I don’t think I need to rehash what happened in the 16-14 Broncos loss on Sunday. We saw what happened and remember it well. No need to relive it in excruciating detail.
Unfortunately, the most heartbreaking thing about the Broncos loss isn’t how it happened. It’s why it happened.
I’m not talking about the inability to score more than a touchdown and a couple field goals. I’m not talking about the undisciplined play that led to 10 penalties for 81 yards. I’m not even talking about the painfully incorrect roughing the passer penalty on Bradley Chubb that eventually turned into a miracle last-second field goal (who would’ve thought the Bears would win any game, let alone this one, like that?). The issue goes so much deeper than that.
You can point to multiple moments from the game and say “this played a part in the final score,” but they all lead back to one glaringly obvious issue: The Broncos have a personnel problem. The great Sandy Clough said it best on his show yesterday. “The biggest issue facing this organization is LOFT (Lack of Freaking Talent).”
That’s not to say Emmanuel Sanders isn’t a good player. It also isn’t taking anything away from Von Miller. Bradley Chubb, Phillip Lindsay, Chris Harris Jr. and a handful of other names are chock full of ability, too. Beyond the first 10 or 11 names, though, there’s not a ton of names that have proven they can get the job done. Through no fault of their own, and not for lack of coaching either, the Broncos roster just wasn’t put together in a way that made sense for a team looking to win.
Going all the way back to the draft, it was clear the Broncos had a massive lack of depth at two key positions – middle linebacker and offensive line. With the 10th-overall pick, John Elway and the rest of the decision makers at Dove Valley had a seemingly perfect fit for the middle of the defense fall into their laps. They chose to pass on Devin Bush. Maybe he wasn’t the answer, but the fact remains he was a highly regarded option at a position of need. Instead, the team traded back for a tight end (a spot where the team already had three viable options) and left names like Andre Dillard, Tytus Howard and Kaleb McGary among others to be picked by other teams.
With their trade compensation, they finally addressed one of their two biggest needs by adding Dalton Risner. He’s been incredible in the first two months of his tenure. Then, with another opportunity to accumulate assets they chose instead to take a flyer on a backup quarterback that might turn into something a few years down the road. Nothing against Drew Lock, but having just traded for a “still in his prime” Joe Flacco, it was clear the plan with the rookie was to make him a long-term project. With their remaining three picks, they didn’t pick an O-lineman or true inside linebacker, either.
They bet on the additions of Ja’Wuan James and Mike Munchak, along with the installation of a defense first head coach to fill in the gaps and make up their deficiencies. In theory, that might have worked.
However, once we got into training camp and the preseason, it seemed pretty clear that those additions wouldn’t be enough. After injuries to Todd Davis and the aforementioned James, instead of truly looking to bring in support, the front office continue to push a “faith in our own” message. Now, two weeks into the regular season, I think it’s safe to say that message was the wrong one.
The next-man-up strategy only works if there’s a next man available to play. Watching Corey Nelson jump into the starting lineup immediately after his release from another roster tells me all I need to know. Add on Vic Fangio’s comments about the offensive line on Monday (in short, saying that the Broncos don’t have the bodies to do what they’d like to do to make our line better) as another example.
The harsh reality is that the front office had ample time and multiple opportunities to make the team better, or at least more prepared for the problem’s it’s currently facing. They chose not to. That’s why the Broncos lost a very winnable game to the Bears on Sunday, and it’s why they made a bad Raiders team look like a playoff hopeful last Monday.
In the end, the players have to play and the coaches have to coach. Before that, though, it’s up to the front office to put those guys in position to succeed. The Broncos haven’t done that, and that’s the real reason for heartbreak after the second week of the season.
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