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Why Your Team Sucks

Why Your Team Sucks 2023: Denver Broncos

12:05 PM EDT on July 31, 2023

Sean Payton attends Game Five of the 2023 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets on June 12, 2023 at Ball Arena in Denver,
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Some people are fans of the Denver Broncos. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Denver Broncos. This 2023 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.

Your team: Denver Broncos.

Your 2022 record: 5-12, and the worst part was that all of us had to watch it unfold in primetime, week after excruciating week.

This team was God’s cruelest punishment. They spent the prior offseason rolling out the carpet for Aaron Rodgers—even going so far as to hire Rodgers’s old offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, as their head coach in order to make Rodgers feel more welcome. When Rodgers never materialized, they panic-traded two years of vital draft picks and more to Seattle for Russell Wilson, and all the Velveeta that comes standard with him. At the time, Wilson didn’t seem like a bad consolation prize. This could still work. At the very least, Wilson would make these Broncos more watchable than they’d been in ages, hence all those precious night games. No more Drew Lock. No more Paxton Lynch. No more An Allen To Be Named Later. It’s not unlike when I burn something in the toaster and say to myself, “You know what? I can still eat this.”

Oh I ate it, all right. Denver’s very first game of the season came against Wilson’s former team and ended with Hackett taking the ball away from Wilson in order to attempt a 64-yard field goal to win. That attempt failed. The Seahawks, bolstered by the addition of first round tackle and insta-stud Charles Cross from the Wilson trade, would go on to make the playoffs. The Broncos would go on to have their balls tied in a knot for the rest of the season. What’d you think of that field goal decision, Russ?

“I don’t think it was the wrong decision. I think he could make it,” Wilson said after his return to the city where he played his first 10 seasons. “Obviously in hindsight, we didn’t make it, but if we were in that situation again, I wouldn't doubt whatever he decided.”

He should have. Because Hackett produced this showcase of decision-making excellence just a week later:

It got worse. In a Thursday night game that Al Michaels felt comfortable openly roasting while it was still ongoing, Hackett passed on a gimme field goal on fourth down to tie the game at the end. I applaud his boldness, except that it resulted in Wilson throwing an incomplete pass to Courtland Sutton with K.J. Hamler wide open. This game was so fucking terrible that the NFL gave Amazon flexing power this offseason to make sure it would never happen in primetime again.

And STILL it got worse. The Broncos lost nine of 10 midseason. They traded Bradley Chubb. They blew a 10-0 lead to a Tennessee team that’s as well built to come back as a Stage 5 cancer patient. They lost to Carolina in a game that had the AP chirping that Panthers QB Sam Darnold had proven “he can lead” his team (he passed for 164 yards). They gave up a 16-play, 91-yard TD drive to Tyler Huntley to lose to Baltimore in the very end. They blew a chance to beat Vegas when Wilson opted to throw the ball away with the lead rather than go down and keep the clock burning. Their own players trashed Wilson to his face in full view of the sideline cameras. And finally, they lost 51-14 to Baker Mayfield and the Rams, which resulted in Hackett being fired with less than a year on the job.

Hackett was then replaced, on an interim basis, by the same game management specialist that Denver forced him to hire in the third week of the season.

None of this was fun, not even for haters. All of it was miserable, from end to end. I was neutral on the Broncos prior to 2022. Now if I ever see them on my television again, I will fly to Denver and jab out your eye with a ski pole.

Your coach: Cabernet-hording gremlin Sean Payton, but they took the long way to get him.

After the Hackett fiasco, no one wanted this job. DeMeco Ryans didn’t want it. Dan Quinn didn’t want it. Jim Harbaugh didn’t want it. DeMeco Ryans didn’t want it ... again. It sounds weird to say that the Broncos had to “settle” for a coach of Payton’s caliber, especially when they had to give up another load of priceless draft capital to get him. But it helps to remember that Payton hasn’t won a title since 2009, and has spent much of the interim designing trick plays that no one asked for. No matter. Payton is already brandishing his new sheriff cred by trashing his predecessor like it’ll earn him a free F-150:

“It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was… There’s so much dirt around that. There’s 20 dirty hands, for what was allowed, tolerated in the fricking training rooms, the meeting rooms. The offense. I don’t know Hackett. A lot of people had dirt on their hands.”

