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How Do You Divide the Blame for Broncos' Current Sorry State?


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I think all of us acknowledge there is plenty of blame to go around for this team's sorry last month. But, imagining a pie chart, how do you divvy up the blame? 

There are three primary culprits when any team has the struggles we're having - the GM/Front Office, the coaching staff and the players. 

Thus, each in turn. 

  • John Elway/Front Office: No one, and I mean no one, will argue that Elway and his front office have not done a lot more good than they have done bad since 2011. That being said, there have been far too many misses in the draft, especially with the o-line and running backs and we have been unable to find someone who is a true franchise QB. To be fair, drafting in the bottom 1/3 of all but one draft (his first) has not made this easier but there plenty of teams who pick late and hit on those late-in-the-rounds picks. While there have been a lot of "hits" in free agency and we have resigned key players to team friendly deals, avoiding being cap hell, there have been mistakes (especially, again, with OL) in free agency. Also, Elway & Co. make the decisions on the structure of the coaching staff and thus, if you place a measure of blame on the coaches, that also has has to reflect on the front office. 
  • Vance Joseph/Coordinators/Assistants: Vance was hired because he supposedly is a great leader of men. Yet, through six games, the team has far too often looked unprepared, uninspired and is beginning to fracture. The three coordinators have all made mistakes - many, many mistakes - in terms of their game-planning, play-calling and (lack of) adjustments. Whether it's calling 50+ pass plays on an offense that has a Swiss cheese O-line and a banged-up, mediocre-level talent at QB or not making adjustment to cover Evan Engram or the general crappy play of the ST units, it's hard to give the coaching staff anything close to a passing grade.
  • The Players: Even with some holes on the roster and questionable, to be charitable, coaching decisions, this roster is in the top-half of the league, at least, in terms of the raw stock of talent. Yet the players, with very few exceptions, have not played to their collective talent level. The only players, in my opinion, who have played to their talent level are Von Miller and Aquib Talib. Even with some problems with roster construction and shoddy coaching, ultimately the players are the ones who have to execute on the field but this year there have been too many mental lapses, missed assignments, unforced errors and inability to make big plays when needed. 

With this in mind, what percentages to each of these three groups get in your pie chart of blame?

 

Edited by AnAngryAmerican
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15% - Front Office: Failure to execute on the offensive line, but with fair effort (Leary, Bolles). Again, at Qb with Lynch - have we given up on him by the way? I know in preseason he looked lost, and looked worse than he even did in 2016 - they made an effort here, but like 31 teams each year will tell you it is not easy building the perfect roster.

50% - Coaching: Prior to week 6 loss against the Giants I imagine we were all feeling pretty good about this team, and our chance at competing for the division (or at least a Wild Card). To come off of a bye week and let the Giants beat us like that, that has got to be on coaching. We all knew what the game plan had to be, but they abandoned it fairly quickly and we resorted to throwing the ball way too much. Then to lay a goose egg the following week against a division rival? It's really hard to quantify the effect of coaching on performance, but those games just scream bad coaching / lack of preparation. 

30% - Players: Lack of preparation has got to fall on both players and coaches. We also have lacked the 'big play' that kept us in a lot of games in the past couple of years - that we have not had to count on until recently. Now we are trying to recover from giving up that big play.

5% - Us, as a forum: Part of me thinks that we are at least slightly responsible for this right? Someone had to have made a deal with the devil for the Lombardi, and now we are paying for it.

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This is going to be a long post (just warning everyone).  It's just a difficult question for me, with a lot of different factors.

