The Broncos have been one of the most-disappointing teams in the NFL since winning Super Bowl 50. Denver has yet to make the playoffs since holding the Lombardi Trophy.
So how do the Broncos get back to the big stage again? It’s simple just follow the blueprints from the teams in Super Bowl 54.
Make sure the coaching staff and front office are on the same page
This is one of the biggest issues the Broncos have had in recent years. John Elway has hired head coaches and then hired coordinators on his own, instead of allowing his head coach to pick his coordinators until it’s too late. This has caused the roster to learn new schemes and playbooks almost every season since 2015.
In 2017, the 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan to be their head coach and then went on to hire John Lynch as their general manager. San Francisco knew that they were going to go into a complete rebuild and knew it would take time for the franchise to get back to the Promised Land. Both Shanahan and Lynch signed six-year contracts and understood that there was going to be some growing pains. Kyle has picked his coaching staff and Lynch has been riding the wave behind his head coach.
The Chiefs have been doing this since Andy Reid took over as the head coach dating back to 2013. Reid took over a 2-14 team and turned them into an 11-5 playoff team the next season. The Chiefs also lined Reid up with general manager John Dorsey and current GM Brett Veach. Both the head coach and general manager in Kansas City understand the type of schemes they want to run and how to execute it under one of the best coaches in the NFL.
Find a quarterback
Drew Lock seems to be the franchise quarterback for the Broncos after closing out the season with a 4-1 record. It doesn’t matter how you get the guy, but when you do, you need to go all in with him. Once the Broncos solve this piece of the puzzle, the rest of the pieces will fall into place.
When Shanahan got hired in 2017, he knew he needed to find his franchise quarterback. He got a little lucky when Bill Belichick called him and offered Jimmy Garoppolo to him for a second-round pick. Simple to say it was an easy choice.
Then, you can look at the Chiefs. Reid had a quarterback in place with Alex Smih, but Kansas City also saw an upgrade in the draft and made sure to get their future. The Chiefs ended up moving up 17 spots in the NFL Draft to get Patrick Mahomes. Safe to say now, every team wishes they had this gunslinger on their team.
Bolster up the line of scrimmage
This is one of the areas the Broncos have struggled in recent years. The offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback, but did improve when Drew Lock took over as the starter. Denver is going to head into the offseason looking to upgrade at three of the offensive line positions.
The Broncos struck gold with left guard Dalton Risner and they’re hoping that right tackle Ja’Wuan James can bounce back from missing almost all of last season. Denver will also need to find a way to keep the defensive line in position to get to the quarterback.
The Broncos are solid on the edge with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will have to find a replacement for either Derek Wolfe or Shelby Harris to free agency, perhaps both. With Denver playing in the same division as Patrick Mahomes, they are going to need to find a way to bring pressure up the middle to slow him down if they want to compete for the division title in 2020.
The 49ers have had three drafts under Shanahan and each year in the first round, San Francisco has taken players that play on the line of scrimmage. The 49ers have drafted defensive end Solomon Thomas, offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and defensive end Joey Bosa. These draft picks have helped the 49ers have a top five offense and top 10 defense for years to come.
The Chiefs have been similar to the 49ers by building on the line of scrimmage by drafting Eric Fisher as their No. 1 pick to be their franchise left tackle. The Chiefs also went out and signed Mitchell Schwartz, who Miller has said is the best right tackle in the NFL. The AFC champions also needed to get to the quarterback, so they drafted Chris Jones in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft and traded for Frank Clark back in April. Those two pass rushers combined for 17 sacks this season and helped the Chiefs rank 11th in the NFL as a team.
Have a top-10 secondary
This hasn’t been an issue for the Broncos for some time dating back to the “No Fly Zone.” In fact, Denver’s secondary ranked 11th in passing yards allowed in 2019. Denver hasn’t been in the top 10 since 2017.
This could be a big issue if Denver is unable to re-sign Chris Harris Jr. If Denver is unable to bring back Harris, the Broncos would be forced to start Bryce Callahan, who didn’t play a single down last season due to injury, and Isaac Yiadom, who struggled most of the season. Denver could be forced to overpay for secondary help, as well as look into the draft for a possible fit for Vic Fangio’s defense. The Broncos will more than likely have safety Justin Simmons returning in 2020, but might be forced to be the leader on defense if they lose Chris Harris Jr.
The 49ers needed secondary help because they knew they were going to have to get by Russell Wilson, Jared Goff and Kyler Murray in the NFC West. San Francisco went out and paid All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman to a multi-year deal to be the shutdown corner they need. Sherman became a leader of men in that secondary and helped improve the secondary from being ranked 11th in the NFL is passing yards allowed to first in 2019.
Don’t look now, but the Chiefs defense improved as the 2019 season progressed. Kansas City finished the season with the eighth-best secondary in the NFL in passing yards allowed. They ranked 31st last season! Reid knew this defense was going to be playing with big leads all season and knew every opponent was going to have to throw to keep up with Mahomes.
The AFC West champs addressed the need by signing one of the best safeties in the game in Tyrann Mathieu. The Chiefs didn’t draft their secondary, but built it through free agency and by making trades for guys like Kendall Fuller and Charvarius Ward.
With the Broncos having more than $60 million in cap space entering the offseason and expected to have double digit draft picks, Denver has a chance to turn this franchise around quickly. Now, John Elway and company must hit on their draft picks and make the correct signings in free agency to turn this organization around.
We did just see the 49ers go from 4-12 in 2018 to the Super Bowl this season. I’m not saying that Denver will be in the Super Bowl next year, but in the great words of Kevin Garnett, “Anything is possible!”