Before the Denver Broncos Sunday game with the Baltimore Ravens we detailed five Broncos players that we wanted to see improvement from.
The Denver Broncos took their first loss of the season in Baltimore, dropping a not-as-close-as-the-score, rainy matchup with the Ravens 27-14. There was a lot to unpack from this ugly loss. The hardest thing we faced on Sunday was the idea that this isn’t a team that just needs some fine-tuning, as we had hoped. This is a team that has deep flaws in execution and discipline, both within the expectations of the head coach.
It’s more than that with this Broncos team, and with the state of the NFL, in general. From Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown drama in Pittsburgh to Earl Thomas in Seattle, Vontae Davis in Buffalo to the ongoing Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid situation. There’s a palpable disconnect between the League, it’s players and it’s fans and it has taken a toll on the game.
It’s easy to say Vance Joseph and Joe Woods are overmatched and that the coaches aren’t prying the best out of the Broncos. That analysis isn’t completely wrong. When Gary Kubiak stepped down, the Broncos narrowed their search to Joseph and Kyle Shanahan. There were reports that Shanahan wasn’t interested in Denver, the Broncos selected Joseph. Shanahan has had little more success in San Francisco, though GM John Lynch made a move for a legitimate quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo that improved Shanahan’s fortunes significantly.
Joseph has had no such support from his front office. The offensive line remains substandard, the running game is in disarray (trade Shane Ray and Bradley Roby for Le’Veon Bell). The quarterback has been a disaster since Peyton Manning went down with a lisfranc injury. There was a Sports Illustrated article that forwarded the theory that John Elway is looking for himself in a quarterback and that search leads him to the laundry-list of poor QB play we’ve had to endure for nearly four seasons. After seven Super Bowl appearances as a player and executive, I’m willing to give John a long leash on this matter. He still should answer for his decisions.
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We tend to be laser focused on the Broncos and don’t recognize that most teams are struggling with the same issues the Broncos face. Matt Nagy is criticized in Chicago, Matt Patricia has looked lost in Detroit, though he’ll get a reprieve after Sunday’s trouncing of the Patriots. Even Kyle Shanahan’s merit is going to be tested with Garoppolo going down with a knee injury on Sunday.
Add the NFL’s absurd rule adjustments over the last few years and the League as a whole seems on shaky ground. They coddle guys that do bad things too often and they punish good guys that make mistakes too often. Ray Lewis and Adrian Peterson continue to be celebrated by the league after vicious and violent crimes. Peterson remains defiant about his scandal, Lewis will not even acknowledge his.
There is also the 10-minutes of commercials per four football plays to feed the billion-dollar TV contract and the NFL has a problem.
The League problem ties in to the perception of individual teams. To put it more succinctly, Vance Joseph‘s shortcomings are exaggerated by problems above him in team and league hierarchy. While this has always been the case, with sports social media and access to information exploding, the spotlight just intensifies.
Here’s how we graded the five players we wanted to see perform on Sunday: