ENGLEWOOD (Colo.) — The search for a new quarterback by the Denver Broncos in the post-Peyton Manning era was a costly one.
Costly in a record that has leaned decidedly toward a growing pile of losses, costly in the erosion of any sort of patience among the team’s faithful and costly to the head coach.
Sunday morning Vic Fangio, the Broncos’ second coach, was fired. The offense was too stubborn and inept. The Broncos lost five out of six games and scored 13 or less points in four losses. They were eliminated from the wild-card race for the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
The uncertainly at quarterback and inability to match the starter with the playbook could be seen almost as soon as Gary Kubiak — who helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 — stepped away due to health reasons after the Broncos’ 9-7 finish in 2016. It was the final season Denver had with a winning record.
The Broncos dropped four of their six previous games. They scored 10 or fewer in the final four games. Vance Joseph fired the offensive coordinator in his first season 2017 and was fired after the 2018 season.
Fangio fired an offensive coach after his first season (2019), and has been fired with the same problems facing the Broncos two years later. It may sound familiar: The Broncos continue to replace coaches until the quarterback question is answered.
These numbers are very well worn. Since the halfway point of 2016, there have been 10 different starting quarterbacks — 11 if counting running back Phillip LindsayHe was the start of the 2020 match against the Saints, in which all three Denver quarterbacks were unavailable due to COVID-19 issues. The team hasn’t averaged more that 23 points per game since 2014.
They’ve tried the trade/free agency market with Case KeenumAnd Teddy Bridgewater. They’ve tried premium draft picks with Paxton Lynch in the first round (2016) and Drew LockIn the second round (2019).
They’ve tried late-round pick Trevor Siemian(Seventh round in 2015). They’ve tried training camp competitions and midseason flip-flops.
They’ve tried building and maintaining a defense good enough to have been tied for No. They are currently ranked No. 1 in scoring defense, with just three weeks left in the season. (The Broncos will be likely No. After the games are over, the Broncos will likely be No. They’ve tried first-time head coaches with defensive backgrounds in Joseph and Fangio.
They’ve also tried, over and over again, to play offensive schemes they didn’t block particularly well. They’ve tried to keep bridging the gap between “playoff team” and “close” or “right there.”
The 2015 Broncos proved the fragility of this whole thing. The team that won Super Bowl 50 scored just 20 more points than this team in 16 games (1.2 more points per game). The 2015 Broncos won 9 games in the regular season with seven or fewer points and a generational defense.
They’ve had defenses that were good at times over the past six years, even very good at times, but never replicated that close-game, big-moment performance of the 2015 group. As a result, more close games got away, in between an ugly rout or three, with an offense that didn’t help.
Sunday morning, George Paton, the general manager, issued a statement that looked a lot like John Elway’s before him.
Paton said, in part: “Our search to find the next head coach of the Broncos will be a comprehensive, collaborative process. We’re approaching it with an open mind and look forward to spending time with some outstanding candidates. With the foundation in place, the progress that’s been made and the resources we have to get better, I’m excited about the future of our team. We will find an outstanding leader and head coach for the Broncos and our fans.’’
Paton should have a PowerPoint presentation prepared about how he sees the offense if he picks another Broncos coaching experience. Paton should also be prepared for explaining why Paton chooses to hire a rookie.
He should also be prepared to explain the defense plan if he selects an offensive wizard. It’s part of the job. Paton will be asking these questions in the weeks to come when he introduces next guy.
The bottom line: The next person on the job won’t fare much better than the previous two if they don’t match a quarterback with an offensive playbook that suits the rest of the players on the depth chart.
If they don’t, they can just keep the statement they released Sunday morning handy, because they’ll need it again in two or three years.