The Denver Broncos currently own the longest active losing streak in the NFL. Dating back to Week 14 of last season, the Broncos have lost eight-straight games.
Of the last 32 games the Broncos have played, they've won eight. That's two seasons' worth of games and the winning percentage is, obviously, atrocious.
Since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, the Broncos are now on their third coaching staff, counting the Super Bowl 50-winning Gary Kubiak. We're also talking about a team now on its fifth starting quarterback since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 World Champion season.
Adding insult to injury, the new head coach who was supposed to not only return competency and professionalism to the team and elevate the Broncos' defense back to its heights of yesteryear — Vic Fangio — has presided over the team's first 0-4 start in two decades. Fangio also holds the distinction of being the first head coach in Broncos' history to start his first year 0-2 (and worse).
The man pulling the strings, making all the football moves — from the coaching hires, to the free-agent acquisitions, to the trades and the draft picks — is the same general manager who led this team to two Super Bowl appearances in a three-year period.
John Elway is the same guy who, after seeing the most prolific offense of all-time get destroyed in Super Bowl XLVIII, pivoted mid-stream and rebuilt the roster to field one of the greatest defenses in the history of the game, which culminated in that Super Bowl 50 victory.
So why can't he seem to figure out the formula post-Peyton Manning? That's the question on the minds of fans and media alike as the winless Broncos flounder.
On Tuesday, Elway made his weekly appearance on KOA's Logan and Lewis radio program and spoke to the depths of his disappointment, putting his finger on what he sees as being the biggest issues plaguing the Broncos.
“It’s awful frustrating but I will tell you this. I think that when you look at it — and I think the most frustrating thing is that we’ve had chances to win games and we haven’t been able to do that," Elway told KOA. "I think that, you know, we’re all still very positive about what we have going on. I really like our staff and I think we have the football players to win, so it’s just a matter of getting over the hump, trying to figure out the little things that matter and not make those mistakes and win a football game. I think it’s frustrating, but also, I’m still encouraged in the fact that I know that we still have a good enough football team to win football games, and if we can eliminate the little things, then we have a chance to get back. That’s where we have to start. We can’t dwell on the past. We can learn from the past, but we’ve really got to keep our focus going forward. Now, with losing Bradley [Chubb], that’s a big blow, but you know what? Everybody faces big blows and tough things in their life and this is one thing that we’re going through now, so how we handle this will show us a lot, and that’s why, as hard as it is, sometimes you learn the most about people in these situations, and I think that we’ve got the right type of people here.”
Elway's reluctance to make excuses, or publicly adjust expectations in the wake of the Bradley Chubb season-ending injury, is typical of his mindset as a competitor. Although fans might be having their doubts, Elway remains steadfast in his belief that Vic Fangio, and his staff, are the right coaches to turn this ship around.
Later, Elway's words took on a self-reflective, if resolved tone. His competitiveness is legendary and of the Hall-of-Fame caliber.
He knows the Broncos' lack of success on the field is a reflection on him, and he's frustrated that despite his best efforts, the team has continued to struggle, if not steadily regress. The 59-year-old Elway knows also that the onus of fixing it also resides on his shoulders.
“You know what, it’s always tough," Elway told KOA. "Losing does not get any easier the older you get. It actually probably gets a little bit tougher. Ultimately, this comes down to me. I’m here to get this thing figured out and we’re going to keep battling on this thing and we’re going to try to find a way to win some football games, and as I said, take it one week at a time. But no, it’s not easy. I’ve had the ups and downs my whole life, the good and bad, and this is one time — we’re 0-4. We’re a little bit behind the 8-ball but now’s the time to really put our nose to the grindstone and continue to work at this and see if we can get it figured out. And that’s what my goal is going to be and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Next up on the schedule are the Divison-rival Chargers, whom the Broncos will travel to play in Los Angeles. The last time Denver played in Los Angeles, it resulted in victory for the Broncos. One year removed, Elway spoke to whether this team still might have what it takes to knock off Philip Rivers in his own house.
“Well, I think we’re on the rise," Elway said. "I think that when you look at it, defensively, we’ve got to play better. But, offensively, we’ve continued to make strides and I think we’ve gotten better each week offensively, which I’m excited about. But defensively, any time you lose a guy like Bradley [Chubb], we’re going to have to have some people step up and play better and it puts more pressure on other people on the defensive side, as well as offensively. We’ve got to do a better job and be more perfect as far as when we’re on the football field of trying to get points every time we’re out there. Everything all included, in the situation we’re in, you know, a lot of times it’s easy to identify problems; it’s tougher to fix them, and we’ve just got to figure out the tough part, and that’s fixing them.”
A disconnect or putting on a brave face for Broncos Country?
Fans might be questioning how Elway can believe the Broncos are "on the rise" sitting at 0-4 and losers of eight-straight. But he appears to be hanging his hat on the fact that the offense has begun to gain some traction and show signs of life in the face of these mounting losses.
Still, I understand if fans view Elway's remarks as that of a front-office czar either out-of-touch with reality or straight-up delusional. Sure, Joe Flacco eclipsed 300 yards passing last week vs. Jacksonville, and tossed three touchdown passes, but he also threw a game-changing interception in the second quarter, only to go into a shell and disappear for the majority of the second half.
The offense as a whole has shown better on third down of late, in the red zone and the offensive line is beginning to gel around Coach Mike Munchak but it clearly hasn't been enough, especially in the face of a defense that not only continues to hemorrhage talent to the injury bug but continues to regress with each passing week.
There's a difference between putting on a brave face for the fans and straight-up missing the forest for the trees. I would hope that behind closed doors, Elway recognizes how wildly the Broncos have jumped the shark but the truth is, I just don't know anymore. I can't discern or intuit the answer.
Only time will tell whether the 2019 Broncos can turn the ship around but only one team in NFL history has made the playoffs after beginning 0-4. That means the Broncos are going to have to adjust expectations at some point, and make this season about development — both at the coach and player level.
Fangio has to work out the kinks of calling plays from the sideline while managing an entire football team on gameday and the Broncos need to shift their priority toward getting young players and recent draft picks as many live-bullet reps as possible in order to evaluate and build for the future.
Look, I like that John Eway is the eternal optimist, always believing that the Broncos are one player away from competing for World Championships. It was endearing when the Broncos were winning games but it increasingly smacks of a GM with his head in the sand, without a clear understanding of how to pivot and rebuild this team in the most effective way possible.
What are your thoughts on Elway's remarks to KOA? Sound off in the comment section below!