Well, six-and-ten isn’t what we had in mind. A losing record is one thing, but losing to both the Raiders and the Chargers in the last couple of games? That’s insult to injury. Even the most stalwart of fans have to admit that something drastic needs to change for the Broncos in the coming season, something that a few front-office band-aids can’t fix. This is a drive that even Elway might have trouble pulling off.
Football is a cyclical game — one year you’re up, the next you’re down, and then your fortunes reverse again. It’s designed to be that way, why losing teams have the advantage in the next draft. So not all is lost, and there’s reason to hope. But there’s also reason to plan, to dig ourselves out of this hole sooner rather than later. So what can the team do? Here are seven resolutions for the Broncos to make in 2019 so Denver can see the post-season again.
1. Find a (Much) Better Coach
No hard feelings for Vance Joseph, but wow, back-to-back losing seasons? Joseph's firing first thing only hours after the official end of a second ugly season couldn't have been a surprise to him or any of the Broncos faithful. But it does pose a whole new problem: finding a replacement. The head office might bring Chuck Pagano in — he's a Boulder native and a proven head coach. Or they might roll the dice on the Chiefs' Dave Toub or the Rams' Zach Taylor. There have even been rumblings of the possibility of Mike Shanahan making a Denver comeback. Whoever it is, they need to be someone who can lead the team with vision, make the tough choices at the right time and come to inspire both the players and the fans. (Scaring the pants off the Chargers, Raiders, and Patriots wouldn’t hurt, either.) And speaking of fans…
2. Don’t Blame the Fans
There was a reason that over 12,000 seats were vacant for the last game of the 2018 season: because too many Broncos fans felt let down by a team and a coach and a season that had more promise than results. There’s an important difference, Shelby Harris, between a fair-weather fan and one who chooses to skip what they suspect to be one last massive letdown, especially once we’ve already been eliminated from playoff contention. And as for the homemade signs that (correctly) called for Joseph’s necessary departure? Those are real fans, Mr. Harris. They’re passionate enough to show up to a statistically meaningless game and hope against all hope that we can at least push Philip Cry-Me-A Rivers into the turf a few times. They want things to get better. Like you said, you can’t blame fans for being disappointed. And you also shouldn’t follow up that statement by going off on a rant that totally blames the fans for expressing that disappointment. You ask where the real Broncos fans are, Shelby? They’re holding those signs you’re bitching about.
3. Work Keenum
Stick with the kid for now. We’re not necessarily going to be able to land the next great QB picking tenth overall in the upcoming draft, and whether or not Case Keenum can really grow into the workhorse that Elway hoped he might be — someone to effectively bridge the Manning era and whatever Broncos superstar comes next — is still an open question. Give him a shot with a better and healthier offensive line — work on protection and options for the pass — and see what he’s got.
4. But Don’t Stop Looking
The next great QB will come through the draft, and when they do, we need to be ready. Like we just said, picking tenth probably means that we won’t have a shot at the next perfect arm, but then again, Patrick Mahomes was the tenth pick overall back in 2017, so never say never. In any case, we can’t lock ourselves into some new “Maybe this is the guy” gamble season after season. We have to be patient and watch for the next Mahomes, the next Wentz, the next Goff, the next Brees — guys around whom teams coalesced and excelled. Once we land one, give them time. Not even Elway was Elway when he started out.
5. Keep Phillip Lindsay Happy
Lindsay isn’t just a great running back, a solid talent and a fantastic football success story. He’s an inspiration and a Colorado native, too. The Broncos need to keep that kid on the team. He’s a franchise player, and he needs to be treated as such. That wrist will heal, and he has a lot of play and passion left in him. Don’t even think about trading off that talent — he’s a Bronco, through and through.
6. Sign Some New Corners
No offense to Bradley Roby, but he needs to head on to his next assignment right along with his current head coach. Man to man, Roby just gets outclassed — and outrun — far too often. Chris Harris Jr., once he heals, needs some support at corner. It’s a tough role to fill, for sure, but the Broncos should pour some attention into filling those positions and filling them well, if they want to see significant improvement overall.
7. Let Elway Be Elway
John Elway can still run this team, as long as Joe Ellis stays out of anything that has to do with coaches or players. (Ellis may well be the main blocker on bringing back Mike Shanahan.) Broncos fans want to see Elway lead the team into a season that feels like a very long and happy version of The Drive. Not too much to ask, right? Go, Broncos.
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