Denver Broncos: Self-discovery reveals the ugly truth

The Denver Broncos started this season 4-0, and have since gone 4-6. They are on the brink of playoff elimination following an embarrassing home loss…

Losing is the worst. There’s no other way to put it. When the Denver Broncos lose, it’s almost physically painful, because we all love this team to a fault.

Losing isn’t all bad, however. At least when you lose, you can very clearly see ways in which you can get better. When the Broncos looked unbeatable in 2013, the Seattle Seahawks put them in their place by playing incredible defense. So what did John Elway do?

He revamped the defense.

In 2014, the Broncos lacked guts, and the coaching staff was a mess. So what did he do?

He replaced almost the entire coaching staff, starting at the top with head coach John Fox getting fired and replaced by Gary Kubiak.

The result of those two major issues being resolved was a World Championship last season. Fast-forward 14 games into the future, and it’s clear to see the issues the Broncos face are entirely different.

Such is life in the NFL, I guess…

The defense is now stout, but the offense is in a shambles, and the coaching staff that was absolutely perfect for last year’s squad appears to be stuck in a major rut this season. The Denver Broncos have discovered that winning masks a lot, but losing uncovers the ugly truth.

The journey of self-discovery for this year’s Denver Broncos team has been — and I’ll be nice here — tough to watch. Starting off 4-0, it looked like the Broncos would simply pick up where they left off in 2015 and last year’s playoffs with clutch play, great defense, and just enough offense.

Over the course of the next two-and-a-half months, it’s been clear that the defense is pulling all the weight, while the offense sits idly by, waiting for an absolution that will never come.

The defense is still great, but has a very clear weakness against the run. There have also been some critical injuries on that side of the ball this year to guys like Vance Walker and Brandon Marshall.

The real weakness of this team, however, has been the offense in its entirety. And with that, where do you start but at the very top? Head coach Gary Kubiak has not planned well for games this year, despite the fact that the Broncos have won eight games.

They are the worst 1st quarter team in the NFL. They lead the league in three-and-outs. They preach a balanced offensive attack based on the running game, but it has been non-existent this season.

Denver’s offensive line, which is completely different this year than last year (except for center Matt Paradis), has been among the worst in the NFL now since week one of the 2015 season. The vaunted zone blocking scheme that Kubiak implements wherever he goes has been remarkably bad with anyone who touches the football at the running back position, including 2014 Pro Bowler C.J. Anderson who is one of Denver’s most prized offensive weapons.

The Broncos are one of the worst teams in the NFL at converting in the red zone over the last two seasons. They were 28th a year ago with Peyton Manning/Brock Osweiler running the show at quarterback, and they are 29th this season with Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch.

This is a Broncos team that has certainly had one of the worst situations at quarterback in the league over that timeframe, at least in terms of on-field play. Having Peyton Manning at the end of last season was invaluable to a Super Bowl run, but over the course of the regular season, Manning was a major liability.

Brock Osweiler? Well, he was just benched for Tom Savage. Trevor Siemian has showed promise, but can’t seem to string together four consistent quarters of play. Paxton Lynch has looked disastrous since a relief effort in Tampa Bay where he looked really solid.

What in the world do the Broncos have to do?

In my opinion, they need a complete overhaul on offense, and it would perhaps start with the coaching staff. I won’t suggest (yet) that Gary Kubiak should be fired, but the Broncos don’t have any creativity offensively. As Bill Belichick noted, this is a brand of football that hasn’t changed in decades. There’s something to be said for consistency, but how easy has it been for teams to stop Denver’s offense since Kubiak came aboard?

Heck, this is a team that won the Super Bowl with a record low in yardage for a champion offensively.

The offense is offensive, and I’m getting tired of watching it.

There have been a number of questionable decisions made by coach Kubiak this season, but his lack of aggressiveness before halftime against New England on Sunday, his willingness to activate Jordan Norwood (who fumbled twice…again!), his play-calling (or delegation thereof), third down efficiency, lack of discipline of the offensive line resulting in drive-killing and sometimes game-killing penalties…

It’s all adding up to a very frustrating product on the field, and it all boiled over on Sunday with an apparent locker room argument between the offense and defense.

The defense, which had just shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense with only 16 points and zero 1st quarter completions, got three points — and three points that barely squeaked inside the upright — from the Denver offense.

It didn’t matter if the Broncos had good starting field position or bad starting field position, there was nothing they could do consistently or successfully offensively.

The Broncos’ issues are a combination of coaching and personnel offensively. This is a coaching staff that is trying to win with a conservative style of play and a group on offense that would probably start the annual fourth preseason game.

Let that one sink in.

The coaching staff has displayed an inability to develop the talent of high draft picks, specifically on offense. Perhaps I’m being impatient there, but what in the world is going on with Cody Latimer, and why can’t he get snaps over Jordan Norwood? There’s no possible way he could be worse.

Why is Ty Sambrailo still so bad, when he looked like he could make the transition in the NFL to guard fairly easily? What in the world is going on with former third round pick Jeff Heuerman?

Something’s got to change in Denver. Frustration is mounting.

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