For the first time in multiple seasons, it feels like hope has crept back into the Denver Broncos organization. Sure, teams and fanbases scrape together some semblance of hope every single season.
Ask some of the most devout Jacksonville Jaguars fans prior to earning the first overall pick whether their team was going to make the playoffs in 2021 and undoubtedly, you'd find plenty of ardent 'yeses' among the most faithful. Faith is a powerful thing.
There have been plenty of Broncos faithful over the past five years, even if it was blind faith. There were plenty who believed Trevor Siemian could be the answer under center, or that Paxton Lynch would end up the next great Broncos quarterback.
Time revealed both to be unquestionably not true, but fan faith is a funny thing. For many, it's better to be an optimist than a curmudgeon when it comes to an escape such as football.
However, after a spectacular free-agent haul from new GM George Paton, that faith is quickly turned into well-warranted hope. This Broncos team, as currently constructed, has no obvious, gaping holes on the roster heading into the NFL draft.
Paton has a refortified the defense, with plenty of star talent returning from injury last season. It would not be one bit shocking if Denver made the playoffs this coming season (barring another historic stroke of bad injury luck) and was once again relevant on the NFL landscape.
At least, that seems to be the current consensus within Broncos Country. However, sometimes those in Denver may perhaps be too close to the situation to offer an unbiased perspective.
It's therefore important to take the temperature of those outside the Mile High bubble and see what the national media thinks of the Broncos’ prospects of returning to the playoffs in 2021.
If you enjoyed the stint of optimism surrounding Paton and the Broncos following the first week of free agency, perhaps it’s best to avert your eyes and ears from Good Morning Football co-host Kyle Brandt and his recent thoughts on the Broncos after he saddled the team with a fate worse than being bad. Brandt stamped the Broncos with the dread 'irrelevant' label.
I don’t know what this team is. I don’t know what this organization is. I don’t know if there is a team we talk about less often on this show than the Denver Broncos. That includes smaller markets, teams that haven’t won. What was their record last year? Who cares. What was their record before that? Who cares.
They won the Super Bowl and have since been middling at best. I mean just floundering. This is before Vic Fangio… they haven’t done anything…
Brandt is not off-base with his criticism of the Broncos as an organization post-Super Bowl 50. After going a collective 32-48 (.400 winning percentage) over the last five seasons, the Broncos have, in fact, been irrelevant.
Even worse, given the state of the offensive side of the ball, fielding one of the most anemic scoring teams the last five years, the Broncos have not only been irrelevant but also boring. The offense is young and talented, but even last year, with a unit giving the ball away like candy on Halloween, from a national perspective, this team hasn’t been worthy of tuning in to watch.
Given how bad the Broncos have been, and with Drew Lock and Fangio approaching their third season on the team, respectively, Brandt lists the Broncos as his fourth highest-ranked team that better be in the playoffs (or else) in 2021, with the Raiders, Cardinals, and Giants being the only squads ranked above Denver on a not so glamorous list.
If Denver doesn’t make the playoffs, Brandt speculates the quarterback and head coach are likely gone.
Drew Lock is supposed to be 'this', Vic Fangio is supposed to be 'this'. We’ve been waiting. We’ve been waiting for this team to be relevant again for five years. Something needs to punctuate the dreariness in Denver. They are not just bad, they don’t matter. They don’t move the needle in any way.
You play in a division with the best quarterback in the world and [Justin] Herbert who looks like he’s God’s gift and you’re going to beat them with Drew Lock? Would not blow my hair back at all if they did something at quarterback in the draft. I don’t know if this guy (Drew Lock) is going to go to battle with [Patrick] Mahomes year in and year out. They got to do something here because they just, right now, they don’t matter.
The offseason is not over yet and as Brandt suggests, the Broncos very well may make a play yet for the quarterback. Trade up and take one of Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance? Stay at pick No. 9 and take Alabama’s Mac Jones? Or perhaps trade with the Jaguars for Gardner Minshew or the Jets for Sam Darnold?
Either way, even with a great defense, how much can the Broncos truly matter if they don’t have at least a league-average quarterback? And if so, how long will they mat?
After all, teams built on great defenses with bad quarterbacks tend to crash quickly. Look no further than the teams that followed the AFC-Championship-Game-appearing 2017 Jaguars and the 2018 Bears… one good blip season followed by cold, unrelenting irrelevance.
Can the Broncos force their way back into the NFL conversation again? There is certainly faith, and hope, but only time will tell. Rarely do the teams that 'win' free agency also win the Super Bowl.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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