Some people are fans of the Denver Broncos. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Denver Broncos. This 2021 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Denver Broncos.
Your 2020 record: 5-11, in what will forever be known as the Kendall Hinton season. The tape:
I’ve learned a lot about the human brain over the past few years. It’s not a perfect organ. It doesn’t always behave the way you want it to. But it does often know its wheat from its chaff. It knows to remember your first lay. VIVIDLY. It knows how to ride a bike. It has retained NO lingering fondness for Russell Brand’s career. And it knows to disregard, permanently, not only the Kendall Hinton affair, but the prevailing circumstances that led to it.
That is where I come in. Because it’s not often that a pandemic strikes, and that it infects quarterback Jeff Driskel, and that every other player on the Broncos roster blatantly disregards safety protocols around Driskel and then lies about it because hanging freely with Jeff fucking Driskel is just that important, and that the Broncos have to scramble to find a replacement to the point where they sign the offensive coordinator’s kid, and that they would opt to start a practice squad receiver as a last resort. Against New Orleans. That’s the kind of historic anomaly that your brain is conditioned to forget until you read about it on Wikipedia 30 years from now. It’s like stumbling upon the “ball lightning” entry, or the story of the great molasses flood: one of those weird farts of history that grows curiouser and curiouser as time goes on.
Alas, time has not gone on enough yet to add color and levity to the Kendall Hinton story. Your brain has not alchemized it into something fun yet. As of now, it’s the story of a shithead team wiping out its own QB room and sending a random scrub out onto the field to get fucking mollywhopped by a playoff team. If you ever wondered, “Hey, I wonder what the Broncos would look like if they had never gotten rid of Tim Tebow!” Hinton’s one total completion against the Saints provided the answer. His wristband currently resides in Canton, presumably under the bench where Thurman Thomas lost his helmet.
What else? Ah yes: Von Miller missed the entire season with a dislocated ankle ligament, which I didn’t know you could suffer. The Broncos cut Ja’Wuan James after he tore his Achilles offsite, in order to avoid paying him an extra $10 million. Alleged rookie sensation Jerry Jeudy dropped 670 passes. And the season ended like this. It should count as TWO losses when you make Jon Gruden look inspiring.
Your coach: Still Vic Fangio, because why not. Fangio belongs to the subset of coaches who are better off as lifelong coordinators, but you knew that already. He’s gonna lose another 10-plus games this year and then get fired and then we’ll on move on with our lives. It’s what happens after Fangio leaves that has the potential to be mildly interesting, because THE HORSE HAS LEFT THE BARN.
That’s right. John Elway, whose taste in head coaches is almost as bad as his taste in quarterback draft prospects, got donkey-kicked upstairs and ceded full-time general manager duties to former Vikings executive George Paton. Read any profile of Paton and the phrase “highly regarded” will appear in there somewhere. All of that high regard for a man whose most significant accomplishment so far is making the Vikings just good enough to embarrass themselves in the NFC title game once a decade, something the Vikings had already been doing quite capably without Paton around, thank you very much.
Now, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is a really fucking weird guy with dubious taste in quarterbacks. So you can credibly assume that Paton, not Spielman, was the true brains behind the drafting of Harrison Smith, Brian O’Neill, Danielle Hunter, Stefon Diggs, and Justin Jefferson. But guess what? Paton’s new boss is ALSO a really fucking weird guy with dubious taste in quarterbacks. So I have pretty good idea of where the ceiling is here. I also know that this current Broncos roster is located 58 stories beneath it.
Do they have a Guy on the coaching staff? I’ll always remember Mike Munchak as a Guy first before I remember him as the head coach who forced Titans players to wear suits on road trips and then got fired after three seasons.
