Loren Landow didn’t turn Russell Wilson into Case Keenum. Loren Landow isn’t why the Broncos offense has been shut out in seven of the nine third quarters they’ve played.
“I mean, for a coach, we always know, there’s no excuses,” embattled Broncos boss Nathaniel Hackett said of the avalanche of Denver injuries as we walked off the practice fields at UCHealth Training Center on Friday.
“We’ve still got to do whatever we can to win. We’ve got to utilize the guys that we have, it gives guys an opportunity to get experience. That’s trying to look at the glass half-full. But it has — you know, it’s different. Especially at this point in the season.”
“You know, you don’t expect THAT much. And I mean, it’s part of it.”
It is. Just not all of it.
According to Spotrac.com, 10 NFL teams have more than 12% of their current salary cap tied up with players currently placed on Injured Reserve — the Broncos are tops, at a whopping 26.54%.
Yet six of those other nine teams — the Chargers, Commanders, Titans, Cowboys, Dolphins and Bengals — had records of .500 or better heading into Sunday games.
The Broncos (3-6) face the Las Vegas Raiders (2-7) Sunday in The Josh McDaniels Bowl with an NFL-high 15 current players on IR. Of the five franchises with 13 or more current players on injured reserve, three (the Titans, Chargers and Cowboys) still have winning records.
The Titans rolled up to Nissan Stadium last Sunday missing five starters on defense. Half the secondary was new. So were half the linebacking corps. They held the Broncos to 10 points anyway.
So, no, injuries are not an excuse. And neither are they Hackett’s Get Out of Jail Free card once the dust settles on a surreal and exasperating first season as an NFL coach.
“Obviously, every team is dealing with it — some teams more than others,” veteran Broncos safety Kareem Jackson said of a roster that’s dropping like flies. “Definitely, (it’s harder) having a bunch of guys with season-ending IR. But it’s the way the league is sometimes, man. I mean, it can be cruel and unusual.”
Accent on the cruel. Denver hits Week 11 of the NFL slate saddled with a league-high $55.3 million of their cap spending on injured reserve, per Spotrac.com.
Last season, the Broncos ranked fourth ($41.9 million) in allocated cap spending to hit IR. In 2020, they were third in cap money on IR for the season ($57.3 million).
“There are some things nobody can prevent that happen that are football-oriented. And I think those are the ones that have been adding up also,” Hackett continued.
“But for me, it’s just — we’ve just got to keep doing the right stuff to be able to make sure they’re hydrated. It’s different up here (at altitude). And I think those are the things that I’m learning. It’s different. Maybe it’s the high altitude, But I mean, who knows? Who knows?”
New owners. New coach. New coordinators. New quarterback. New era. Same terrible mojo. Same dollars wasted.
Which is why the Twitter trolls are calling for the head of Landow, the strength-and-conditioning coach who joined the Broncos in March 2018.
As the body count piles up, questions keep bubbling up on social media regarding the strength-and-conditioning staff. But when I asked a former coach and a former Broncos player, two of the sharpest and most honest football minds in town, about Landow and his methods, both texted back, independently, to say that they absolutely love the guy.
“I don’t think anyone signs up to be injured,” kicker Brandon McManus told me Friday. “’Unlucky’ is a real thing … obviously, some people say luck can only go so far, if it continues to happen. But the modern athlete has changed. (And) continues to change.”
At 34, Jackson is aging gracefully. And he openly credits some of that to the regimen put in by Landow and his staff, specifically on the recovery front.
“They do everything they can, everything possible, to make sure we are ready to go on a weekly basis,” the veteran safety stressed. “But I wouldn’t say it was just what we’re doing in the weight room … some of (these injuries) are just crazy situations.
“It’s just how the league goes. I mean, (expletive) happens, man.”
And isn’t it funny how the expletive keeps happening to Hackett? And happening? And happening?