Whoa hey, this guy means business! Dumping on a coach that everyone has already dumped on? Now that takes BALLS. Almost as much sack as deploying a goal-line package with Greg Dulcich at quarterback multiple times over the course of the 2023 season! But folks, it gets weirder:

On the day the veterans reported, Payton had his assistant, Paul Kelly, queue up a short nature documentary that showed baby iguanas under attack from running snakes immediately after they hatched. The video captures how some of the iguanas survived by dashing to an oceanside cliff. Others were eaten by snakes. Payton pondered showing what he called a “creepy video” to hammer home a point to his players. “When these baby iguanas are hatched, they pop their heads out of the sand and they’ve got to get to the cliffs,” he said. “There are runner snakes all around, and they feed off the babies. So, the message is, ‘We’ve got to hit the ground running. There’s a sense of urgency. Let’s hit the ground running.’”

Does this shit even work on NFL players anymore? Does Payton know they have phones that they can stare at now instead of listening to him? What is this dimestore Greg Schiano shit? You people are fucking doomed.

Speaking of cheap talk, Payton’s staff. Your new offensive coordinator is Joe Lombardi, who was fired by the Chargers after his offense failed to score a second-half touchdown in a historic playoff collapse against Jacksonville. Your new defensive coordinator is Vance Joseph, whom the Broncos already fired five years ago. This murderer’s row of a coaching staff isn’t likely to improve matters in Denver. No one could, given that ...

Your quarterback: The birthday boy!

Wouldn’t you know it, I had a fortune cookie tell me this exact same thing yesterday. I can check any of Russell Wilson’s social media feeds at any given moment and count on seeing something that makes me want to go live under a staircase. He’s that reliably insufferable.

The Seahawks knew this all too well. They also knew that Wilson was on the downside of his career, and that he had grown into a monstrous egomaniac, one who had secretly campaigned to have his coach and GM fired (the Seahawks, to their everlasting credit, refused). Did the Broncos pick up on any of these warning signs? Nope. Instead they handed Wilson $161 million in guarantees, and also his own office on the coaches’ floor of team headquarters. From The Athletic’s Kalyn Kahler, Mike Sando and Jayson Jenks:

One offensive player said Wilson told teammates he had an “open-door policy” with his office, which to another coach seemed problematic. “So, are you a coach or are you a player?” the coach asked. “Your open door should be you sitting at your locker.”

Yes, but then Wilson would have had to sit in a locker room that, according to Tom Pelissero, he had already lost. Much better for him to make himself pretend CEO and look into replacing everyone else on the roster with some sort of PlayGPT bot. Payton has already put on his Parcells Pants and said this kind of special treatment will no longer be tolerated, which means that Wilson will demand that Payton be fired two weeks from now.

It's very funny that Wilson is now the biggest thing holding this franchise back, and they can't do fuck all about it because they’re already so committed. That’s why Payton is here, because the Broncos had no choice but to double down and mortgage the remaining 30 percent of their future just to get a guy whose present coaching technique is, "Let’s be frightened baby lizards."

Your new backup is Jarrett Stidham. If you thought watching Brett Rypien start games for you last year was a party, just you wait.

What’s new that sucks: Seems unwise to run it back with a team that won five games a season ago, but that’s exactly what reigning GM George Paton has planned for the coming season. The Broncos can’t count on a next generation of talent to arrive until sea levels encroach upon Denver city limits, so Paton had no choice but to build around Wilson, who can’t run anymore and couldn’t hit a crossing route if God himself commanded him to do it. No team gave up more sacks in 2022 than the Broncos, so Paton attempted to remedy that by spending big on Niners tackle Mike McGlinchey, whose name makes me hate him. Fucking John Grisham character-ass name. Fucking Notre Dame tailgate dad name. Fucking Boondocks Saints 12 screenwriter name. Awful.

Paton also brought in guard Ben Powers from Baltimore. But what if I—or, more accurately, PFF—told you that Wilson was the second worst QB in the league at converting pressures into sacks? You could have five Trent Williamses up front and Wilson would still elect to run around back there like he’s in a Benny Hill sketch before getting his shit ruined by a linebacker who decided to abandon coverage. It doesn’t matter.

But Paton, who blamed all of last season’s misfortune on himself without having the common courtesy to resign, is still operating under the pretense that firing Hackett—a man he hired—and making a few cosmetic tweaks for Wilson—another man he hired—will abracadabra the Broncos into being a contender in a division they have zero chance of winning, in a conference that they have even less of a chance of winning.

And you know who also buys into this idea? The schedule maker, because I have to watch this slag heap play in primetime FOUR times this coming season. Why don’t you saw off my leg and dip the stump in battery acid, Roger? I’d rather watch that.

