The Denver Broncos currently have the NFL’s 15th-ranked scoring offense; its less than thrilling passing attack brings up the league’s rear at No. 26.

Not exactly what Broncos fans had hoped for in the marriage between quarterback Russell Wilson and head coach Sean Payton, both of whom have been known for offensive excellence for the majority of their careers.

After last week’s crushing loss to the Houston Texans, a poor performance that snapped the Broncos five-game win streak and put the Broncos playoff chances at risk, the Blame Game is back in full force. When the Broncos were winning – ugly or otherwise – the finger pointing had subsided. But after one loss, the list of culprits is long once again.

By throwing three interceptions, including the game-ending, game-losing pick in the Texans end zone, Wilson is atop the list for many. It didn’t help that Wilson only threw for 186 yards, or that the Broncos failed to convert on a single third down all day. Perhaps deservedly, plenty of fingers pointed directly at Wilson.

Jerry Jeudy was frustrated in that loss as well. The shifty wideout was wide open on several occasions in which the ball never found his way. He finished the game with three catches for 51 yards on just 4 targets. He’s over it now – allegedly – but aside from Sunday, Jeudy’s performance this season could generally be categorized as disappointing. Whether it’s his quarterback’s fault, or his own, Jeudy’s production has largely been disappointing, as he’s averaging just 3.6 catches and 49 receiving yards per game, all while finding the endzone just once.

Even the coach isn’t entirely innocent. Maybe the offense needs to get Jeudy the ball more intentionally? Perhaps they’re not using sometimes potent Marvin Mims enough? And why isn’t Jaleel McLaughlin, one of the most statistically explosive running backs in the league this season, getting more touches? And even though the coach has a tendency to play the Blame Game himself, often calling out players in the media, few would say he’s been perfect this season.

But if you really want to know who’s at fault for the Broncos yet-again snoozer of an offense this season, it’s a pretty simple answer.

Adam Trautman.

Or possibly Nate Adkins, Chris Manhertz, Lucas Krull or even the injury-riddled Greg Dulcich, who has only played in two games this season.

What do Russell Wilson and Sean Payton both have in common? (and no, it’s not that they both know all the lyrics to “1, 2 Step”)

Neither Wilson as a quarterback, nor Payton as a coach, has ever led an offense in which the tight end position has produced less than 26 receiving yards per game. In fact, that’s the lowest season of production either one has ever seen from their tight ends. Wilson has never quarterbacked a team in which his tight ends averaged less than 37 receiving yards per game, while Payton’s high-flying offenses have only dipped below the 30-yards-per-game mark three times in his 16 years of head coaching prior to this season.

With Seattle, Wilson-led offenses averaged 50.1 receiving yards per game from the tight end position. In New Orleans, Payton’s offenses had even better production, at 56.1.

This season, the Denver Broncos tight ends have collectively amassed just 258 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. Denver’s tight end group averages a pathetic 16.2 receiving yards per game.

Certainly, both Payton and Wilson have had the luxury of deploying a few top-tier tight ends over the years – namely Jimmy Graham, but also solid players like Jeremy Shockey, Luke Wilson or Ben Watson. But there’s no doubt, no matter the season, each has made the tight end a vital contributor within the offense.

For Wilson, anytime his Seattle offense ranked among the NFL’s top-10 in scoring, his tight ends averaged 46 receiving yards per game.

Within Payton’s top-10 scoring offenses – of which there were 13 in his 16 years with the Saints – his tight ends have averaged nearly 59 receiving yards per game.

As for Jeudy, and even Courtland Sutton to a degree, their lack of production can also be somewhat tied to the tight end position. In Payton’s New Orleans offense, anytime the tight end position collectively gained over 900 receiving yards in a season, the two highest non-tight end pass catchers on those teams averaged a combined 128.66 yards per game – and never once dipped below the 100-yard mark. When Wilson’s Seattle tight ends reached the same milestone, his top two pass catchers averaged 108.6 receiving yards per game.

Currently, Sutton and Jeudy combine for 97.7 receiving yards per game.

In case you’ve missed the point here, it’s not hard to define: The Broncos tight end room has been dreadful – practically nonexistent – this season, and because of that, everyone has suffered.

Obviously, there are plenty of other factors; it’s not “quite that simple.” The 2023 version of Wilson is not Russell Wilson in his prime, and he’s certainly not Drew Brees in his prime. The Broncos don’t have the luxury of Jimmy Graham and it can be argued that neither Sutton nor Jeudy are at the level of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Marques Colston or Michael Thomas in their prime.

Still, it’s impossible not to notice the correlation. Throughout their careers, both Russell Wilson and Sean Payton have had tight ends that range from stars to serviceable; the tight ends on this year’s Broncos roster don’t even fall within that range.

If George Paton is getting Sean Payton or Russell Wilson anything for Christmas this year, it should be one thing that the duo can share and enjoy – a tight end.

After all, the Broncos need one more than anything.