  • John Elway/Front Office: 25%- Elway and the FO have done a tremendous job since taking over.  There have been some issues, almost exclusively on the offensive side of the ball, but there shouldn't be a single Broncos fan complaining.  The offensive line is clearly an issue and Elway has consistently put that unit on the back burner and when he has tried to spend resources it's backfired, though Bolles looks like he will be at worst a solid pick and Leary so far has been a good pickup.  But, he's missed in this area quite often.  However, if you've been watching the NFL this season most OL's in the league are awful.  To have a good OL it takes spending a lot of cash/high draft picks, which in turn probably leads to Denver's close to historic runnof defensive dominance suffering as they wouldn't have the money to keep all that talent around. The real issue is the team hasn't found a QB, which is easily the most difficult position in the NFL to find, so I can't condemn Elway and Co., for that, especially with the team picking as late in round 1 as they have been.  Osweiler was a miss, Siemian is solid, but mediocre, and Lynch doesn't seem even close to ready.  If this team had even a slightly above average QB we'd be talking about them being SB contenders.  QBs make up for so many deficiencies on offense, especially the OL, a guy behind center that is average or worse across the board equates to what Denvers offense has looked like this season.
  • Vance Joseph/Coordinators/Assistants: 25%- I am going to start this by saying, I'm tired of hearing complaints about the defense and Joe Woods.  Denver has the #1 defense in football.  Sure there are some areas that are weaker than others, but this is the best defense in the NFL.  That even with the offense laying eggs, keeps this team in the ball game from the first snap until the last snap.  It is nit picking to think that unit is any type of issue with the teams current state.  Special teams is another story.  They've had a few good outings, but overall it's been pretty poor and I was very excited about the addition of Olivo.  It's almost as if Olivo is getting too cute trying to create impact plays and it's just getting guys out of position in kick/punt coverage.  I also don't understand why Denver has been returning kicks that are 6-7 yards deep in the end zone, makes absolutely no sense.  The offense is the difficult one for me.  As bad as it's been, I don't place all the blame on McCoy.  I can't even believe I'm saying this, but I think calling plays with an offense with Tim Tebow (I was one of Tebow's biggest detractors) would be easier than it is with Siemian.  At least Tebow was good at something, running the ball, and could keep the defense honest.  Siemian does none of this.  He can't throw deep, he's an average at best runner, he makes poor decisions, and he isn't as accurate as he's made out to be.  Put that type of player behind a poor OL and there just isn't a lot of scheming to be done.  Defenses are stacking the box and pinning their ears back daring the QB to beat them and if your QB can't do that and back them off there really isn't much hope.  Ive read that McCoy needs to dink and dunk and let Siemian get the back out quick.  Easier said than done.  Teams are just jamming the hell out of Denver WRs throwing the play off, the front 7 is dialed in getting the QB, which spells disaster.  You can't run the ball because the boxes are stacked, it's just a very difficult situation.  My only real issue with McCoy is not getting the RBs more involved in the passing game.  As far as Joseph, he's had a few head scratchers, but the notion that this team isn't ready to play I don't think holds water.  Even in the losses Denver has been within striking distance, and that's with a terrible offense.  He's still getting this team to compete from start to finish, there are just to many offensive issues to over come.
  • The Players: 50%- There has just been a lot of issues that don't fall onto coaching that have hurt this team.  I'll start with McManus.  He has been terrible.  That isn't coaching, he missed a kick and looks absolutely petrified since.  He's shifted momentum in a couple of games now.  He has to be better and can be.  Then there are plays that just shouldn't happen.  Sanders dropping a wide open ball downfield vs Buffalo, Derby has had a couple drops and the big fumble vs the Chargers.  Siemian not throwing to wide open targets and instead targeting heavily covered players.  Almost all of this falls on the offense.  While it isn't a good unit, it's missed big opportunities in winnable games and those opportunities don't fall onto coaching, but instead the players.  Overall though a lot of this teams issues fall on the QB, which is what makes this so difficult for me.  QBs the toughest position to find, we all know it isn't easy to find a QB, so it could be argued that this section should be 25% and the FO section should be 50%.  However, Siemian has to get it done.  He's had opportunities to burn defenses and can't get it done.  Last week he had Green on a TD pass that he severely under threw.  Even with protection he's looked terrible.  The player at QB is the biggest issue with this team.  
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The buck stops with Elway -

1. He wasted, and continued to waste money on the likes of Stephenson, Watson (and by not tendering CJ) and as a result has engaged in penny-pinching on the roster.

