Let's take a graphic head on look at where the Broncos are in the quagmire created by the Dolphins in Miami on 9/24/23. Make no mistake about it, that date will live in infamy in Bronco's history as much or more than the 55-10 SB loss to the 49'ers. Though a regular season game not a playoff or SB this was of historic NFL proportions - 70 - 20 loss won't go away until some other team takes it even worse. It's a stain on the Bronco franchise that will be there forever as long as the NFL and football is played.
First thing that want to do for my mental health as a Bronco fan and hopefully for other Bronco fans and MHR readers - is establish what football is in our own lives. My football life is fairly complicated - born in Boston during the AFL days in its infancy and came of age to see Joe Namath and Al Davis force the merger with the NFL so I have a true love & passion for the Patriots and AFC as a learned belief in as a child finding the game. Jim Nance was and still is one of my top ten favorite football players - ever - a former bruising Cuse back that dominated the AFL similarly to the way Jim Brown whom he followed at Cuse did in the NFL. We spent a couple of years in Illinois and then in the early 1970's came back to Wyoming where have lived more or less since other than a Navy stint, Laramie to graduate from University of Wyoming and thirteen years in Denver as a resident. My brother and I got introduced to the Broncos in the 1960's by our uncle a south stand ticket owner and we laughed and mocked the Broncos along with the others back then as almost a melodrama type of thing - they were that bad and their common nickname was "the donkeys". Asked my uncle why he continued to pay to watch the Broncos and he just said he loved football and wasn't basing his well-being on the Broncos as in the end he always said - no Broncos team has ever paid my mortgage payments.
I feel like his attitude was appropriate - he was a pro bowler after HS and played FB in HS so his nickname "the bowling ball" was appropriate. I was probably a better athlete and player than he was, yet my football life ended in HS as was not successful in a walk on attempt at UW but was offered the chance to do database & film work including evaluating players and games for coach's notes. My true love has always been and always will be the game of football. The teams are more ancillary as my nature is in the evaluation of players and games. Teams come & go, players age out and the reality is for players it's really about the money - the lottery in life won. I'm the guy at a HS game pointing out the two or three players that will be scholarship level at Div I or FCS - or at a college game telling you who can play on Sundays. It's truly my nature. Am I any good at it - you be the judge as feel am just a hobbyist. I've never been a paid evaluator, yet it's in my blood and DNA rather than the rah - rah of fandom which is where the game is actually made as that fan money is what makes the game. It's not the hobbyist evaluators like me - the fans pay the bills. Fans like money in the economy are the lubricant that makes the NFL machine run. What I'm getting at is that the Broncos losing in a historic loss is a gut punch yet two things factor in - one, is that have a life that's not dependent on the Broncos - yes, they along with the Patriots are my favorite two pro football teams. UW and BC are my two favorite NCAA teams. The AFC is my favorite NFL conference and overall prefer to see AFC win the Super Bowl annually. All that said I just won't let my day be ruined by the wins or losses of any football team - ever. Yeah, it sucks - yeah, it's disappointing and depressing to see where the Broncos have gone dark as of late since SB 50 with PFM - it's been frustrating to watch.
I've also watched a boatload of great football since the Broncos victory against the Panthers with the Von Miller start of the strip sack taking the game to a new level. The NCAA game is fantastic even though the conferences have been shredded for TV revenue. The NFL is an exhibition of the violent ballet on steroids with their sheer athleticism taking over for the prior car crashes mentality I lived by in football. The one factor that's disappointed me in both the Patriots and Broncos organizations is that the QB's look like they controlled the destiny and the organization's future success - no matter the HC or roster in too many ways to count. Lighting struck for Elway in FA with Peyton Manning who was able to lift all boats. Von and Ware contributed mightily yet it's the presence of Manning that created the environment akin to the Patriots with Brady who obviously had a dynasty he ruled in the NFL for two decades basically. Look at the Patriots now - Belichek looks frail and weak since Brady left for the Bucs, proving he could win it all without Bill and no signs of Bill winning without Tom. The Broncos haven't had a legit NFL HC since Kubiak left IMO, yes Fangio is a fantastic DC yet as a HC his game management was a disaster and unexpected for an NFL lifer.