Your quarterback: Right now it’s a two-man battle that, according to ESPN, will come down to which one is the best game manager. In one corner we have Drew Lock, whose career highlight so far is getting caught on the Mizzou sideline doing this:
Lemme tell you something. If I myself got caught lip-synching along to Yung Joc, I STILL wouldn’t look as white as Drew Lock does right there. Lock has yet to play a full season and his completion percentage dropped over six full points from his rookie year to 2020. He can’t play. I wanna give him more slack, but I know who drafted him. Drew Lock comes from the same lineage as Chad Kelly, Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, something called Zac Dysert, and Brock Osweiler. The past decade of Denver QB prospects reads like a history of Browns quarterbacks in miniature. Which is why the Broncos decided to warm up Lock’s seat by trading a sixth-rounder for this man:
That’s Teddy Bridgewater in the other corner: a man who went from being a heartwarming comeback story to being a massive salary cap liability in the span of just 12 months. Bridgewater needs two gloves and a novelty-sized slingshot to advance the ball more than 10 yards downfield. If you enjoy checkdowns, Teddy is genetically engineered to throw them.
And don’t forget about that naughty little Delta Variant still out there. Kendall Hinton and his wristband are still on this roster. Maybe you’ll see Hinton under center come November, and then maybe you’ll see Paton forced at gunpoint to draft Fardy Hoopenaggle out of UNH in the second round this spring to begin the lathering process all over again.
Tim Tebow still has the most memorable pass in this franchise’s modern history.
What’s new that sucks: Do you guys like corners who are WAY past their prime? HAVE I GOT A TREAT FOR YOU! Both Ronald Darby AND Kyle Fuller are new in town. Not only is Fuller a perfect fit for Fangio’s scheme (bottom 10 in points allowed last year), he also wasn’t even a top-50 corner as graded by PFF last season. WHAT A COUP.
As for Darby, you remember him mainly as Jameis Winston’s getaway driver.
Both these men will be keeping the seat warm for first rounder Patrick Surtain II, who has potential to become yet another in a long line of Bama superstars who are surprised to learn that playing in the NFL is significantly harder than they first thought. Good thing Jeudy is here to teach Surtain the ins and outs of underachieving.
Phillip Lindsay is no longer with the Broncos, which means I’ll no longer have to hear about how he went undrafted during their games. That’s a big win for yours truly. That leaves Melvin Gordon as your primary back, with rookie Javonte Williams ready to vulture all of Gordon’s touchdowns. I thought Melvin Gordon would really teach the Chargers a lesson after moving across the division. Turns out that lesson was, “Oh wow he really WASN’T worth fuck all.”
I see nothing in this team.
What has always sucked: We just had a blissful year free of Broncos’ fans in the stadium displaying their outrageous sense of entitlement. The silence was so peaceful. So calming. So appropriate. But that’s all over now. Now, every home game will be re-populated with thousands of Tammys from Cherry Creek who boo every quarterback, who still think Elway shits gold bullion, and whose idea of good news is Von Miller being forced to take a pay cut. You know about the Karen factor in places like Orange County, D.C., St. Louis, and the entirety of the American Southeast. But gaze now upon these hilly lands of angry football moms, working in the executive offices of Zoom by day and running over pedestrians with their Sequoias by night. Legal weed did wonders for Denver’s reputation, but the rep is fading now that every other state has legalized it, too. The smoke is clearing and we can all see that Denver is still the way it’s always been: a glorified cow town with hateful cul-de-sacs, a traffic jam to Vail 80 miles long, and no good Italian dining options.
Bradley Chubb is always hurt. The tight ends on this team are painful to look at. The ownership battle is like Succession if Succession had no interesting characters.
Ratto says: Pat Bowlen’s kids like they might have given up their mutual attempts to kill each other over control of the team, thus ruining the first series of Probate Wars on HGTV. Without that, the team is not interesting in any way, and Vic Fangio will be blamed for a roster that looks like it was assembled in a game of Gin Scrabble. BEST NAME TO HEAR ON TV: Lots of potential here, but in a slight upset it’s Justin Strnad. Not Strand. Strnad. I mean, how his parents missed on Mxtyplzk is beyond me.
What might not suck: Nothing.
HEAR IT FROM BRONCOS FANS!
Drew Lock is an embarrassing dipshit and every single time he “dances” I want to get kicked in the eyes by the blue airport horse.
