Running the Denver Broncos is a Zero-Sum Game

Zach Gotlieb | November 16th, 2019

Being a fan of the Denver Broncos is challenging right now. Top to bottom, the whole team is a complete mess. The ownership is four people running a one-man position and running with the wrong mentality. The Bowlen family is in shambles and is consistently trying to sabotage one another. The coaching staff is showing their inexperience. The team, as a whole, lacks talent and direction. The worst part, no matter what the organization does, the fans aren’t going to like it and call for everyone’s head no matter what.

The Patriarch Pat Bowlen

Ever since Pat Bowlen bought the team in 1984, the Broncos had been a symbol of consistent success, which includes three Super Bowl championships and several other records. He ran the team in a way that was just different. His impact on the team and the game itself is one of a kind (to read more about his impact: click here). It’s been a mess since he stepped down from running the team due to Alzheimer’s in 2014.

The committee that now runs the team has simply become a problem. Four people making a one-person decision doesn’t work, and the decisions are being based on the wrong principles. The decisions being based on “what would Pat do?” doesn’t work without Pat Bowlen. As much as it hurts to say, it’s time to create a new and working status quo. Hopefully, the committee will actually live out Pat’s will and eventually name one of Pat’s children to be the new owner of the team in their father’s wake.

Fans have been trying to live with what’s happening, but as the problems continue to grow and the Bowlen family continues to separate, the veil of “everything is all right” isn’t fooling anyone anymore. It’s growing more unrest by the day. Frankly, the fans aren’t wrong about being mad about this complete mess of an ownership situation. Nor should they be happy about the product on the field.

The Quarterback Conundrum

As the Broncos sit at 3-6, it’s time to face the simple fact that there is just not enough talent on this team. There really hasn’t been since Super Bowl 50. Their biggest weakness: Quarterback. The Super Bowl also was the end of the Peyton Manning era, as he retired on top. The team has used six different starting quarterbacks, and none have been adequate enough to be the long term answer.

It’s been several “swings-and-misses” and short-term band-aids. The latest band-aid: Joe Flacco. Flacco, now on injured reserve with a neck injury, has been digressing since his Super Bowl 48 victory. While he hadn’t been great or really even that good this season, he had been better than the last four guys to try their hand at being the Broncos starter.

The thing is, the fans have seen this movie before. Last year even. The difference this year is that there is actually someone behind Flacco that may or may not be the long-term answer in rookie Drew Lock. This creates a problem for the fans and front office alike.

When Lock was drafted, it was pretty clear that he was going to be a bit of a project given the offensive system he ran at Mizzou. It was clear that he wasn’t going to be ready to be “the guy” this season, even as he went through the preseason. That’s why trading for Joe Flacco ended up making a lot of sense going into the season.

After this season, Flacco still has two years on his deal and after a contract restructure right before the season, he now carries a $13.6 million dead cap hit if he were to be cut during this offseason. If he were to be on the roster at the start of next season he’d owed a little more than $23.6 million (per Spotrac).

What Do the Fans Want?

It’s understandable for fans to clamor to take Drew Lock off of injured reserve and start him for the remainder of the season, especially with Flacco being on injured reserve, but with that leaves unforgiving fans and a lack of understanding.

Players take time to develop. Some take longer than others. The fans saying put Lock out there, when he clearly isn’t ready and hasn’t practiced for most of the year since he’s been on IR, are hiding one thing. The second he starts to struggle, they’ll be clamoring for the team to draft yet another “quarterback of the future” calling him a bust.

Yes, it’s evident that Flacco is not the answer and interim starter Brandon Allen is not the answer. Yes, this season is going nowhere, but throwing a guy in just for the sake of throwing him in is not the answer. Setting him up for failure by putting him in when he clearly isn’t ready to be the guy is something the Washington Redskins are showing you shouldn’t do. As they’ve done with their rookie Dwayne Haskins.

It’s a zero-sum game. If the team plays him and he struggles, even with a small sample size, he’ll be called a bust, and fans will be calling to waste another pick on another quarterback. If he doesn’t play then fans will be yelling that the team was too cautious, and you can’t know what you have unless you play him. The latter is true, but being smart about using guys should take precedent

The fact of the matter is this: patience is a virtue. If the team believes Brandon Allen now gives them the best chance to win, they’re going to play him. They are not in the business of tanking and for a good reason. They already have the young core in Phillip Lindsay, Bradley Chubb, and Courtland Sutton, now they need to grow a culture. Adding players and having no image of the future is what got them into this situation in the first place. Constantly changing quarterback plans before there’s even been a chance to see if they should, does not build anything. Winning and competing builds a culture.

The team has a ton of holes. Using draft picks to bolster the offensive line, add in the secondary, or at wide receiver would be a much smarter use of their picks. Changing direction at every moment of adversity is how a team goes to complete irrelevance and failure.


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