The Denver Broncos have not been enjoyable to watch for the majority of the past five seasons. Any team would likely have a hangover after having a quarterback of Peyton Manning's caliber ride off into the sunset.
Still, how consistently poor the Broncos teams have been since winning Super Bowl 50 can test the patience of any fan. Honestly, at this point, I would say it’s okay to be 'bad and fun.' It’s slightly better to be 'good but boring.' But the Broncos over the last five years have been both bad and boring.
While the Broncos have been a tough sell over the last few seasons, things could turn around quickly. Sure, Denver is tied for the second-longest playoff drought in football at five years (the Jets sit atop with 10 straight years of no playoffs), the Broncos do not feel like a team both hopeless and hapless.
The good news is, the offensive core is budding with young talent at wide receiver, tight end, and along the offensive line, which likely means better days are in store for those long-suffering in Broncos Country. Perhaps even better, the young ascending group of offensive players could mean the Broncos could be fun to watch once again.
The Broncos have a number of intriguing storylines, but they are not exactly the sexiest team — being in Patrick Mahomes’ shadow with erratic quarterback play of their own, a hot-seat head coach, and a year-after-year bad offense and holes across the defense. It’s riveting stuff for fans of the team, but apparently not the most interesting to the league at large.
NFL.com’s Around the NFL writer Dan Hanzus recently listed the Broncos as the last of five possible candidates to appear on this season’s iteration of HBO's Hard Knocks. A team landing on Hard Knocks comes with a set of three criteria including 1.) No first season head coaches, 2.) No playoff berths the last two seasons, and 3.) Has not appeared on the show in the last decade.
Based on these parameters, the Broncos are one of five teams including the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, and Arizona Cardinals to qualify. While being ranked last among these other teams, Hanzus still makes a case for why the 2021 Broncos could be intriguing for HBO’s hit football reality series:
Here's another team that could become more compelling based on how the events of the next few months play out. We have name brands on both sides of the ball, a curmudgeonly coach in Vic Fangio who could make for good #socialcontent and, of course, John Elway -- who's no longer the GM but still casts a long shadow over the organization in his top executive role. Incumbent starter Drew Lock might (or should) have competition for his job come training camp -- QB battles are naturally fertile soil for Hard Knocks. We had the Broncos all the way up at No. 2 in this same exercise a year ago -- it'd be no shame if they were the choice in 2021.
Despite being last on his list, Hanzus makes a good case for the Broncos to be this year’s focus of Hard Knocks. Ironically, no one would likely be more against this than head coach Vic Fangio, who would call the show a distraction and nonsense outside the scope of the game. The more grumpy, old-dad vibes Fangio can give, the more relatable and endearing he seems to become. #Socialcontent indeed.
Perhaps most intriguing, and something Hanzus hints at, is that the Broncos could become more compelling based on how the events of the next few months play out. The only thing that really moves the needle from a generally compelling story for the Broncos? A splash move at the quarterback position.
If the Broncos end up selecting a young rookie quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft such as BYU's Zach Wilson, North Dakota State's Trey Lance, or Ohio State's Justin Fields, no doubt the team would become more intriguing to the NFL fan at large. However, that’s probably not exactly who Hanzus was hinting towards.
If Denver's make the splash move and trade for Deshaun Watson, a top-5 at just 25 years of age in an unprecedented move in NFL history, then the Broncos not only become must-watch TV for the first time since 2015, but the dynamics surrounding Watson-to-Denver and the pomp and circumstance surrounding that could boost Hard Knocks to new levels.
Will Denver get chosen to be featured on HBO’s series? There are other candidates in bigger markets that likely have a bit more pizzazz, but still, Denver is a possibility. Even without a splash at quarterback, the storylines from the series could be compelling.
But with a flashy young rookie quarterback or a massive trade for Watson? Outside of the actual games on Sundays, nothing could compare to must-watch television for football fans next season.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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