Analyzing the Broncos Blunders
Written by: Quintin Bentley Crevling
The Denver Broncos are the reigning Super Bowl champions for one last week of the 2016 season.
An organization that won five straight divisions titles found themselves watching the playoffs from the comfort of their homes this year, leaving fans across the league scratching their heads wondering: why the sudden drop off?
This is a complex question that has a combination of many different factors.
The Broncos had to pay Von Miller a very expensive contract, making him the highest paid defensive player in league history. The team also had a complete makeover at the quarterback position, opting to start the last quarterback taken in the 2015 NFL draft, Trevor Siemian. Like most teams in the league, the Broncos players sustained injuries that left the team with a major hole at running back.
The NFL is a business, and the players are a commodity that can be traded and sold to the highest bidder. If an athlete is the best player in the league at their position, they become an extremely valuable asset that should be properly compensated for both their production on the field and money they produce through advertising.
This past offseason, the Broncos general manager John Elway thought that outside linebacker Von Miller played well enough to earn himself a six year $114.5 million contract with $70 million in guaranteed money. This contract is great for Miller, but hurts the organization as the NFL salary cap places a maximum spending limit on each team.
The Broncos salary has 10 defenders earning more than $1 million a season compared to just 6 players on the offense. Miller’s contract has made it so the front office can not sign players despite having drastic needs on offense.
The biggest problem the Broncos faced this offseason was who to play at quarterback.
Last season Brock Osweiler started the last eight games of the season while Peyton Manning was out with a foot injury. In those games, Osweiler played reasonably well and had expected to be the starter heading into the playoffs. The Denver front office made the executive decision to play Peyton Manning throughout the playoffs instead of Osweiler.
Future hall of famer Peyton Manning went on to lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory and then promptly announced his retirement from the league. Osweiler, who was in a contract year, took extreme offense to being benched in the playoffs and decided to leave the team at the culmination of the season.
This left the Broncos without their first and second string quarterbacks.
The team signed veteran free agent Mark Sanchez in the offseason and used their first round draft pick to sign Paxton Lynch. The Broncos had a three way quarterback competition during the season and ultimately decided to start Trevor Siemian who was the team’s third string quarterback the season before.
The last piece of the puzzle was the toll injuries took on the team.
In the 2015 season, the Broncos leading rusher was Ronnie Hillman who signed with the San Diego Chargers in free agency. The Broncos did not offer him a contract as they believed CJ Anderson was ready to handle a bulk of the carries. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Anderson’s season was ended after seven games due to a torn meniscus in his knee.
In the high stress business of professional sports, the players are not the only ones subjected to the mental strain of a season and the negative effects it can have on the body. The Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak did not go into specific details on his health, but Kubiak and his family decided that it was in his best interests to step away from the game due to increasing health concerns.
We do know that Kubiak suffered a mini stroke after a game while he was the coach of the Houston Texans. He has publically stated, “once you have one you need to not mess around do what your doctor is advising you.”
This combination of large player-friendly contracts, lack of quarterback talent, and injuries have made the once dominant Denver Broncos a mediocre team barely scraping by.
Do not expect this decline to last long.
Trevor Siemian accumulated a wealth of experience starting for an entire season. The Broncos are most likely hoping first round pick Paxton Lynch will play up to the value of his draft stock.
The Broncos will have a new head coach in Vance Joseph who worked with Gary Kubiak for three season in Houston, and spent the last season working as the defensive coordinator in Miami. This is Joseph’s first time operating as a head coach and he couldn’t have inherited a better organization.