I don’t have the stomach to watch our happy little idiot Drew Lock try to be a Real Boy again.
Half of Colorado is just west Kansas, and the other half is on fire.
I’m not certain Vic Fangio even wants to be a head coach.
The nicest thing I can say about our current starting Quarterback is that he is probably a little better than Kendall Hinton working on less than 24 hours of pre-game preparation.
Fuck Josh McDaniels.
The highlight of the last five years for the Broncos was the 30 minutes on draft day when we were going to land Aaron Rodgers. I think second place might be the time we signed Marquette King.
We’ve been forced to watch a stream of useless quarterbacks who share names with the residents of a TikTok house and yet they’ll still get more local coverage than the reigning NBA MVP.
The Broncos are going 7-10 this year, and all of it will be less interesting than the current ownership fight.
Denver is like if Elon Musk had a kid with an Iowa State kegger.
I can’t wait to experience a football stadium in the COVID grievance era. I wonder if I’ll be assaulted if I throw a mask on to use the bathroom. For all its novel blue state reputation, Colorado is still California’s Florida.
Every preseason publication – every single goddamn one – says the exact same thing about the Broncos: “Lots of great young skill position players – one of the most talented groups in the league. Unfortunately, there are major questions at quarterback.”
I worked a brief stint at Barnes & Noble before deciding that grad school and student debt were better options than dealing with actual humans every day. Tebowmania was in full swing. Every other call I took that year was about Tim Tebow’s biography and when we’d have more copies in stock. Suburban Broncos fans just couldn’t wait to fork over $30 for the ghostwritten biography of a kid in his early 20s, which tells you a lot about the kind of sports fan that lives in this now-overpriced cow town.
I really can’t fault tens of millions of Americans for believing that someone will overturn the election any day now when every single Bronco fan and our GM spent all offseason genuinely believing that Aaron Rodgers was going to force the Packers to trade him to Denver for a second round pick.
I was pumped for the Super Bowl against Seattle. Then we got a safety on the opening play and the wheels came off from there. To soothe my pain, I drank an ungodly amount of whiskey which then resulted in me complaining about my parents’ divorce and wrestling with several friends.
With this experience in mind, for the next Super Bowl, I didn’t drink but still wanted something to take the edge off. I got the brilliant idea of making “Colorado brownies”. I ate one, didn’t feel anything after 15 mins so thought I needed at least a few more for it to really kick in. Well, by halftime I was on another fucking planet and was so paranoid out of my skull during the second half I could barely register we were winning. Yet, that still represents the pinnacle for me of watching this garbage ass team over the last six seasons.
The IN-COM-PLETE chant is so fucking stupid.
Many moons ago I got the opportunity to meet John Elway. You don’t talk to him, he talks to you. And his stare lets you know that’s how it’s going to go. While he was yammering, a guy walked by and yelled “Elway you broke my heart!” in reference to the Jaguars playoff game they lost the season before AT HOME. He turned to the guy and said, “Better you than me!”
Then he turned and smiled. I had to duck before the gleam from the fluorescent lights ricocheting off his front teeth blinded me. But it did catch a Charger fan on fire which isn’t such a bad thing.
The team missed out on Rodgers, who many in our fanbase thought was FOR-SURE coming to town, and still believe will come next year when it all goes to shit in Green Bay. The reason? His girlfriend is from Boulder.
Our defense is good. We’re going to lose every game 9-0 because we can’t score.
Lots of mountain people in our fanbase let out a collective groan when Tebow signed with Jacksonville, earnestly wishing he’d signed in Denver instead. I wish I was kidding.
Every year is like this: pining for the next coach, the next QB, the ex-QB, the totally washed coach, thinking all of them would be “a perfect fit in Denver” but nobody wants any piece of our flyover state and our ownership drama, and why the fuck would they?
I will be 0% surprised if we paid the insane asking price for DeShaun Watson and his 23 lawsuits, and in fact fully expect it to happen.
