Are the Broncos Stuck in the Pit of Misery? – Part 1

Hello there, faithful readers. It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from us. It could be that there hasn’t been anything worth writing about over the past month in the world of sports or movies (partly true), or it’s possible that our real jobs keep us from writing on a more regular basis (mostly true). Regardless, we’ve missed you guys and we’re glad to be back. Not a moment too soon, either.

You see, things really start to heat up in the sporting world when the calendar turns to March, and I’m not just talking about the weather. Seeing as we are mostly a Broncos blog, it’s fitting that our favorite team is entering perhaps its most important offseason since John Elway took over the front office. With a glaring hole at quarterback, dire needs at multiple other positions and a coach that barely survived his first season on the job and will need to make huge strides if he wants to see the end of his second one, it’s safe to say that the moves the Broncos make over the next couple of months could make or break their 2018 campaign before it ever gets started.

And we’re back to see all those moves through with you. While we’re optimistic that everything that happens will put our team back on the path towards winning, we’ve been humbled way too much since Super Bowl 50 to feel that confident. Still, you should know up front that Pegboards still very much trusts John Elway to make things right, and we hope you do to.

So without further adieu, let’s get to it. Are the Broncos stuck in the Pit of Misery? And if not, how do they get out?

Jesse: Alright Kevin. It’s time for a topic that for two years now has been sad and depressing: the Denver Broncos! And what better way to start than to touch on the head coach of that downtrodden team. The supposed leader of men. The guy who John Elway didn’t fire after a 5-11 season and now a lot of Broncos fans are even more cantankerous than they usually are. Ladies and gentlemen, Vance Joseph!

I’ve given my thoughts more than once in the past few months for why the Broncos should’ve made a change at head coach after the season. They didn’t, and although I didn’t throw a tantrum like some members of Broncos Country did, I have some pretty grim misgivings about Joseph still being around. But I got the impression from you that you think he deserved another chance in 2018. Care to shed some light on that?

Kevin: Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s address this misconception right away. I’m not saying he deserves another chance, I’m just attempting to explain the reasoning behind his retention with some logic and perspective.

I know what you’re thinking, “logic and perspective have no place on the internet” but I enjoy being a contrarian so hear me out.

Let’s go back about a couple of months to the last NFL game of the Broncos’ season. Rumors were swirling that Joseph was going to get the guillotine. Fans were delirious with happiness (or all that legal weed). Things seem to be looking up for the once proud Broncos franchise.

But then new rumors swirled that the Broncos players (AKA the people that see how Coach Jo works on a day-to-day basis) were trying to protect him. Look, media accounts are hard to trust, it might have only been a few players that wanted to protect ol’ Van but it also might have been the whole locker room. And who knows better than those guys?

Think about your boss for a moment. Do you like him/her? Does the office get it’s job done? Now what happens if the office has a bad year? Should the onus fall on the new guy/gal in charge? Not necessarily right? Just like the recession of the late 2000’s, there are multiple factors that caused this disaster, it wasn’t just one thing or one person.

My point is, it’s more complicated than, “Vance Joseph showed up and lit Dove Valley on fire, slapped John Elway’s mother, and peed on our Super Bowl trophies, and now we are all screwed”. That might have been the case with Josh McDaniels but is this really the same situation? Could it not be “Vance Joseph showed up admittedly overwhelmed in his first year and was handed a flawed (offensive) roster that he couldn’t quite figure out”? Sure the perfect coach would have figured it out faster. The long term answer might have come out with a strong first season no matter the flaws of the roster. But they can’t all be Bill Belichick (who, for all his talents, couldn’t save the Browns in his first head coaching job).

Besides Jesse, imagine you’re John Elway and you’re ready to take Vance Joseph out back and put him out of his misery. Then he walks in and gives you this face:

DKBDNrWVAAIifkj.0.jpg

Are you really going to be able to break that man’s heart? Come on.

But fair is fair, let’s hear your side of the argument. Why don’t you start by telling me about all of the worthy candidates who were available to replace Young Joseph.

Jesse: Worthy candidates? Uhhh… hang on a sec, let me grab my list of quality replacements here.

Alright let’s see, the top candidate on a lot of people’s lists is the offensive coordinator from the New England Patriots. He’s been one of the better assistants in the NFL for years now, and although he was a bit of a disappointment in his first head coaching job, surely he will learn from his mistakes and do much better the second time, right? Oh wait, we’ve already been down that road before, haven’t we? I’m sorry, I forgot that I blocked out that portion of our team’s history from my memory. He even wound up leading the Colts down the primrose path earlier this month before bailing to go back to his daddy. I mean personally I think the Colts dodged a bullet and are better off with Frank Reich (you know, whose team beat the Pats and their weasel of an offensive coordinator in the Super Bowl), but it was interesting watching that all play out as a Broncos fan, and not being surprised one bit at the outcome.

You can also forget about Matt Patricia, since the Belichick coaching tree pretty much begins and ends with him (though apparently the Lions are completely unaware of this, which isn’t surprising because, you know, they’re the Lions). And considering our offense has been garbage for most of the past three years, you would want an offensive guy anyway if you were going to make a change. I don’t think Jim Harbaugh or David Shaw are chomping at the bit to leave their well-paying college jobs for the eternal hot seat that is head coach of the Broncos, so really that leaves two names that I would’ve considered (three if you count Reich, but I doubt the Broncos would’ve waited that long to name Vance’s replacement).

