Is the Duke Cursed?

Is the Duke Cursed?

The success that decorated the Denver Broncos from 2011 through 2015 seems like a distant memory.  Tim Tebow was in full “Tebowing” mode, John Fox was mumbling and stumbling his way through press conferences and post Tebow,  Peyton Manning entered Broncos Country much like Captain America or Iron Man enters the fist scene of a Marvel movie. Life was good for Broncos fans.  Winning the AFC West was a given while talk of a Super Bowl or 2 wasn’t far fetched, in fact it was expected.   So where did it all go?  How did one of the most successful organizations in NFL history transform into a Raider/Browns-like franchise; constantly recycling coaches, qb’s and other key role players?   Where did the dynasty defense known as the “No Fly Zone” go?    Boy was that a short lived “best of all time” window.  Unfortunately, the man once called on to save the Broncos organization, and did in fact do so, deserves the blame.

John Elway was once asked what his backup plan was if Manning went down before his comeback season in 2012.  “We don’t have a plan B,” Elway said, “We’re going with plan A.”  Sure at the time it sounded inspirational;  Elway and the rest of the front office were declaring their All-In mentality and for the most part, fans and reporters ate it up. But that same quote that prepared us for an epic run of winning is the same quote that certainly haunts the Duke of Denver.  What was Plan B?  Not just at the QB position but for everything/everyone?  What if Gary Kubiak truly doesn’t want to coach for long (he never wanted to come back to head coaching, Elway convinced him).  So when the bulk of the “No Fly Zone” wants more money for the SB they just won, how will you replace them when you determine their asks would be too great?  When Brock Osweiler  surprisingly took offense to being benched after an average first half  what would you do to convince him to stay post Manning?  The answers?  Well, you know, that whole plan B thing again.

Elway didn’t have any answers before SB 50 on what his team would look like after SB 50 and that fact is destroying the good name that #7 helped the Broncos build.  Fascinating isn’t it?  The same man that trained Broncos country to believe a title was possible every year is now feeling the pressure from angry fans and talking heads throughout the country.  It wasn’t as if Elway just quit doing his job once Manning retired and they won their 3rd SB, but perhaps his lack of attention to detail, unwillingness to adapt to an ever changing league and constant misfires is what’s leading most to believe he’s not the right man for the job.  Even when he makes a good move on paper it seems to blow up in his face.

Russel Okung, Donald Stephenson and first round pick Garett Bolles all seemed to be good moves for Denver.  Okung and Stephenson were both formidable offensive linemen and Bolles was a projected first rounder by most draft experts.  Okung and Stephenson obviously didn’t work out and Bolles is somehow hanging, or should I ay holding, on by a very thin thread.

Case Keenum had a breakout year as the starting QB for the Vikings in 2017 but once he put on a Broncos uniform the dream ended.  He threw 3 picks in his first game.

Bradley Roby was an excellent nickel back but once Elway parted ways with Aquib Talib and promoted Roby to the #2 CB he struggled and now plays for the Houston Texans.

CJ Anderson and Demaryius Thomas were given contract extensions and both failed to deliver post renewal.

I could go on and on but it certainly appears that the Duke of Denver is snake-bit.  This is not to say he’s simply unlucky as he’s made plenty of bad moves “on paper” that turn out to be exactly that; a bad move.  Last year’s draft for example was mind boggling.  The Broncos had the 10th pick overall and traded it away in order to stock pile picks later on.  So instead of drafting standout middle linebacker Devin Bush out of Michigan, who went at 10 to the Steelers, they traded down and picked up the second best tight end for Iowa, Noah Fant.  You tell me who’s having a better rookie season. HINT:  It’s the dude with 32 tackles, 2 INT’s and 1 sack.  Sure, with the trade they were able to not only get their LG in Dalton Risner but a possible QB of the future in Drew Lock.  However,  with the trade to acquire Joe Flacco from Baltimore, it would appear that Lock isn’t a part of the immediate plan in Denver.  Or at least wasn’t before the season began.

In 2017, Denver took Bradley Chubb, a monster of a pass rusher, at #5 overall.  Best player available, sure, but most practical for a team needing O linemen and QB’s?  Certainly not.  Quenton Nelson, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson to name a few, are all guys the Broncos passed on.  All 3 are leading their teams to playoff caliber seasons this year.

Trading for Joe Flacco and labeling him as “still in his prime,” leads me to believe Elway refuses to learn from his mistakes.  Signing Keenum should have been a quick lesson that you can’t bring a guy in based on what they did in one year or what they did several years ago.  It worked with Manning but come on…it’s Manning.  Elway’s arrogance when it comes to his roster is killing this franchise.  He’s quick to say farewell to talented players and very quick to welcome one hit wonders or guys that used to do it a high level.  Talib, Ward, Trevathan, Barret and Knighton are just a few names from that “dynasty” defense that Elway let walk and assumed just anyone would jump into those roles.  I understand you can’t afford to pay all of those guys max contracts but choosing to pay Keenum over 18 million/year screams to me that you could have kept at least two of them.   Looking back, wouldn’t you much rather have secured a top defense while sacrificing a chance to get your next pro bowl QB? Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t: Meaning stay with a guy like Osweiler or Siemian while building upon your defense until the right guy comes along in the draft.  Wouldn’t you much rather have a healthy Talib/Harris combo and average QB making average $$ than a lonely Harris and an average QB making super star $$?

Bad decision after bad decision is why the Broncos are staring at a 4th season in a row of no playoffs and perhaps a 3peat of losing seasons.  There’s no plan, there’s no system.  This is why it’s easy for Elway to draft the best player available; there’s no structure.  The Patriots lose Wes Welker years ago and brought in Julian Edelman.  They trade an overpaid/fading  DB and replace him with the next up and comer.  Shaq Barret should have been promoted to blitz opposite Von Miller but Elway’s eyes got big and he simply replaced a B+ player with an A-.

Not only do the Broncos not have a plan B, simply, they don’t have a plan.

Elway is backed up to his own 2 yard line and time is ticking (about [5:32] left).  Can he do the unthinkable and get Denver out of this messy situation or will this Drive, come up short?  Stay tuned.