Let's all get off the ledge now and go back inside the building - for those of you that remember tall buildings with ledges and windows that open. Rather than delving too much into the negative as those points are being shared infinitum on the MHR blog comments and quite frankly with mostly astute and cogent observations. The Broncos are staring down the barrel at that horrid stat that a team that goes 0-2 in first two games and losing those games at home have less than a 5% chance of making the playoffs that season. Oddly am feeling the Broncos are kind of back on schedule as expected a reshuffling in 2022 but that fiasco cost them a lost year with RW, and now they're back into full evaluation of the player and to build a foundation going forward. That being said, let's also keep in mind there are positives both from the season to date and in game two with the Commanders.
First let's look at an overall impression of improvement for this season and where am coming from with this post. The initial end of season in 2022 my comments were towards cutting RW after 2023 and moving on - am still there but have seen some definite improvement both in RW and the QB room for the Broncos. Where are the improvements:
- RW is showing his BEST that he has left. Is there any doubt that during this offseason that RW took the opportunity to comeback for 2023 with full intent and purpose. My prediction was that RW will finish roughly in the QBR 15-20 level at end of 2023 - and it still is. Can a team go to the playoffs with a mid-level NFL QB - sure it's possible - to the SB - highly doubtful let alone win a SB.
- The lost weight and gained movement are showing in his ability to move at the level he didn't have last year. That said it is mediocre at best as is exemplified by the sack he took with a full field to his right and escaping - was caught and dropped but not in the easy method of last year was more a on the calves roping him in type expected of a fair level athletic QB in the NFL but not the RW of 3-5yrs ago either.
- Passing game is on point with the moon balls - witness the bombs dropped on target with one totally in stride and the other more a slight hesitation by the receiver to let the ball get to him. The intermediate on the rollouts is solid, the problem in the middle of the field vision isn't going to change as RW cannot get taller any time soon. He's also never going to be a Peyton type and dictate to the defense, even an Elway gunslinger that at back half of his career figured out far easier to dictate to the defense with TD, Smith and Sharpe than play hero ball, seems out of reach for RW realistically.
- Coaching is focusing on making sure the Broncos are prepared to play and come out swinging - am fairly certain Payton caught Rivera & Del Rio flat footed the first quarter and forced them to adjust before they'd settled in to notice the new scoreboard.
- Pass rush showed some teeth - Cooper, Gregory and Bonito put some decent tape together in the first half of the game less of course Bonito's facemask grab penalty flying by Howell.
- Broncos go on a three-game winning streak including beating the J-E-T-S and are on firm footing to attempt to prove history wrong and make the playoffs for 2023/2024 season. Is this a likely outcome - see the 5% chance for teams losing first two games at home & throw in one of those losses was to a division opponent. Likelihood of this happening is probably even lower than the 5% with Dolphins up next and then two potential 50/50 games with the Bears and Jets. The Dolphins in my mind are a streaky team and can be caught in a funk so am not counting the Broncos as DOA in Miami but maybe on life support. This three-game run relies though on an upset and then beating the teams they're supposed to beat - and the first two games according to the fans were - counted as wins, so there's that.
- Broncos lose eight games before the bye week only beating the Bears. This is totally viable as the 50/50 games are with the Bears and Jets, figure a one outta two and there you have it to a one and eight record heading into the bye week. The Broncos open second half of the season with QB1 Stidham, results are what they are as only seeing three 50/50 games in the back half of the season with the Patriots Texans and Raiduhs. Again, one win and a 2-15 record winning only on the draft board. The probability of this outcome isn't high - yet - will see where they sit after game five and the bye week.
- Broncos win the 50/50 games and are 2-7 going into the bye week, run Stidham out in the back half and win the 50/50 games with an upset or two winning 5 or 6 games and another most likely 5-12 season - this is the scenario see as highly probable though will stick with my 7-10 as their worst. Am thinking they could pull an upset or two along the way with the offensive output we saw in the first half of Commodores game sustained. For those around then, that first half looked like back in the day with the Elway/Shanahan scripted first quarter jumping on legit NFL teams and game over by halftime. Honestly thought that would be the outcome - and then - yeah, sheist happens, doesn't it?
- HC Payton - is Sean Payton the solution to the Broncos problems - that depends upon where Payton's head is at and I have NO idea. it's been claimed by various sources that Payton wanted an LA gig either the Chargers or Rams and obviously neither of those options panned out and this was the "best" option left in Payton's mind. That's not necessarily a total buy in if the case and who knows. Secondarily Payton seems a bit out of step with the NFL of today - happens to anyone taking time off from their job or work. Let's face facts - Payton had a great game plan for the Commodores that worked like a Swiss watch in the first quarter and half, but in the second half the offensive adjustments were totally one sided - in Bienemy's favor - he proved it as a play caller and OC against the guy who's a top ten play caller in NFL history. I do believe Payton will get it together but it's not as easy as maybe he figured would be coming back into the "game" of play calling and HC in the NFL.
- DC VJ - am a real fan of VJ as a person, love his story and history in particular at CU. That said this is the NFL and you're judged by your record and the job you do - he's sucked. There's nothing wrong with the majority of the defensive position players as will go over Thursday other than inordinate number of injuries and sparse depth. VJ's issue is a lack of respect for your opponent and making the proper read out and adjustments. The popular notion is that VJ was Payton's pick - sorta kinda - the reality is by all accounts Payton lost out on choices 1, 2 and even three and that VJ was either the third or fourth option for this gig. My personal feeling is that the Rex Ryan talk was weird at best - he's been gone way too long - but the talk of Wade Phillips makes sense as he's stayed in the game as a HC on the XFL or USFL level and indicates he had both the energy and desire to be a DC again. With Payton's arrival that would have been an obvious choice after Payton's choices were finding other options than the Broncos - but it wasn't and here we are.
- GM Paton - the fall guy - as have predicted in 2022 that this 2023 season will end with both RW being cut and Paton being canned. This isn't his fault totally as don't think he acted in a vacuum yet as have stated implicitly - he had the GM title and job description on what has turned out to potentially be the worst trade since the Herschel Walker deal. His gambit to get Rodgers, with Rodgers running his bluff to get his buddy Hackett the HC gig here and then - fake out. Then out of desperation for Paton to make a trade with the Seachix and bidding against himself - a case study in Sports Management classes for "don't be that guy". Paton sets a decent draft board yet on making trades and picks has shown a lot to be desired - realistically his choices only of Surtain II and Meinerz are standouts. The front office am fairly certain after 2023 will be making a full and complete rebuild and search for a GM that is aligned with Payton's needs for players, system and culture.
- Penner Group - well funded and learning that like golf you just cannot buy a game - witness the number of golf sets in my garage. Was always sure that new-fangled driver was going to change my game and lower the score. The ownership group is finding out that the free agency market is littered with bloated contracts and underperforming players league wide as a problem. I won't go into the details on positional values and evaluating of the Broncos players other than to indicate there is a "winning formula" for the Bronco's to look at for their future needs going forward as to the QB position: