As the NFL playoffs get rolling and we’re painfully reminded how far the Broncos have fallen, won’t you please join me in the search for any ray of sunshine that could make us believe happy football Sundays will be here again soon?
The way I figure it, all Denver needs to do to get back in the Super Bowl conversation is to find a quarterback as good as Brock Purdy.
When San Francisco took him with the 262nd and final pick of the 2022 draft, Purdy was Mr. Irrelevant. After throwing three touchdown passes and leading the Niners to a 41-23 playoff victory against Seattle on Saturday, he not only looked Purdy darn good but a decidedly safer future investment than the veteran quarterback recently given a $245 million contract extension by the Broncos.
Can you tell me what George Paton is still doing in Broncos Country as general manager?
Let’s hope it’s the same question new franchise CEO Greg Penner and the crazy-rich Waltons, who paid $4.65 billion for this orange-and-blue mess, are asking themselves.
Job No. 1 for the Broncos is to hire a coach with the gumption to tell quarterback Russell Wilson there’s a new sheriff in town who will lay down the law and install a run-heavy offense to give Mr. Unlimited a shot to play the position as effectively as Mr. Irrelevant.
Before firing coach Nathaniel Hackett (thanks so much, George), the Broncos averaged 15.5 points per game. During the two weeks 67-year-old Jerry Rosburg was in charge on an interim basis, Denver’s offensive productivity spiked to 27.5 points per game, hinting the Broncos might not be as far away from playoff contention as we feared.
What was the difference? There was an abrupt change in philosophy, as well as culture. Unlike Hackett, a lightweight who wanted to be Wilson’s wing man and hang with the quarterback at an Ed Sheeran concert in London, Rosburg didn’t give a hoot what RW3 thought of him. Rather than catering to Wilson’s personal whims, Rosburg insisted on run-favorable schemes and a game plan that was complementary to Denver’s defense.
I’m confident Penner, Condoleezza Rice and the search committee can find a coach with the confidence to walk into Wilson’s office and announce the foolhardy contract extension granted by Paton did not include a clause that also guaranteed the right to make all executive decisions for the team.
Denver does not need to spend $20 million per year on Sean Payton or Jim Harbaugh to hire a coach with the gravitas to persuade Wilson to put the team first in the game plan.
Jim Caldwell, who worked with Peyton Manning at Indianapolis, and current Denver defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, who doesn’t take guff from anyone, both have the right stuff to make Wilson realize Denver’s head coach isn’t just another member of the quarterback’s entourage, obediently offering him sunglasses and an energy drink as he walks off the practice field.
So while all the hullabaloo around here has been endless speculation about the coaching search, there’s a bigger problem for Penner and the Broncos:
After repeated errors committed by Paton, who has done little right since drafting cornerback Pat Surtain II in 2021, can he be trusted as anything more than a glorified scout? It is difficult to forget how Paton hired Hackett, overpaid Wilson and relied on a knucklehead like linebacker Randy Gregory to be a key performer for the Denver defense.
The Niners are the team Denver wants to be when it grows up and emerges from the darkness.
After enduring a horrendous five-year stretch from 2014-18, during which a Super Bowl contender built by Harbaugh imploded, and lost 55 of 90 games, San Francisco has found glory with so many Colorado connections it almost hurts to watch. Kyle Shanahan, the son of our beloved Mastermind, is the coach, and running Christian McCaffery is the product of a smart trade by general manager and former Broncos safety John Lynch. If the Niners win the Super Bowl, maybe one of them with let us touch their Lombardi Trophy.
Paton still has an office at the team’s Dove Valley headquarters because somebody has to be in charge of doing homework for the draft until a new coaching regime is in place.
But do you believe Paton’s decisions will put that new coach in the best position to succeed?
Even an eternal optimist like myself, always looking for any ray of sunshine, tends to think the Broncos won’t truly be back on the road to the Super Bowl until after they part ways with Paton.
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