean for Courtland Sutton? I think his fate will largely be dependent on who the next OC is and the answer to the last question. If we get a new QB on a big contract we probably cannot afford him. If we stay on the QB carousel, he will be back. The offensive skill players are really set aside from that. As always, we will need to address the right tackle situation. I think Glasgow gets cut, Meinerz takes over and they give Lloyd Cushenberry one last shot.
On the defensive side, we also need to shore up basically the entire front seven. We need a full crew of ILB’s, another starting caliber edge rusher, (please bring Von back!) and some run stuffing interior linemen. I think the secondary is in good hands so possibly drafting a late round depth piece there could make sense.
What to do at QB? I see two options. First is trade for one of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, or Deshaun Watson. I think Rodgers is the most realistic, but ultimately is a short term band-aid to a problem that has plagued Denver since Elway retired (save four years of Peyton Manning and whatever you think of the Jake Plummer era).
Option 2 is getting in the tank and going for a QB from the 2023 class. I’ve never been a tank commander prior to this, but being mediocre is the worst place to be in pro sports. You either need to be a playoff team or be terrible. I have no intel or any clue if anyone in that 2023 class stands out. What has become apparent is there is not a franchise passer in this next draft. Could one of them hit? Absolutely, but it seems like the best case scenario is one of them becomes an average NFL starter. Do you want to risk your job finding out which one? I don’t think Paton does. Drafting a QB in the first 3 rounds just to say you did is a waste of a draft pick. If we go the tank route I’d say it’s Drew Lock and an ancient veteran, preferably Ryan Fitzpatrick.
MHR - Which Broncos, if any, deserve some Pro Bowl votes this season?
TheGueroLoco: I hate to say this, but unless we start giving Javonte 20 carries a game I don’t see it. Our best players on defense have been hurt (Johnson/Jewell/Chubb), traded (Von), or not playing at that level (Simmons and Darby). As good as Pat Surtain II has been he hasn’t been a pro bowler. The offensive linemen have been banged up or ineffective. Since Teddy can’t get the ball downfield and Jeudy got hurt none of the pass catchers will get the stats they need to get there. I am going to go out on a limb and say Simmons gets in based on name recognition and contract status.
MHR - What would be your message to Broncos Country on how to handle the rest of the season without a) giving up; b) getting so furious being a Browns fan seems better or c) actively rooting against the Broncos?
TheGueroLoco: D) Keep the Faith!!! Look, this team is so inconsistent it would not shock me if they reel off 5 wins in a row and make the playoffs. If the team that came to the stadium in Arlington, Texas, shows up week in and week out, we can snag the 7 seed. The AFC is a total cluster right now, and the division is very much up for grabs. If we can win 4 division games we can win it. I know that sounds like I am seeing this through my orange colored glasses, but maybe this team just needs a week off to get healthy and recuperate so their true talent level comes through.
What will happen first - Special Teams plays a complete game or the offense scores 35 points? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA Neither, but if one of them does I’ll say 35 points only because the Chiefs defense is terrible and those 2 games will be shootouts.
How many more times will a team score against us on a kickoff or punt? I’m going out on a limb and saying zero because someone runs out of gas and gets tackled at the 10 yard line, lol.
Which AFC quarterback do you like to watch getting sacked the most? Patrick Mahomes, of course!
How many times will the Broncos collectively sack the quarterbacks in the remaining 7 regular season games? 17
Which defender will end up with the most tackles this season? Kareem Jackson, because he is always healthy and already has a 12 tackle lead on Simmons.
Which receiver will have the most touchdowns? Teddy Bridgewater seems fully unaware Courtland Sutton made it through the trade deadline and seems to love Tim Patrick in the red zone. I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and say Noah Fant gets it together after the bye.
Which team wins the AFC West? It’s the Chiefs division until they are dethroned.
Which AFC team goes to the Super Bowl? I feel like this is the year of the Buffalo, so I say the Bills.
