Mile High Meltdown: The 2017 Edition

There’s not much to say after a loss like this. When you get your ass kicked by a bad team at home despite having plenty of time to rest and prepare, there aren’t really any excuses either. You just have to hope that the stink of your pathetic performance will wash off and not carry over to the following week. And that’s the reality that the Broncos woke up to yesterday after they laid an egg and were embarrassed by the lowly New York Giants.

I’m sure that adjustments will be made. You’ll hear a lot of soundbites this week about how the Broncos just came up short against a desperate team and didn’t play their best game. A lot of players will be pissed off and will vow that it won’t happen again this season, and I hope that proves to be true. I really do.

But, as Kevin said in a group text with me and our buddy Ryan yesterday morning, “I thought we lost because we secretly suck.”

To which I respond, unless last night was just an aberration, then the secret is out.

The Good

1. It Was an Out of Conference Game

That’s really all I have for you this morning. The only silver lining that the Broncos can take from that piss poor showing is that they lost to an NFC team and it won’t have a huge impact on potential tiebreakers for the playoffs. That is, if the Broncos are even in a position to make the playoffs this year. And sure, even though the defense didn’t have their best game, they hung in there and were the only reason that the Giants didn’t completely run away with this one in the second half. Other than that, there are no positive takeaways from Sunday night.

So I guess that means it’s time to dive into the negative? Brace yourselves.

The Bad

1. Mike McCoy and the Offense

Back in 2011, Kyle Orton was benched for Tim Tebow after a 1-4 start, and Mike McCoy didn’t do a whole lot to adjust his offense for his new quarterback. After a miracle of a win against the Dolphins (in which the offense mostly struggled) and then a blowout loss to the Lions at home, McCoy essentially put his playbook through the shredder and designed a painfully simple, read-option style offense for Tebow. While it was certainly unorthodox, it proved to be a shrewd move on McCoy’s part, as the offense compensated for Tebow’s shortcomings and did just enough week-to-week to help get the Broncos to eight wins and into the playoffs.

Five games into the 2017 campaign, it appears that McCoy will once again need to be unafraid to turn away from his preferred style of offense toward something better suited for his current personnel. I thought those adjustments would take place during the bye week, but instead McCoy called for 50 passes (that’s right, 50!) and just 15 running plays, despite having one of the league’s top-ranked rushing attacks. It’s clear that McCoy wants a high-octane passing game like the ones he had with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. It’s also clear that he’s trying to shove a round peg into a square hole, and if the Broncos are going to have any semblance of a decent offense the rest of the season, then he needs to cut that out.

Then again, it would help if his offensive line would block better, if his quarterbacks would throw on time and on target and if his skill players wouldn’t fumble the ball. A coach can only do so much.

2. Vance Joseph

I’ve been mostly impressed with Vance as the head coach of this team. The first four games weren’t perfect, but he provided a lot of reasons to hope that he can be the long-term head coach the Broncos haven’t had since Mike Shanahan. This game was not one of those reasons and he deserves to be criticized as much as anyone.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, but it’s the job of the head coach to ensure that his team shows up every week fired up and ready to play, especially coming out of the bye. Instead, it was the Giants who appeared to be the ones who were focused and refreshed, with the Broncos apathetically slogging their way through the contest. These types of games can happen to any first-time bossman, but as a supposed “leader of men,” I’m disappointed that Joseph allowed his team to stink the joint up in that fashion.

3. John Elway

Just so you know where I’m coming from, I think we’re extremely fortunate to have Elway as the general manager of the Broncos. He’s brought in a number of good players since taking the job back in 2011 and he helped orchestrate one of the best runs in franchise history. The man deserved his new contract and I’m glad that he’s sticking around for awhile.

However, that doesn’t mean that he has a perfect track record or hasn’t made any roster blunders, because he definitely has (particularly on the offensive side of the ball). I lamented over the Broncos’ woeful right tackle situation in my last article, begging Elway to bite the bullet and be aggressive in acquiring a better player for that spot. He did not and the Broncos continued to trot out their legion of turnstiles, and you saw the results of that Sunday night.

Then there’s the quarterback situation, which has been mired in mediocrity for the last couple of seasons. Brock Osweiler is being paid $15 million this year by the Browns because he wasn’t good enough to make their team. Siemian is looking more and more like just another guy and less like a long-term starter (we’re getting there, I promise) and Paxton Lynch, Elway’s first-round pick a year ago, is in over his head to such a degree that he can’t even get on the field (currently he is injured, so technically it’s not lack of efficiency keeping him off the field right now, but you know what I mean).

Again, Elway has displayed a keen eye for talent many times over, but he has failed to bring in a competent starting quarterback in the wake of the Peyton Manning-era and to fix the problems up front on the line, and the chickens have been home roosting for over a year now.

The Ugly

1. Trevor Siemian

Remember a couple weeks ago when I said that Siemian is more likely to be the next Alex Smith than the next Peyton Manning? That’s rapidly becoming a terrible assessment on my part, because Smith has vastly outplayed Siemian so far this season. And while Trevor certainly isn’t the sole problem on offense, his performance against the Giants was his worst as a starter and cast some serious doubt about his long-term role on the Broncos.

Trevor seems like a really good guy, his teammates respect him and he has a cool underdog story that’s easy to get behind (hence his throng of supporters), but his flaws are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. In no particular order, Siemian holds the ball for too long, telegraphs his throws, struggles with accuracy, throws into traffic and possesses very limited playmaking ability. The Giants battered him, jumped his routes, picked him off twice and dropped about three or four other near interceptions. It was hard to watch that game and come to any other conclusion than that Siemian simply isn’t the answer at quarterback for the Broncos.

We’re all so desperate for the next great Broncos signal-caller that when someone has a good game or a good stretch of them, as Trevor did to start the season, it can be easy to overreact. Same goes for a bad performance or a few of them in a row. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, but I promise that this isn’t another instance of that because we saw him play this way for much of last season, and the results this year are starting to line up with what he provided before. While the Broncos can do things to help mask his flaws (like maybe running the ball on first down more often), they’d be crazy to not look for an upgrade at quarterback next year unless Siemian bounces back and displays consistent, notable improvement in his game.

And at this point, I just don’t know that it’s reasonable to expect him to turn the corner.

2. Special Teams

Did aliens abduct McManus and replace him with someone else after he signed his new contract? If not, I have no idea what the hell is going on with him or why his play has dropped off so dramatically. It’s not just that he is consistently missing field goals that he typically bangs home with ease (although that is still pretty concerning), but some of these kicks are chip shots. The first of two misses against the Giants was from around extra point length, and it set the tone for a very long night for the Broncos.

I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe it’s just something that McManus has to work through to get his confidence back, but I do know that at this point it’s hard to trust him to convert when the Broncos send him out there, and that’s a very frustrating situation to be in with your kicker (just ask Tampa Bay about that).

As for the rest of the special teams, it was simply a night to forget. I like Brock Olivo’s passion and enthusiasm for his role, but his unit has been sloppy so far this season and they need to start cleaning up the mistakes.

Next week’s prediction: Chargers 23, Broncos 13

The Broncos have lost two of the last three games that I predicted they’d win, so let’s try going the other way and see if it helps them. In all seriousness, it would not shock me if the Chargers came away with this one. Philip Rivers has played some of his best games against the Broncos and Melvin Gordon has to be licking his chops after he saw how many yards the defense gave up on the ground to the Giants. On the other hand, it should be mostly Broncos fans at the StubHub Center on Sunday, so at least we’ll have a home field advantage.

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