Doing the same thing over and over and over again, but expecting a different result each time, is the definition of insanity. Right now, that tired cliché applies perfectly to the Broncos.
The franchise keeps trotting out quarterbacks with less-than-stellar physical tools because they are great at the white board, fully expecting that knowledge to translate into success on the field. And every time, the signal caller touted for his football smarts fails to deliver when games begin.
It’s a tradition that dates back two decades in the Mile High City, with multiple coaches making the same mistake. Along the way, the fan base has chewed up and spit out a host of quarterbacks who were simply in over their heads.
Brian Griese. Trevor Siemian. Case Keenum. And Brandon Allen. The list goes on and on.
What do all of these players have in common? They knew the Broncos offense better than the other, perhaps more physically gifted, QBs on the roster.
Griese got the nod over Bubby Brister because Mike Shanahan was tired of the cagey veteran improvising on the field. The result was a 6-10 season on the heels of back-to-back titles.
Siemian was given the chance to defend the team’s Super Bowl 50 win because the Northwestern product knew Gary Kubiak’s offense better than Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch. In two years, he went 13-11 on a team boasting one of the best defenses in NFL history.
Keenum was signed to a hefty free-agent contract because he could execute Kubiak’s system better than Lynch, while also bringing a little more playmaking ability to the table than Siemian. After a 6-10 season, he was shown the door.
And now, Allen is getting the first shot at filling the void left by Joe Flacco’s injury because he has experience in offenses similar to what Rich Scangarello runs. So instead of fast-tracking rookie Drew Lock, the Broncos will first see what they have in the former sixth-round pick.
Anyone who is expecting the Allen experiment to end well isn’t a student of history. The evidence clearly suggests that he’ll join the list of highly intelligent quarterbacks who ultimately couldn’t overcome their physical limitations enough to succeed in Denver.
Why on earth would the Broncos keep making the same mistake? Because they’re in love with the Shanahan offense.
To some extent, this fascination makes sense. After all, Denver rode the Mastermind’s system to all three of their Super Bowl titles.
It worked in the late ’90s, when John Elway deferred to Terrell Davis en route to back-to-back championships. And it worked again in 2015, when Peyton Manning took a back seat to the Von Miller-led defense on the way to another Vince Lombardi Trophy.
In addition, recent deviations from the offense have ended in disaster.
The 2011 campaign saw the Broncos revamp their scheme to fit Tim Tebow’s unique skill set. This led to a memorable season filled with improbable wins, but ultimately ended with a 45-10 playoff loss at New England.
In 2013, Denver let Manning do his thing behind center, resulting in what was arguably the greatest offensive season in NFL history. But all the regular-season success wound up going for naught when the Broncos were beaten 43-8 by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
As a result, Elway has become entrenched in his belief that the old-school system is the way to win championships. The two negative moments seem to have scarred the general manager so much that he clutches to the Shanahan offense like Linus clings to his blanket.
In short, the Broncos let a couple of aberrations cloud their thinking. And they’re ignoring the mountains of evidence that prove this point.
Tebow Mania was fun, but nobody expected it to last. How that season ended in New England shouldn’t prevent an organization from building an offense around a quarterback’s skill set in the future. That’s just silly.
Super Bowl XLVIII was a disaster, but it wasn’t an indictment of Manning’s offense. That night went off the rails because it was a virtual road game, in a cold weather stadium, when the Broncos were without Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Ryan Clady and a host of other stars. If a high-powered offense can get to a Super Bowl, it can certainly win one.
By contrast, Elway has 56 games since he uttered “This one’s for Pat!” to suggest the Shanahan/Kubiak/Scangarello offense isn’t working. During that time, Denver has gone 22-34 behind five (about to be six) different quarterbacks.
In that same span, the Broncos offense has finished 22nd, 27th and 24th in scoring in 2016, ’17 and ’18, respectively. And this year, they’re even worse, currently sitting 28th in the NFL, averaging a paltry 15.6 points per game.
All of this has occurred despite the fact that Elway has thrown money at the problem. Not only did Denver’s general manager give big dollars to Keenum and Flacco, but he’s also signed a host of free-agent offensive linemen to big contracts. None of it has worked.
Changing the offensive coordinator hasn’t been the magic elixir, either. Kubiak, Scangarello, Rick Dennison, Mike McCoy and Bill Musgrave have all generated essentially the same anemic results.
It’s not the players. It’s not the coaches. It’s not the payroll. It’s not whatever culprit can be created as a scapegoat.
It’s the system. Period.
No other conclusion makes sense. Yet the Broncos seem unwilling to accept this reality.
As a result, they squandered Lynch’s career in Denver. The quarterback might’ve been a disaster no matter what the team did, but to not at least try to build the offense around the skills of a player the team invested a first-round pick in is completely irresponsible.
And they’re in the HOV lane toward doing the same thing with Lock. The rookie currently isn’t practicing and won’t be on the field anytime soon for some unknown reason, leaving many to believe it’s because the quarterback hasn’t completely grasped the system.
Instead of letting him do what he excelled at in college, providing a base that can be built upon as time goes on, the Broncos are leaving Lock in no man’s land until he’s mastered their outdated offense. It’s like not letting the most-creative mind at Apple work on any projects because he hasn’t passed Latin. Who cares?
Take the player with talent and figure out a system that allows him to succeed. It’s not a difficult formula, but it’s one that repeatedly gets ignored at Dove Valley. Instead, they keep hoping those fluent in Latin will create the next iPhone.
Once again, Denver is trying to force a square peg into a round hole. And once again, they’re hoping for a different result.
The definition of insanity is on full display in Broncos Country.
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