On defense, the Broncos signed Frank Clark, who just won first prize at the asshole contest, to be their premiere edge rusher. They also signed perennial injury report inhabitant Zach Allen at DE from Arizona. This was already a top 10 defense and year ago, but what did it matter? If this is God doing a new thing for Russell Wilson today, then Wilson should convert to a different religion. This current God of his sucks a dick.

John Elway was fired. I hope he dies of alcoholism, and guess what? He will.

Why the players think you suck: The NFLPA dinged the Broncos for being “one of only two teams that do not offer vitamins to their players,” which is funny because Wilson has boxes upon boxes of blueberry extract pills just sitting in his trunk for anyone to take. He’s a new-age Jim Irsay. The Broncos are also one of the few teams in the league that do not provide a sauna to their players. No sauna. In a ski town. Where the fuck am I supposed to drink my après ski martini now, huh Bub? Disgraceful. But hey, at least new ownership will build a Walmart into the practice facility, for when Clark inevitably needs more duct tape, zipties, and chloroform.

What has always sucked: You know it was an uneventful offseason across the entire NFL when two of the biggest storylines involved the disgruntled-ness of two of its least essential receivers. One of those wideouts was Texans nobody Brandin Cooks, whose underwhelming career needs to end already. The other was this man:

Reports were that the Broncos were willing to trade Jerry Jeudy, but only for a first-round pick. Trading Paxton Lynch, right now, would’ve gotten them a better return. You will hear tell of Denver having a good wideout corps in 2023 now that Tim Patrick is back after missing all of last season. Meanwhile, all of these receivers have a grand total of one 1,000-yard season between them, and that was from Courtland Sutton in 2019. You just saw Wilson run himself out of Seattle with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at his disposal, and you expect him to return to form with these slobs? I think Paton should go see Russ in his corner office.

As for these fans, you might think that every Broncos home game is populated is nothing but fleece-adorned CU kids, fun time weed bros, and goateed microbrewers. Wrong. Only two percent of the state of Colorado is cool. The rest of it is people you pray won’t sit next to you on an airplane. This team is for them.

Ratto says: In the seven years since their last Super Bowl, the Broncos have become the fifth-worst team in the league, with the third-worst offense and second-least productive passing game. But it's not the history that makes the Broncos so suckworthy—it's that their future hasn't even begun yet. Payton, who decided his first real task was to savage the past and its representative Nathaniel (Couldn't) Hackett, must still navigate three more years of Wilson at his worst while dancing as fast as possible for new owners who spent $4.65 billion for the rights to this chemical spill. But at least they have new alternate helmets that salute hydrocephaly.

What might not suck: The Nuggets just won an NBA title, so what does any of this matter, really. NUGGS COUNTRY LET’S RIDE.

HEAR IT FROM BRONCOS FANS!

Dillon:

I took a year off from emailing in last year because getting Russell Wilson as my quarterback gave me hope. I lost all that hope after the first game.

Zach:

We spent the season tracking whether Russ had more TD throws or toilets in his house, and I'm pretty sure we were all rooting for the toilets.

Adam:

Since 2016, our city's best quarterback plays center for the Nuggets. 

Ian:

Russell Wilson attended most of the Nuggets' playoff home games this spring, with accompanying 4K shots provided nightly by ESPN of Russ enjoying his courtside seats. Fans at the games in person, however, may have been unaware of his excitement to finally be living in a city with an NBA team because he was booed so loudly during his first appearance on the jumbotron that he was not shown to the home fans again for the rest of the Nuggs' championship run. 

Aaron:

Russell Wilson IS Denver. Wildly expensive. Vacuous “charm” instead of an actual personality. Completely overblown sense of importance. He is our avatar and we deserve him. 

Billy:

I hope we have a first round draft pick someday.

Scott:

I watched the first game of last season with two friends of mine, brothers who were lifelong Broncos diehards. They were wearing matching Champ Bailey jerseys. Everything was lining up for an easy victory and a sure playoff run to follow. 

Flash to game’s end and one of the brothers turned to me and asked plaintively, “do we suck?” Yes, Tommy, we do. Any hope we had was dashed in literally one game.  

Also, Pueblo green chile sucks. New Mexico’s is better.

Mike:

The Avs, Nuggets and Mammoth all have championships in the last two years but all anyone talks about is these assholes. They're making me appreciate things a Kroenke is doing, which should be illegal.

