There’s always next year, right? The Denver Broncos
’ goose was pretty much cooked when they lost to the Bengals in Week 15, and their post-Christmas loss to the arch-rival Raiders in a spectacularly underwhelming performance against a team that seems committed to turnover issues. So that’s it for any playoff hopes, and even die-hard Denver fans might admit that it could be for the best. It’s dispiriting to watch your favorite team not live up to expectations week after painful week. And there have been a lot of disappointing weeks: This will make the sixth season in a row for Denver to miss the post-season after winning the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 50
How can the Broncos recapture the magic? That's the pigskin rub. Every team goes through cycles — some more than others —but the Broncos are due for a comeback. With the annual help of Superfan Dan March, here are a few ideas for how the beleaguered Broncos can better their chances in the 2022 season and beyond.
Settle the Ownership Issue
And do it before the 2022 draft, which means the Broncos don’t have much time. If they can’t meet the draft deadline, then do it at least before free agency opens. Confusion in the front office causes dysfunction all the way down the chain. If the Bowlen family era of the Denver Broncos is coming to an end, let’s face it with some strength and resiliency, and get back to the central matter at hand: playing some good ball. Denver’s own little version of HBO’s Succession
isn’t nearly as fun to watch.
A lot of people have been calling for Fangio’s head all season, but it’s tough to fire a coach mid-season and not write off the season at the same time. While it doesn’t seem that Fangio has lost the locker room, chances are good that such a thing is an eventuality, given the only moderate and inconsistent success of the team in the ongoing. Add to that a demonstrated misunderstanding of clock management and an apparent lack of insight into how to effectively coach power players, and it’s time to show Vic the door. Vic seems like a good guy, but his record is a sad 19-28. And while the Broncos are at it? Cut Pat Shurmur and the entire offensive staff, too. Start fresh.
Admit Teddy’s Limits
Bridgewater’s injury in the home game against the Bengals took him out of the QB slot for the Raiders game as well, leaving Drew Lock to once again lead the team. And lead them he did —right to another disappointing loss. Teddy shows some promise, but can’t sustain drives or inspire the squad to big moments. Bridgewater is, at best, a solid backup QB to whomever the Broncos choose next. We're hoping for a full recovery for the guy—and a little less pressure on him to be the next Elway. Because for all that Teddy Bridgewater is, he’s not that.
Decide What Sort of Quarterback the Broncos Need
Once the front office has decided to make some new moves at QB, the question comes down to this: Does the team benefit from an old warhorse with veteran credentials on-field? If so, see what it’ll take to attract Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins or (assuming he’s vaccinated and not continuing to be a dumbass) Aaron Rodgers. But frankly, most fans don’t need those guys. Despite the success the team saw with Peyton Manning, Denver doesn’t want the reputation of being where old QBs go to fade away. Might be better to do what’s necessary to move up in the draft and grab Matt Corral (Mississippi) or Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh)…or even roll the dice on Sam Howell (North Carolina). Whatever the Broncos do, they desperately need a franchise guy.
Take COVID Protocols as Seriously as Concussion Protocols
Speaking of Aaron Rodgers…the Broncos can’t fall short of dealing effectively with preventing the spread of COVID through their internal monitoring program. Players and coaching staff and everyone involved with the team need to be responsible for their choices and actions on and off the field, and penalties for doing anything else — like pretending that some naturopathic remedy is the same as a vaccine — need to be stiff and serious.
Decide on an Offensive Strategy
If the Broncos want to be a run-first team (maybe not a great idea, if their eighteen total rushing yards against the Raiders is any indication), then trade away Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton or Tim Patrick and release Kendall Hinton. There’s no point in prepping for the deep pass that never — or too rarely — comes. It’s not a threat, and opposing teams know it. On the other hand, if you want to invest in Jeudy, Sutton or Patrick, then bring in an offensive coordinator who preaches the "pass the damn ball" gospel. Playing the middle never works.
Give the Defense a Break
We’ve preached year after year that the vaunted Denver D needs some support on the offensive side of the ball, but it’s an ongoing problem. Chalk this one up to another failure of Fangio’s coaching style; he relies too much on the defense to keep the team in the game. And it’s only half the game. We have to put points on the board and give the defensive line some time to catch their collective breath.
Bradley Chubb needs to be the Broncos' new Von Miller; he needs to be supported in running the game like Von did for so many successful years. Chubb was one of the bright spots in the dismal Week 16 game, with his tip and interception for a near pick six. We need more like that next year. If Chubb can’t step up and fill those big ol’ Von Miller shoes, then he needs to be traded before the team has to deal with his contract expiring in 2023.
Bring Back Von Miller
When he wants to retire, that is. Let him — no, encourage him — to retire as the Denver Bronco he will always be. Denver did it (and should have) for the great Shannon Sharpe. Von Miller deserves the same respect. And while we’re at it, retire his number, too. There will never be another like number 58.
Pony Up for Peyton
Peyton Manning might not have been a Bronco for his full career, but he was a Mile High when it counted. Manning needs to be courted to come into the Denver family for good, given some decision-making responsibility, and keep building what Elway started.