2. He has taken far too many punts on players in the draft that were of questionable talent.

3. He hired Joseph and put together the rest of the coaching staff

4. And this I think is the root of the problem - he didn't fire Russell when he took over as GM

 

And I don't blame the players for anything - it is the jobs of the coaches to get the team playing to an optimum - if the players see that the coaches are not doing the job right then it demotivates them. The vast majority of players will go out and do their best - but if the environment is not right then their best will always be below their potential.

Just one comment about the first couple of games - that is all opposition coaches needed to get film on Siemian and the OL - and now they know how to stop them. Unless McCoy figures out how to scheme for opponents to disrupt their game plan against the Broncos offence then this is going to be a very, very long season. 

 

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50% Front Office - You can't ignore the trenches and expect to be good.  I've said this for going on three years now that we need a huge influx of talent on the offensive line, and year after year it is ignored by the front office.  Toward the end of the Shanahan days I used to say that this organization "doesn't like to spend money on fat guys"... we never addressed DT and it felt like we always had a leaky run defense.  Over the past three years we've ignored the offensive line.  Stephenson was a clear mistake, he'd never been good, coming to Denver wasn't going to cast some magic spell on him.  Same goes for Menelik Watson.  We've invested 1 premium pick in an OL in the last three years.  I can't even count Sambrailo as a "premium pick" because most everyone knew he sucked and that, like with the 2017 first round, we were completely handcuffed into that pick due to a lack of bodies at the position.  After the first few years of really shoring up the defensive line, bad scouting, lack of spending, and meh picks have turned our defensive line into a group lacking in talent.  When Marcell Dareus gets traded for a 6th round pick how do we not offer a 5th?!  Short answer, the front office doesn't believe in this team and is looking to move up the draft board for more premium talent - can't say I blame them.  If the goal for this front office is Super Bowl or bust, we need to bring in more elite talent, and that can only happen through the draft with our current financial state relative to the rest of the league.

 

20% Players - It's like there are so many pro-bowl and all-pro level talents on the defense that they rested on their laurels this offseason and didn't prepare.  The secondary hasn't been the dominant unit we've become accustomed to seeing.  They're playing down to competition, and losing. 

 

30% Coaching Staff - "They're (the players) playing down to competition, and losing"  This attitude is a reflection of the coaching staff.  I don't think any one coach has been terrible, but the atmosphere is probably too lax.  After the past two games the coaching staff should be lighting into these players Tom Coughlin style.  I'm not going to get into scheme and all that, especially on offense... there's a lack of talent, so incompetence on that side of the ball was to be expected.  But lack of discipline and a lax attitude is something you can't win with in this league.

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1 hour ago, elliot878 said:

50% Front Office - You can't ignore the trenches and expect to be good.  I've said this for going on three years now that we need a huge influx of talent on the offensive line, and year after year it is ignored by the front office.

I just can't agree with this. Elway has not ignored the trenches. Far from it. Since taking over in 2011, Elway has spent four premium draft picks on OTs - Franklin (2nd), Schofield (3rd), Sambrailo (2nd) and Bolles (1st). He has also spent money, in big money in most cases, on the o-line. In 2013 we signed Ryan Clady to a $50m+ deal and in the last two years we have spent starter's money on three OTs and one OG in free agency signing Okung, Stephenson, Watson and Leary. 

Now, it is perfectly fine to criticize Elway & Co. for making mistakes, Okung, Watson, Stephenson, Sambrailo and Schofield all busted and Clady got hurt. Franklin, while a passable player, wasn't resigned and Leary and Bolles both look like hits. 

But you cannot say premium free agent money and premium draft picks have not been invested in the o-line since Elway took over. That is just flat out inaccurate. 

