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To pursue an elite quarterback or build an elite defense?

That is the question. At least it is right now.

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Yes, this is another story about quarterbacks.

No, we’re not going to debate which one should lead Denver next season.

Instead, we’re going to have a philosophical debate about which direction a team goes in pursuing an elite quarterback versus fortifying an elite defense.

This was the dilemma posed to Pro Football Focus’ George Chahrouri Wednesday on Broncos Country Tonight, and it’s a worthwhile question (plus, I’m nothing if not a lover of philosophical debates!)

Ryan Edwards noted that other than quarterback and (now) right tackle, the Broncos’ offense is pretty set along the offensive line, the wide receiver corps, tight ends and running backs, but the defense has some holes to fill starting positions, not just depth and will be looking to reload at key spots like corner, defensive line, and eventually edge.

“So on one hand, you make the argument that the Broncos really need those draft picks because they need to be able to stock the starting group of defensive players,” he said in reference to giving up draft capital for a trade to get a Deshaun Watson-like QB. “But on the other hand, I can see a scenario where the Broncos offense will need to carry the team a bit because the defense is heading for that reload.”

Using the recent Super Bowl teams as examples, Chahrouri argued for snagging the elite quarterback whenever it comes around.

“I would make the case it is far harder to acquire, or find or draft or create in a lab a top 3 quarterback than it is to build a strong enough defense to compete for a Super Bowl,” he said.

Chahrouri pointed out that the Chiefs made it to the Super Bowl two straight years with an overpaid defense, proving that you can acquire a good defense if you have a good offense. He used the Bucs defense as an example of a great defense built around a lot of second- or third-round players, guys like Shaq Barrett who were not starters on other teams, and guys like Jason Pierre-Paul who are on the tail-end of their careers but with some left in the tank.

“You can create a defense that is solid enough, but none of that matters if you don’t have a quarterback,” he said. “I do think you make a valid point because the defense does need attention, but I think those things are easier to get in free agency. You’re going to see so many corners that are quote reclamation projects that are going to have great years next year, and you’re going to get them for like five bucks. And you can’t do that with quarterbacks.”

Allbright believes it is definitely easier to build a championship-caliber defense than find a quarterback, but after finding an elite-caliber QB, it is more sustainable because a championship defense has a limited shelf life.

“The quarterback is harder to find and the defense is easier to build, but when you find that quarterback, you’re set,” he added.

To that end, Chahrouri brought up the Chicago Bears three years ago - their great defense under Vic Fangio “got a ton of turnovers and carried Mitch Trubisky’s bum ass all the way to the playoffs. And what is the result? Everyone says Mitch is our guy.”

“The next year they were actually still a top five defense but they didn’t have that same turnover luck, and all of a sudden the shine comes “ he added, noting that a defense, because it’s so hard to sustain, lures teams into thinking their offense is good enough.

“And you are on dead on, 100 percent correct that it is really hard to sustain that defense because so much is a function of the offenses you play and the turnover luck,” Chahrouri said, “and a really good and solid defense can easily fluctuate between first and 10th and that can really shine a light on some of the worst offensively.”

Plus Fangio is essentially the Broncos’ 12th man on defense with the way he’s been able to build around lesser talented players.

“You have that guy there because he can make the most out of players other teams have not leveraged well,” he said.


I am 100 percent on board with this view. I do not want to take “building a top five defense” for granted as if anyone can do it, and I don’t want to assume that Fangio can keep getting water from a stone, particularly with defensive backs.

But after watching the Broncos essentially waste their top five, top 10 defenses the last five years, I think it’s time to shift the philosophy toward getting an elite QB.

That may not end up being this year - and I’d live with that - but if it’s within grasp this season, I am all in favor of going for it. Even if it means losing some on defense and having to build it back up. I’d rather face that hurdle the next few years than floundering without a quarterback while facing Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and maybe even Russ Wilson twice a year.


Which is the better philosophy for the Broncos right now?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Get an elite QB, even if at the expense of a top five defense
    (504 votes)
  • 42%
    Keep the defense intact while developing Drew Lock or another young QB in the draft
    (367 votes)
871 votes total Vote Now