Pat Shurmur did an excellent job getting Case Keenum (Case Keenum!) to quarterback the Vikings to a first-round bye and an NFC Championship appearance. Before that, he was a big hit with the Eagles and Rams, which landed him his first shot at being a head coach with the Cleveland Browns. Yes, he only won nine games in his two seasons before they fired him, but considering the Browns just threw a parade outside their stadium for going 0-16 this year, I’d say that Shurmur should probably go into Cleveland’s Ring of Honor, if there is such a thing. And like you said, even Belichick couldn’t save the Browns when he had the opportunity. The Giants must’ve been impressed by Shurmur too, because they brought him in before he even finished packing his stuff in Minnesota.

The other name that has intrigued me for a while now is Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams last year before taking the same job in Tennessee. He is the best kept secret in the NFL, because hardly anyone knows who he is and yet quarterbacks flourish pretty much everywhere the guy goes. Whether it was getting a good season out of RG3, helping guide Matt Ryan to the MVP award or turning Jared Goff from a potential bust into one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, LaFleur is a damn quarterback whisperer. So why doesn’t anyone know who he is, Kevin? Probably because Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay get most of the credit for coaching up those quarterbacks, and until this year, LaFleur had been solely a position coach and has yet to call plays in the NFL (although the coaching carousel came to a stop and he still didn’t have a seat, so LaFleur would still be an option down the line).

So there you have it. The two best replacements I could come up with are an ex-Browns coach and a guy who has one year of experience as a coordinator, much like our very own Vance Joseph had before he got the Broncos job. Would either of those have excited you Kevin or are you glad that we just stayed the course?

Kevin: Look, with all due respect to a man I know hardly anything about, aren’t some coaches better off as coordinators? That’s the feeling I get from Shurmur but maybe that’s the Browns cloud hovering over him impacting my opinion. (Also, side note, someone should update his Wikipedia image, I mean look at this thing, this would be a top three in my “I never want people to see this picture” list if I were Coach Shurmur.)

Pat_Shurmur_in_2012

Anyway, I know the greatest coach of all time came from the scraps of the Browns at some point but, no thanks, I am fine “missing” out on Shurms.

As for…wait hold up a second, I have to scroll up to remember his name…ah yes, Matt LaFleur, that’s right. Look I don’t want to burst your bubble butttttt here it goes.

You stated LaFleur helped RGIII in his only good season, helped Matt Ryan on his way to an MVP, and helped turn Jared Goff around. That’s good and all but it’s not like those guys were scrubs. At the time RGIII was a phenom picked with the 2nd overall pick and a buttload of capital from Washington. Sure he’s busted out since but that’s a very complicated situation and hardly to do with LaFleur not being there. Matt Ryan was always on a path to personal greatness, it was just a matter of time (plus, you know, Julio Jones isn’t bad). And Jared Goff might have been a goof in the rookie year but he was still the first overall pick in the draft. Sure he helped him get it together in a great campaign but also how much is that Coach LaFleur vs the absence of Jeff Fisher?

I’m just saying I’m not ready to crown this guy as the holy speaker of quarterbacks quite yet. And even if you are ready to give him that title, that would still set up an issue for the Broncos in this hypothetical situation because, you know, we don’t really have a quarterback to be whispered to.

Speaking of that, who the hell is our quarterback going to be Jesse?

Jesse: Yup, there’s the rub with LaFleur. All of his greatest accomplishments as a coach can be attributed to someone else, or in the case of Jeff Fisher, the lack of someone else. But hey, I like the guy. And I have about a 25 percent success rate in predicting which coordinators will make great head coaches, so I’m telling you there’s a chance that LaFleur is the quarterback whisperer, damn it! On a side note, LaFleur is now completely out of the shadows of Shanny Jr. and McVay, and is being tasked with reviving the career of Marcus Mariota. If he pulls that off and Joseph gets run out of town this season, LaFleur would be my top choice to replace him.

Whoops, sorry I got a little off track there. What was the question again? Ah yes, the next Broncos quarterback. Logic says that it will be Kirk Cousins. He’s been stuck in Shawshank State Prison Washington long enough and dreams of escaping to a team that will show him some love, and a truckful of cash. As for the Broncos, things worked out pretty well last time they reeled in a starter from free agency (of course it helps that it was Peyton Fucking Manning). However, I have a nagging suspicion that Washington isn’t quite finished meddling with Kirk’s career and may tag him to prevent him from becoming a true free agent. Yes, that would be incredibly stupid on their part, but look at who we’re talking about.

That could extend the Washington/Cousins drama well into the offseason and I doubt John Elway wants to wait that long to make an upgrade at quarterback, plus a team like the Vikings could very well win the Cousins sweepstakes regardless. I think Plan B would be to pick up Tyrod Taylor (whose reward for ending the Bills’ playoff drought is not being retained) or Case Keenum and draft another quarterback. Yeah, I know that Elway missed on both Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, but Cousins is the only guy that will prevent us from rolling the dice yet again on another young signal caller. The question at that point is who it will be.

So what do you think Kevin? Is Kirk Cousins the quarterback of our dreams and will that actually come true? Or will we experience a cold dose of reality and be forced to look elsewhere? And who the hell do you think that guy should be?

Kevin: Here’s where my struggle with Cousins lies. Modern success in the NFL seems to be defined by a strong QB who comes on the cheap thus allowing you to build a team around him. See Russell Wilson/Seahawks, Wentz/Foles/Eagles, whatever injury prone veteran/Vikings.

Then again, we’ve tried this route for a few seasons now in a way. We’ve thrown together some cheap bodies and put them behind a strong defense and well…yeah that hasn’t worked.

But maybe, just maybe, we should stick with that plan but with a better build. I mean do we really want to tie up all of the money is a QB that we aren’t 100% sure about?

Theoretically, if we sign a Tyrod Taylor, or an AJ McCarron, and save a boat load of money, what should we do with it to ensure we can plug any one in at QB and be a playoff team? What areas need fixin’?

Jesse: The short answer is a lot. The long answer will be in part 2 of this post. Cliffhanger!

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