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6 hours ago, AnAngryAmerican said:

I just can't agree with this. Elway has not ignored the trenches. Far from it. Since taking over in 2011, Elway has spent four premium draft picks on OTs - Franklin (2nd), Schofield (3rd), Sambrailo (2nd) and Bolles (1st). He has also spent money, in big money in most cases, on the o-line. In 2013 we signed Ryan Clady to a $50m+ deal and in the last two years we have spent starter's money on three OTs and one OG in free agency signing Okung, Stephenson, Watson and Leary. 

Now, it is perfectly fine to criticize Elway & Co. for making mistakes, Okung, Watson, Stephenson, Sambrailo and Schofield all busted and Clady got hurt. Franklin, while a passable player, wasn't resigned and Leary and Bolles both look like hits. 

But you cannot say premium free agent money and premium draft picks have not been invested in the o-line since Elway took over. That is just flat out inaccurate. 

I still think it was crazy Clady was on our team the last two super bowls we played in but didn't play in either due to his season sending injuries. 

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18 hours ago, AnAngryAmerican said:

I just can't agree with this. Elway has not ignored the trenches. Far from it. Since taking over in 2011, Elway has spent four premium draft picks on OTs - Franklin (2nd), Schofield (3rd), Sambrailo (2nd) and Bolles (1st). He has also spent money, in big money in most cases, on the o-line. In 2013 we signed Ryan Clady to a $50m+ deal and in the last two years we have spent starter's money on three OTs and one OG in free agency signing Okung, Stephenson, Watson and Leary. 

Now, it is perfectly fine to criticize Elway & Co. for making mistakes, Okung, Watson, Stephenson, Sambrailo and Schofield all busted and Clady got hurt. Franklin, while a passable player, wasn't resigned and Leary and Bolles both look like hits. 

But you cannot say premium free agent money and premium draft picks have not been invested in the o-line since Elway took over. That is just flat out inaccurate. 

 

There's a reason I looped scouting into the equation there.  Since signing Louis Vasquez our scouting of OL talent, and ability to find value over the past 3-4 years has been downright pathetic.  Bolles and Leary have been the only two hits.  In that span, which yes, I should have clarified I'm talking the last few years when I say "ignored the OL" (mostly tackle), it has been ignored and poorly scouted.  

The two offensive tackles we drafted in Sambrailo and Bolles were not drafted because they were the best options on the table, but because the position on our roster at that time was SO thin that there was NO CHOICE whatsoever other than to take tackles at these picks.  That's pretty much the definition of neglect lol.  Bolles looks fine, but Sambrailo was a huge miss, a miss we couldn't really afford at the time.  At the time of Sambrailo's and Bolles picks, when Goodell approached the podium, every person in this forum, the league, and on tv knew those picks had to be offensive tackles.

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Front Office- 60%

Yes, Elway built a SB winning team. He should, and has been, commended universally for his efforts in doing that. But post-SB there were some poor decisions made. The Broncos, since the SB win, and honestly maybe even the year before, have begun a bizarre draft strategy of targeting individual players seemingly in each round of the draft. It doesn't even feel like they are creating true draft boards, instead they are just falling in love with players and taking them as they come.

The offense is more or less bereft of talent beyond the top 2 WRs. We haven't been able to sign or draft a competent line. We haven't been able to sign or develop another competent QB. We've wasted premium draft picks on marginal or useless players who either barely play or aren't on the team, and we are built nearly exclusively with FA signings and below market value contracts with guys worth much more. Elway has been really strong in FA- as good as anyone in football, but he has been one of the worst GMs in the draft for my money. Denver's avoidance of a BPA draft strategy has pretty much gutted the roster. The draft is a crapshoot anyway, but when you target specific positions and players AND they fail, you're in bad position. Denver needs to re-evaluate their scouting and draft practices. This year's draft serves as another example of a team drafting without an identity- they looked for "playmakers" but drafted a guy who weighs 165 soaking wet and a guy who can't run a route tree because they were looking for Tyreek Hill. In turn, they passed up guys like Juju, Cooper Kupp, Tarik Cohen...think we could have used some of them? I do.