Enter Sean Payton - a former SB winning HC and play calling genius by all accounts- a guy who like Belichek cut his teeth at the knee of the Big Tuna Parcells. The question concerning Payton has been - was it Brees, was it Payton or both. Right now, would have to look at it most likely it was Brees - he would be in their heyday the guy that lifted all boats in Nawlin's. Let me be straight up - I never bought the hype that this 2023 Broncos team was a playoff team either from the fans, MHR readers or from Payton's own mouth in July who expressed his disappointment if they're not in the 2023 playoffs. What I did predict was improvement from 5-12 to a worst-case scenario of 7-10 and best-case scenario of 9-8. We're all wrong - right now the Broncos would be lucky to get that 5-12 record as a run back in 2023. I honestly have NO idea where Payton's head is at - am not optimistic as this Miami Meltdown lays squarely on Payton's shoulders. Of course, we can blame VJ, we can blame the players that looked totally out of sorts - yet the fact is the team's success and failure as well as being prepared to play is on one person - the HC. Am not calling for him to be fired that's ridiculous and think IF he chooses to be here will most likely have a 3-5 year run to get it done. I'm not sure that's where Payton's head is at - with the Broncos am meaning and this roster - as am not sure ever really was to begin with.
This goes to the question of was Payton really all that hot on coming to Denver with an aging out RW, a roster depleted by ineptitude from years of frustration that had to be obvious to Payton. The ineptitude ownership after Bowlen wasn't able to be there and Elway hamstrung in his decision making and quite frankly making other than PM and VM not really such great choices as a de facto GM were major factors in where the Broncos are today in combination with the RW trade. The Paton trade which doesn't feel he did in a vacuum has been an unmitigated disaster, totally weakening the team with cap space sucked up and limits on transactions for top talent. With a QB that's not a top level or franchise QB and realistically probably never was. Seachix success was built around the Legion of Boom and Beast Mode. RW was an alley cat that could pull off the scramble drill as well as Fran Tarkenton and has now been declawed as an escape artist - he got sacked once in Miami but hit 12 times and under constant pressure - Tua wasn't sacked nor was he hit or pressured. We are now seeing a dark path forward akin to the Vikings on the Herschel trade - remember Herschel wasn't the worst RB in the NFL when went to the Vikings - he was okay the last few years of his career, not a great anymore by any means. Similar with RW - the reality is the rot that's been rooted in last ten years or more in the Broncos organization and the albatross around the Broncos neck in the RW trade will be a stench in the building for years to come. My hope for a 2-3yr turnaround with Payton now looks like a Dreamcast wish not reality. This could easily be a ten-year timeframe to relevancy with or without Payton.
Let's also face the fact that RW is not the problem in 2023 - he's also NOT the solution. RW isn't PM, he isn't TB, and he isn't JE - he's a serviceable low level NFL starter at this point or a top line QB2. He's not gonna lift all boats like the others have including the guy we want to compare him to Drew Brees. How did Drew Brees look his last few years - pretty much done as a QB that could win consistently. Do I think RW can win in the NFL - hell yeah, I do - not with the Broncos of 2023. As an example, I predicted that RW could make a game of it if he could get 300+ yards passing against the Dolphins - he did - he and Tua's passing numbers matched up in total yardage. RW did have an INT, but he did his job. My prediction is he's a cap cut end of this season and on a one or two year make it deal like Baker Mayfield somewhere else in the NFL in 2024. He could wind up as a contender's QB2 and come off the bench due to an injury and make a playoff run. He's still a capable NFL player not a great player.
What's the most impressive thing about yesterday's debacle as a football evaluator. For me it wasn't the passing game of the Dolphins - it was the running game. The other 31 teams need to take that game film to do two things - one if the Dolphins are on your schedule, then beware this is level up football against a power running team. Secondarily, this is McDaniel's total influence with Shanny Jr - the run blocking schemes and cutback schemes with lanes wide open were almost like watching a practice squad against the starters in a Wednesday or Thursday putting in the game plan type of exhibition. I haven't seen that type of run blocking in the wedges created lanes that were pulling O-linemen into almost a perfectly timed schematic since as a kid watching the Packers run their Packers Sweep time and time again. The Broncos couldn't match the speed, and even when squared up like #41 Sanders on Mostert - he got trucked twice in the hole big time. I'll save the game details for Thursdays positional writeup, yet you get the point - if a team can run at will then game over. We all remember TD stealing the clock and hearts of NFL teams with Elway.
In conclusion, yes, I'll continue to watch the Bronco games - more for the evaluator perspective than a fans as it's too hard to be tied emotionally at this point. Has my faith and trust in the ownership, the front office, the GM, the HC and coaching staff and the players on the Broncos roster been shaken - big time it has. Never would have expected to ever see this game in the NFL a 50-point blowout by a 70-point scored on defense - couldn't see it but yet we all did. Is this worse than the 45-point SB loss to the 49'ers - I don't know - they're both relevant. They both led to change or will be as expect changes happening this week including VJ being let go - mercifully for him and the Bronco fans. Hopefully the Broncos can regroup and win a few games this season - bad times aplenty. We all know now what they are - it's FUGLY!!!