Broncos embarrass themselves vs. coach-less Raiders on the day of Mike Shanahan’s enshrinement

Former Denver Broncos head coach and Ring of Fame induction of Mike Shanahan during the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High.
Oct 17, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Former Denver Broncos head coach and Ring of Fame induction of Mike Shanahan during the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, the Broncos embarrassed themselves against an extremely vulnerable opponent. To make matters even worse though, this embarrassing performance came on a very important day for the franchise, as they were handing Steve Atwater his Hall of Fame ring, and enshrining the franchise’s winningest coach, Mike Shanahan, into the team’s Ring of Fame.

Which members of the Broncos organization damaged their reputations the most? Let’s take a look.

Stock Up

Mike Shanahan

With how they played today, no active member of the Denver Broncos organization deserves a pat on the back.

The only person with any connective tissue to the Broncos who saw their stock improve today was Mike Shanahan.

Seeing him today brought back a lot of memories of what it was like to have a good head coach in Denver.

Shanahan was an offensive mastermind who revolutionized and impacted the game more than just about any other coach over the past 30 years of NFL football. He also looks pretty dang good as far as 69-year old retired NFL coaches are concerned.

Stock Down

Vic Fangio

What does this team do well? Honestly. Can anyone answer that question?

The special teams unit is likely the worst in football, so there’s an entire phase of the game out of the picture.

The offense has looked much like the Broncos’ offenses of the past five years that generated nearly nothing.

Pat Shurmur is doing a terrible job as the team’s offensive play-caller and is continuously failing to utilize his talent effectively. The offensive line is much worse than expected and seems to have declined from the past two seasons. Teddy Bridgewater might be the team’s best quarterback since Peyton Manning, but that certainly doesn’t mean he’s been any good. The running backs are fine, and Williams has consistently made exciting splash plays, but they’ve been very mediocre overall in terms of production and efficiency on the ground. Their impressive collection of pass-catchers was supposed to be the offense’s identity, but the steep regression of Noah Fant paired with injuries to Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler have erased that strength.

The defense has been fine, but it’s far from being a difference-making unit. The last two weeks though, they haven’t even been fine. They’ve been pretty bad.

The Steelers offense had their best day of the season, both through the air and on the ground, against the Broncos, and the Raiders lit them up despite being down their offensive play-caller. They broke their 11-game streak of being unable to score a touchdown on their opening drive, and gained 8.2 yards per play in the first half. To put that in perspective, the most efficient offense in NFL history gained 7.1 yards per play. The second half wasn’t much better.

Denver’s defense has more assets invested in it than any other defense in the league, yet there are seldom statistical categories that view the Broncos as a top-10 defense.

So, let’s posit the question again. What do the Broncos do well?

Horribly underperform compared to their expectation?

That falls on the shoulders of the head-man in charge — Fangio.

One could argue that the game plans were less problematic this week — though there isn’t a super convincing case for that — and that this week’s struggles were more on the execution of the players.

Even if you want to make that argument, as some in the press box were inclined to do, when the entire team fails to execute the game plan, that falls on the shoulders of the head coach.

Ronald Darby

After weeks of awful play, Broncos Country had had it with Kyle Fuller. His terrible performance against the Steelers was the nail in the coffin and left many clamoring for the return of Ronald Darby.

Those fans got their wish this week, though the play at that cornerback position did not improve.

Ronald Darby allowed two back-breaking deep shots to Ruggs, both of which came on third down, and ultimately resulted in the Raiders scoring 14 points.

That isn’t enough to change this game entirely, but it would have made it much more competitive. The second deep shot was easily the worst of the two, as the Broncos were desperate for any momentum, and allowing that play felt like a dagger.

Noah Fant

The aforementioned regression of Noah Fant has been such a major problem for Denver’s offense.

When they drafted him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, he was supposed to be a game-changing weapon. After the standard slow rookie season we see from tight ends, he showed flashes of growth his second year before injuries ruined the sophomore campaign.

As a result, he entered the 2021 season with a lot of hype surrounding him, as he could have potentially taken the leap towards superstardom.

So far, he’s headed in the opposite direction.

As a receiver, he’s greatly regressed and is no longer a weapon after the catch. He seems to shy away from contact, and the moment that contact occurs, he seems unable to gain any additional yardage.

As a blocker, he’s regressed even more. He’s one of the worst blockers on an offense that features very few good blockers, and he’s also being penalized more than any tight end should be.