When the Denver Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett last December, many onlookers, both within the media and fanbase alike, figured Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh would be the top choice to take the job, given the Wal-Mart money and former colleague Condaleeza Rice as part of the ownership group.
Yet, after a virtual interview, neither side could come to an agreement, and after several more interviews with various candidates, the Broncos finally hired Super Bowl winner Sean Payton as the team’s next head coach. If Harbaugh was indeed the top choice, that’s a hell of a consolation prize.
Still, Harbaugh just seemed to have that spark about him that made other candidates seem inferior. And now, he will be taking that spark to the AFC West, but with the Los Angeles Chargers. Crap.
If Harbaugh is known for anything, outside of winning and winning big, it’s his QB development. Alex Smith was unanimously regarded as a major bust until Harbaugh arrived in San Francisco and made him a pro bowler. He did the same with Colin Kaepernick. What exactly can he do with a talent the likes of Justin Herbert? It’s probably best not to think about it...from a fan perspective at least.
From a staff perspective, however, it better damn well be in the mind of Payton and company.
The team is moving on from Russell Wilson, a high-priced dud who ended up being at best a game manager who made Payton dumb down his playbook. Prior to Harbaugh’s hiring, the AFC West looked manageable enough to the point the team could roll with Jarrett Stidham for a year before making any forward thinking regarding the long-term QB options.
With Harbaugh’s arrival, that changes.
It’s already been established that this is Pat Mahomes’ division, and now that Harbaugh is running things in LA, Denver might as well take themselves down to third to duke it out with the Raiders, another team with QB questions.
So what exactly can be done? The Broncos are still on the hook for Wilson’s stupid contract that should have had someone lose their job. They can’t exactly draft a surefire franchise changer at pick 12. And the assets currently aren’t there for a major trade.
Well, that’s why the front office has jobs. But the stakes have risen, and the team can no longer afford to roll the dice on another journeyman. It’s time to sack up and get aggressive. The way it seems, there are three options.
- Draft a QB at 12 - a potential reach? Sure. But guys like JJ McCarthy, Bo Nix, Michael Penix, and others could be had here. Can the team afford to pass them up for, say, a pass rusher who may or may not cut it?
- Trade PS2 to move up - the team has limited “available” assets, but should they make their premier corner available, it could entice teams in the top five to get interested. The draft always has shakeups, and Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or Jayden Daniels could all be available then.
- Trade for another starter - yep, it definitely blew up in our faces with Wilson, but the team also gave up a ridiculous amount for him. Someone like Justin Fields, who was coming on late last season, could be had for less, assuming the Bears like Caleb Williams.
Regardless, with the arrival of Harbaugh comes a significant upgrade in competition, one that can only be battled with equal or greater QB play. Stidham isn’t the answer, so the Broncos need to feel the fire that has been lit under their ass and make the move that will help the team compete. Waiting it out is simply not an option.
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