While the Broncos were never expected to contend, they had a real shot at the playoffs. Instead its the same result as last year and for the first time in 40 years, the Broncos will have back to back losing seasons. Any chance of hope was snuffed out due to the ineptitude of the coaching staff, a significant amount of injuries, and a lack of competitiveness in winnable games.
First, let’s not overlook the fact that the Broncos finally had a strong rookie class. Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman, Josey Jewel, Daesean Hamilton and Philip Lindsay were all significant contributors and acted as bright spots during an up and down season. It was John Elways strongest draft and it finally featured offensive contributors that could finally do what other classes failed to do. Lets not overlook the fact that Von Miller, Emmanuel Sanders, and Chris Harris did everything in their power to anchor their respective units. Their veteran leadership provided stability when the coaching staff struggled to do so, it’s unfortunate that the past two years have wasted their talents, but with such a strong rookie class, there should be room for improvement next season.
Now, let’s get to the problems that have plagued the Broncos this season. Vance Joseph is currently not suited to be a head coach. His inability to motivate and prepare players has been prevalent throughout the past two seasons and its finally time to move on. He cost the Broncos on more than one occasion due to his poor decision making and time management that it ultimately kicked the Broncos out of playoff contention. I’m certain he will land on his feet elsewhere as a coordinator but it’s difficult seeing him as a head coach anytime soon.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave failed horribly to craft plays for the offense. He failed in situational football and for whatever reason, would constantly look for the pass fully aware that the Broncos were better suited for the run. It was disappointing knowing that Lindsay and Freeman made a helluva one-two punch but Musgrave decided to rely on a quarterback with an average arm and questionable decision making. At least cater the passing game to maximize the strengths of Case Keenum, instead of attempting to do what he was clearly uncomfortable with.
With that being said, Keenum was a massive disappointment. While he wasn’t working with a strong offensive line, there was more than enough talent for him to find success. When he wasn’t under/over throwing receivers, he was putting them in dangerous positions which would either lead to an incompletion or a turnover. Paying a quarterback 18 million to throw under 20 touchdowns has to be incredibly frustrating for a fan base that was probably better off with Siemien at the position, because honestly, you can’t tell the difference. Keenum was supposed to provide a spark to an offense that sputtered before him and instead it continued to underwhelm. There are no excuses for his poor and often sporadic play, especially considering how well he played last season in Minnesota.
The defense, while still solid, was not the same after the trade of Aqib Talib. Bradley Roby is clearly not prepared to be a number 1 corner as he was regularly torched by his matchup. Denver continued to struggle mightily against tight ends and when it came to stopping the run, there was no effort whatsoever. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods was the most effective of the Broncos coordinators, but also struggled mightily during situational football. Playing man to man instead of zone on a 3rd and 21 against the Chiefs was a bad decision that ended up in a critical first down. While I wouldn’t protest if he stayed, his departure shouldn’t be out of the question either.
If the Broncos are going to rebound in 2019, John Elway needs to be careful in his decisions as patience is beginning to wear thin. Case Keenum is clearly overpaid, but this years quarterback class is questionable, if he stays, then it would be best to find a coordinator that would maximize his strengths. A veteran QB should be brought in to challenge Keenum as that should light a fire under him to perform at a higher level. The offensive line needs to be shored up and the defensive backfield needs new corners to back up Chris Harris. If Roby happens to get brought back, then it needs to be at a discounted price, I highly doubt he helped himself this season.
Most importantly, the Broncos need a head coach that can be accountable and will motivate their players come game day. There are a number of viable candidates from Dave Toub in Kansas City to David Shaw from Stanford. Elway should take his time to ensure that the Broncos find the best coach possible. If a move is made in haste and ends up being the wrong move, Broncos country may end up pushing for Elway’s departure. Which would be a precipitous fall seeing how the Broncos are only 3 years removed from winning the Super Bowl. Fans have been spoiled with how consistent the team has been over the years, that its shocking to see the team in such a poor state.
2019 will be a critical one for the organization, a new coaching staff might be just what the Broncos need to wipe the bad taste left behind by the Vance Joseph era.