Coaching- 30%

I echo what was written above- I don't have a huge problem with Joe Woods. I hate the zone coverage, but the work he's done with the run defense plus the PPG this team has been allowing despite the offensive mess is pretty brilliant, IMO. Are there things he could do better? Sure. But this defense is better than Wade's defense was last year, IMO. Brock Olivo is a terrible ST coach. Both kicking specialists have regressed. Our ST look lost in general. I feel like Olivo was sold as this olive branch because a chunk of the fanbase wanted Toub, and since Olivo was a rah rah guy under him it was a great hire. We're a mess on that unit. Offensively, I'm torn. McCoy has very little to work with, including at QB and OL, but I do think it would benefit him to be a little more creative. I see terms worse than us being more creative offensively. It's just way too vanilla. I'd like if we used Booker more considering he adds something in the pass game. 

Players- 10%

Some players on this team just can't hack it and seem to be playing like hot garbage. Brandon Marshall got a nice contract, but looks average at best this year. McManus looks like garbage. At least some of Siemian's issues are mental. Every single OT we have is struggling. There's just some poor play going on among players who we need to rely on. I've seen some bad angles and poor effort from more than a few guys this year.

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Of the four coaches - HC and the three coordinators - the one least responsible for what is going on is Woods. When your kickers and your coverage is not up to scratch then that is on the ST coordinator - when the offence is sooooooo predictable that is on the Off coordinator - when the players do not play like they are a team that is on the HC.

McCoy has a poor offence to work with - but no matter how bad the offence is he has to figure out a way of moving the ball and putting points on the board. This offence has more talent that last year - we have three OLmen who are an upgrade on last year's OL - and we have better RBs and (bad as they are) WRs. 

All of this comes back to Elway - poor drafting - poor FA moves on offence - wasting $17million of cap space on three players - hiring Russell's frat buddy as HC etc. It is possible that Elway is believing his hype as GM because he won the SB - but he really needs to get his head out of his rear end and start addressing the problems.

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Just in relation to the draft - it is a crapshoot - but the best way of approaching the draft in my opinion is to consistently draft the BPA - irrespective of position.

2011

Von Miller

2012

Derek Wolfe

(and if you want to Include him - Brock Osweiler)

2013

Nothing

2014

Bradley Roby

Cody Latimer

Matt Paradis

Corey Nelson

(with 2 of them probably gone next season)

2015

Shane Ray

Jeff Heuerman

Max Garcia

Lorenzo Doss

Trevor Siemian

(Garcia and probably Heuerman to be gone in the near future)

2016

Potentially a very good draft - if you exclude wasting a 1st on Lynch

2017

Looks like an absolutely disaster of a draft outside of Bolles (who could probably have been got by trading down)

Hopefully Butt and Kelly develop

 

13/14 players out of 7 years of drafting (and that is only because 2016 has the potential to see 6 players stick on the roster) is not good enough - and that comes down to Russell.

The one thing that I am optimistic about is that two of the best years were the years that Kubiak was HC - and the fact that he is now involved in scouting players may prove to be a positive next year. But Elway really does need to get rid of Russell.

 

 

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11 hours ago, broncos67 said:

Front Office- 60%

Yes, Elway built a SB winning team. He should, and has been, commended universally for his efforts in doing that. But post-SB there were some poor decisions made. The Broncos, since the SB win, and honestly maybe even the year before, have begun a bizarre draft strategy of targeting individual players seemingly in each round of the draft. It doesn't even feel like they are creating true draft boards, instead they are just falling in love with players and taking them as they come.