Broncos season W-L record this year? 7-10, just bad enough to not be good, and just good enough not to be bad. Why not more mediocrity?
Broncos season W-L record next year? If we get one of the Big 3 QBs I mentioned earlier 13-4; if not it’ll be the inverse 4-13.
Favorite Broncos regular season game EVER? A little back story here I started working when I was 14 and grew up in the mountains 90 minutes from Denver. I did two things with the money I earned: saved it for college and bought CD’s. I was one of the best customers at the local CD store. On November, 22 1999 it was snowing like crazy and I happened to stop by the store. The owners of the store had season tickets, and didn’t want to make the drive. So they offered me tickets to Monday Night Football against our arch nemesis FOR FREE!!! I begged my dad to take me, but it was a school night and a blizzard. As a dad now, I know he made the right call. Thanks dad! Still, I was livid I missed the game because Charles Woodson and Lincoln Kennedy got into a snowball fight with the fans and I missed seeing it in person. So that game stick in my mind, and even though I didn’t get to go remains the one etched in my brain.
Favorite Broncos postseason win? Outside of Super Bowl’s gotta be the 2015 AFC Championship (played in 2016) when Von and Demarcus Ware hit Tom Brady all day.
Favorite Super Bowl? It should be XXXII when we won our first, but it was Super Bowl 50. I lost my mind during that game, and it was amazing.
Overall favorite Broncos season? 2015 was just a straight up blast. It was a team of destiny season and it felt like every game came down to the wire, and we always made a play at exactly the right time.
Team you hate to lose to the most? The Raiders
Team you love to beat? As a Broncos fan living in the heart of Cowboys Nation, I love it when we beat them, because then I get four more years of bragging rights.
Game you are/were most looking forward to this season? The Chiefs are still the measuring stick for us, so I am looking forward to Week 13 when we finally beat them!
Toughest game on the remaining schedule? Week 13 against the Chiefs
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Tough with Von gone, but I’ll go Jerry Jeudy since I’ve got his jersey.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? The king of Denver himself, John Elway, but Von was getting close before the trade.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? How do you not love Javonte Williams?
Superstitions on game day? I wear a jersey. If we win it goes back in the closet. If we lose, I wash the losing off. We have our 3rd Super Bowl, not because of an all-time great defense, but because I didn’t wash my Demaryius Thomas jersey for almost 2 months (only worn on game day though). Passing this ritual down to my son, and it’s hilarious.
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Has to be Cris Collinsworth. I have a quote of his that pops up in my Facebook memories every year and always makes me laugh. This was during the Mark Sanchez era of the New York Jets. Collinsworth says “Their whole strategy is based off of getting completions and runs to get down the field. That’s their strategy, completions and runs.” Really Cris? I wonder if Vince Lombardi passed that on directly to Rex Ryan? Sorry, but Cris is atrocious.
Favorite sports cliche? Any given Sunday
Favorite sports movie? Friday Night Lights
Best Sports GIF?
How did you come by your MHR handle?
I’ve been in sales my whole life, and when I was selling cars I needed something unique. I live in a predominantly Hispanic area on the Texas/Mexico border, and I’m a tall white guy from Colorado. So I stick out a little bit. Naturally, people will refer to me as “guero” which means “light complected guy” in Spanish. I wanted to convey that I could give you a crazy deal so The Guero Loco was born. I liked it, because it did not tie me down to selling cars, and as I made the switch to Solar Energy Sales, it was easy to keep the same handle/advertising page.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
It was a cold December day in 1984 in The Rocky Mountains, and my mom went into labor. Our little town did not have a labor and delivery ward, so they typically sent the moms to the next county to give birth. I wasn’t waiting, so our family doctor had to deliver me. When he slapped me on the butt, I looked at him and said “that Elway kid is something ain’t he?” The nurses were shocked when they drew my blood and it came out orange. The lab tech took one look at it and said “this one is a Broncos fan for life!”