In Kansas City, the most glaring weakness was of course the play of quarterback Trevor Siemian. He has been replaced by Brock Osweiler after three terrible weeks. However, it would take quite the narrow narrative to blame him for all of the Broncos’ sins.
The Broncos’ offense was humiliated at every position. Bennie Fowler dropped a touchdown pass. Demaryius Thomas and Jordan Taylor ran the wrong routes. The offensive line provided, at best, a two-second count before letting Kansas City’s defense run wild (this was actually an improvement from the Chargers game). Jamaal Charles fumbled — on a night when the running game was significantly better.
The continuing problems on offense are primarily due to a lack of talent at almost every position.
In Broncos franchise history, only one quarterback has persevered facing such ineptitude around him.
The answer is not: Siemian, Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly or Kyle Sloter.
It’s not Tim Tebow.
It’s not even Peyton Manning.
The only guy who would have a chance with this offense is the Duke of Denver himself — John Elway.
Elway was what separated the Broncos from being the modern day Cleveland Browns. When watching highlights and lowlights (like the pre-XXXII Super Bowls), one thing is clear: Elway played much of his career with offensive talent similar to today’s squad.
Seriously, go watch the Drive (1987 AFC Championship Game).
Elway had virtually no help on that drive. The special teams failed him on the kickoff return. The running game could only grind out a few yards and the offensive line couldn’t stop the Cleveland Browns at all. Yet, Elway kept his composure, scrambled and ran. Half of his body was covered in mud. Still, he found a way to will his team to the game-tying touchdown.
Elway has to be thinking about that time. He won with mediocrity here for years, leading the Broncos to three Super Bowls. It’s possible. Of course, he never won a championship until team management built up the talent around him.
The Broncos find themselves in that familiar situation — with an offense that needs its quarterback to carry the load. It’s just that Elway and his scouts put them there.
Lessons From Super Bowl XLVIII
The Broncos’ current offense is still a result of the Super Bowl XLVIII loss. Elway built the most prolific passing offense in NFL history. Quarterback Peyton Manning threw double-digit touchdown passes to each of his four top receivers: Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas in 2013. Then they lost to the Seattle Seahawks, and Elway knew what he had to do.
He needed to build a defense that could win a championship. He went out and spent the money to do that.
That strategy was the main reason the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.
The defense is still of that caliber, but it’s also shifted the focus away from the offense. The offense has continued to erode.
In January, Elway said he wouldn’t take away from assets on defense to fix the offense. It’s true — most of the Broncos’ money is tied up in paying the defense.
It’s just that most of the losing is tied up in the offense. And the Broncos don’t have the quarterback to lead a bad offense. They don’t have John Elway in his prime.
The Woes of the Draft
Of the offensive players Elway has drafted, the only ones making an impact this year are Matt Paradis (sixth round in 2014) and Garett Bolles (first round in 2016). Then there’s Trevor Siemian (seventh round in 2015) and perhaps Brock Osweiler (second round in 2012).
They have a number of players that have not made an impact this year, including most of this year’s draft class (some due to injury). Virgil Green is the only offensive draft pick from Elway’s first three years as GM still on the team except for Osweiler.
The receivers and tight ends from recent drafts have yet to make an impact. The failures drafting offensive linemen bring tears (and pain) to the Broncos’ quarterbacks.
It’s not that the Broncos haven’t tried to draft to fix the offense. It’s just that so far they have failed. The fixes have not come from the draft.
If you think the Broncos’ answer at quarterback is on the current roster, you better hope he doesn’t play this year. No one is going to thrive in this offense.
Meanwhile, the Broncos need to start hitting in the draft on offense and hope that they can find some impact players quickly. Because the lopsided field they’re facing right now might be a descent into football darkness for Denver.