The offense is more or less bereft of talent beyond the top 2 WRs. We haven't been able to sign or draft a competent line. We haven't been able to sign or develop another competent QB. We've wasted premium draft picks on marginal or useless players who either barely play or aren't on the team, and we are built nearly exclusively with FA signings and below market value contracts with guys worth much more. Elway has been really strong in FA- as good as anyone in football, but he has been one of the worst GMs in the draft for my money. Denver's avoidance of a BPA draft strategy has pretty much gutted the roster. The draft is a crapshoot anyway, but when you target specific positions and players AND they fail, you're in bad position. Denver needs to re-evaluate their scouting and draft practices. This year's draft serves as another example of a team drafting without an identity- they looked for "playmakers" but drafted a guy who weighs 165 soaking wet and a guy who can't run a route tree because they were looking for Tyreek Hill. In turn, they passed up guys like Juju, Cooper Kupp, Tarik Cohen...think we could have used some of them? I do.

Coaching- 30%

I echo what was written above- I don't have a huge problem with Joe Woods. I hate the zone coverage, but the work he's done with the run defense plus the PPG this team has been allowing despite the offensive mess is pretty brilliant, IMO. Are there things he could do better? Sure. But this defense is better than Wade's defense was last year, IMO. Brock Olivo is a terrible ST coach. Both kicking specialists have regressed. Our ST look lost in general. I feel like Olivo was sold as this olive branch because a chunk of the fanbase wanted Toub, and since Olivo was a rah rah guy under him it was a great hire. We're a mess on that unit. Offensively, I'm torn. McCoy has very little to work with, including at QB and OL, but I do think it would benefit him to be a little more creative. I see terms worse than us being more creative offensively. It's just way too vanilla. I'd like if we used Booker more considering he adds something in the pass game. 

Players- 10%

Some players on this team just can't hack it and seem to be playing like hot garbage. Brandon Marshall got a nice contract, but looks average at best this year. McManus looks like garbage. At least some of Siemian's issues are mental. Every single OT we have is struggling. There's just some poor play going on among players who we need to rely on. I've seen some bad angles and poor effort from more than a few guys this year.

I agree. How about the fact that Elway hasn't drafted a blue-chip offensive player in seven drafts? Thomas is a McD pick, Sanders a FA, Leary a FA, Anderson was an UDFA, too early to tell with Bolles. I figure the best Elway draft pick on offense has been Matt Paradis? Who is a solid player- but hardly a blue-chip guy.

Maybe Elway is an elite recruiter and GM on the defensive side of the ball, but maybe we've been blind to his offensive deficiencies because of the greatness of PFM.  

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19 minutes ago, bMiller031 said:

I agree. How about the fact that Elway hasn't drafted a blue-chip offensive player in seven drafts? Thomas is a McD pick, Sanders a FA, Leary a FA, Anderson was an UDFA, too early to tell with Bolles. I figure the best Elway draft pick on offense has been Matt Paradis? Who is a solid player- but hardly a blue-chip guy.

Maybe Elway is an elite recruiter and GM on the defensive side of the ball, but maybe we've been blind to his offensive deficiencies because of the greatness of PFM.  

A lot of good points throughout the thread. To add on - looking at how much of an impact rookies are making across the league, it's really frustrating that this team really has zero young, exciting players. Roby, Simmons, Bolles, and Ray look like the only guys we can really get excited about. Very frustrating.

 

I think the majority of the blame has to go to the FO. I'll call it 55%. The bottom line with the team this year (and the last two years really) is they have two crippling weaknesses - the pass protection and the QB play. That comes back to player evaluation. 

The coaching staff is inexperienced and has not spent any time together. Compare that to the team we play tonight - one of the best and most experienced staffs in the league. There is going to be a learning curve for Joseph and the whole staff getting to know each other. You have to trust Elway and know that functional organizations aren't quick to turnover the coaching staff. Joseph will not be on the hot seat this season, period. There will be mistakes. It's a part of the process. 

 

The more I think about it, the more I am coming to think that the McManus extension is dumb. Even if he wasn't struggling - this team plays 8 (or hopefully more) games in Denver. The team has not had a bad kicker in my lifetime. It might not be the best allocation of money to spend a premium on a kicker when you probably can keep developing them. But yeah, ST has been freaking terrible. The defense is not forcing turnovers, which is an issue. And obviously the offense is trash. 

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