Half our population is ex-Californians driving up housing prices while the other half is ex-Texans electing the dime store Marjorie Taylor Greene. The city has multiple famous mass shootings. $450,000 will buy you a one-bedroom shack with no basement an hour’s drive from work. The mountains aren’t visible from Denver, just the smog. 90% of your conversations will be about the hoppiness of various IPAs.
Most fans still think Tebow was the best QB the team ever had. Mile High is gone and Invesco/Empower/WhoGivesAFu field has all the soul of a Kenny G concert. Elway has no plan, Drew Lock can’t throw to his right, someone on the team is getting arrested as we speak, and rooting for any member of the Bowlen family to fix it is like rooting for a Billy Zane villain.
Von Miller killed Cam Newton.
I’d rather rinse out my eyes with a warm can of Coors than watch a Vic Fangio offense.
I deluded myself into thinking the Broncos might take Justin Fields, given that he’s a freak athlete and a good college quarterback. But Fields is only 6’3”, though, so he’s not tall enough to be a Broncos quarterback.
Every time Aaron Rodgers trends on Twitter the little bit of fandom I still have for this team perks up. Drew Lock might be good, but COVID will decimate the QB room again because Lock breathes on everyone’s bagels. The team will then spin starting a practice squad kicker at QB as a win.
I live in Montana and there are a lot of Broncos fans who live here and in Wyoming. These people are right-wing, gun-toting, Trump-voting, anti-vaxxing assholes who also drive their enormous trucks poorly on their way to Scheels where they go to buy thin blue line tank tops or hats advertising coffee that also supports troops somehow. I hate these people and they cause me endless frustration whenever it is my misfortune to interact with them. Unless, that is, they have a single Broncos sticker or piece of apparel on. Then my brain instantly thinks they are my friend and a good person and I forgive them for participating in the Jan. 6th riot or whatever. I hate the Broncos and they suck for making me associate with these people and treat them with kindness instead of the malice they deserve.
We passed over two first-round QB prospects this draft to instead grab a cornerback we didn’t need. Meanwhile we have a fantastic offense that will be utterly wasted because our choice of QBs is twice-reheated leftovers and a kid who throws perfect dimes ten yards over the head of his receivers.
Vic Fangio is going to get fired by November, just in time for us to win some games in the Garbage Time part of the Season so we still can’t draft a good QB in 2022.
It’s been five years now of bad quarterbacking in Denver. Our corps of rejects sounds like every teenager’s terrible first boyfriends: Trevor, Paxton, Brock, Case, Brett, and sorry, yeah, Drew. Trevor Siemian is STILL somehow the best of the lot. We’ll finally nut up and draft a QB in the second round of 2023 once our defensive and offensive stars wither away or are traded across the league so we can start the carousel all over again. We’ll draft a six-five white kid named Cayson and he’ll be the 30th worst QB in the league for two years, which will somehow give the front office enough trust in him to again not draft something better.
This team has been bad so long now I don’t even remember our wins anymore. Fuck John Elway. Fuck the Bowlen fail-sons and fail-daughters.
The only thing preventing me from have a full-on mental breakdown after watching Jamal Murray tear his ACL, Nolan Arenado get punted to St Louis along with $50 million, and the Avs shoot themselves in the dick as the nominal Cup favorite, was the faint glimmer that my beloved Broncos would repeat the Peyton coup and land Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson (before he was accused of sexually assaulting every massage therapist in the contiguous 48 States). Instead, we get another season of Drew Lock playing 500 with the opposing defense, or Teddy Two Gloves and his Frankenstein leg scrambling out of the pocket to throw a screen pass for a two-yard loss. As always, fuck John Elway and his inability to evaluate talent, fuck the Bowlen family for making their own season of Succession, fuck Mark Schlereth for ruining Draft Day with his “done deal” bullshit, and mega fuck the Monfort family. Rahim Moore deserves a statue outside of M&T Bank stadium. I have lost girlfriends over how much I care about this fucking team. Fuck me most of all.
Submissions for the NFL previews are already closed, alas. Next up: Dallas Cowboys.