We're chained for the foreseeable future to a cornball doofus who cowers at the sight of a woman's ankles.

Varun:

May the cocoon of numbness that manifested around my psyche around Week 5 of the 2022 season remain impervious in 2023 as Denver somehow loses more games with a better coach.

Roger:

The Broncos' ineptitude is payback for Colorado sending Lauren Boebert to Congress.

Sam:

Our Walmart-ification was complete when we traded our entire draft for a washed coach to pair with our Walmart quarterback. They're both the same size.

George:

I never in my life thought I would have to eat shit from Patrick Star. Fuck this team and fuck me. 

Jimmy:

I've heard more than one Bronco fan say Trevor Siemian was going to be MVP. 

The worst time to go grocery shopping is when the Broncos are playing because all the fans are at the store showing off their fucking Tebow jerseys. 

I live in Colorado Springs and couldn't name two people that I know that have ever watched more than five games in a season. 

My wife's aunt thinks they should bring back Tebow.

There's a bumper sticker that's popular out here that reads, "If God isn't a Broncos fan, then why are sunsets orange?" If God gave a shit about this team, he'd stop making the most Christian players on it total dipshits.

There's a fan group on Facebook that's all about how bad Bronco fans are at putting the horse head sticker on straight. 

James:

I’m from the UK and got into the NFL through American exchange student friends at university. My job took me to Colorado last August, so I thought I would get tickets to see the Broncos in pre-season for my first-ever live NFL game. My European sports fan impressions of the stadium experience aside (why do they play the national anthem in a game between domestic teams? If Americans like to sing the national anthem so much, why do they need to put the words up on the big screen? Why is there a horse?), the main things that stuck with me were:

-A man fell on my head from the row behind me during the national anthem because he was too plastered to stand up. I was impressed/alarmed at this given the cost of booze in Denver and the fact it was a preseason friendly about which no-one ostensibly gives a shit. Maybe it was the altitude or something.

-Feverish anticipation and discussion of Russell Wilson, although I could see far more Tim Tebow jerseys than Wilson ones (or, indeed, anyone else’s).

-In the queue for the bus back to Boulder, a guy overheard my British accent and tried to engage me in conversation about his trip to London in the 80s (I am not from London and have never lived there). This mostly consisted of him reeling off a list of British actresses of the period and comparing their relative attractiveness.

Andrew:

Fuck Rahim Moore. I will never get over that. 

Craig:

Where's the dog, I need to kick the dog.

Kyle:

Being a fan of a bad team gains sympathy from others because everyone has been there. Being a fan of a boring team sucks because everyone blames you for ruining their Sunday/Monday night with your suck ass team.

Let's Ride.

Adam:

2011 was the most exciting season of football of my lifetime and I watched them win all three Super Bowls.

Benjamin:

We could have drafted Josh Allen, but instead took Bradley Chubb, who we traded for a first round pick which we used to acquire... a coach.

We could have drafted Justin Jefferson but instead took Jerry Jeudy. Hey, at least we didn't pick the guy who committed vehicular manslaughter.

We still lost both games to the fucking Raiders last year.

John:

Jake Plummer went color blind on the wrong day.

Jessen:

The Nuggets had a season I’ve dreamed about since I was 10. But the Broncos suck up so much air in Denver that we still had to see Sean Payton and Russell Wilson sitting courtside at every single game.

Ryan:

The In-Com-Plete chant is probably the dumbest thing ever, but every time I'm at a game I will do it with unbridled enthusiasm.

Fuck Dick Monfort with the dinosaur bones found at Coors Field.

Ascher:

I am sitting here 24 hours after we were absolutely skullfucked by a 3-8 Panthers team that was actively trying to rank. Our defense is currently first in points and yards allowed per drive while our offense is dead last in those same statistics. If we could score 18 points in regulation, we would currently be 9-2.

MEGA FUCK Russell Wilson, and if that motherfucker says “Let’s Ride” one more time, I will beat him with Future’s latest LP. 

Davis:

The new coach is both washed up and one of the biggest assholes in a league full of them. The new owners are putting out feelers about building a new stadium in the middle of fucking nowhere, probably by the airport. Lewis Hamilton hasn’t won a race since becoming a minority owner. I am constantly trying to justify Wilson’s performance. I became an expert in athlete charity overhead so that I could confidently tell people that his terrible foundation really isn’t much worse than every other player’s, like that makes it okay. When another Broncos fan from Montana (where I live) or Wyoming tells me they hate Wilson, I have to sort out whether they think that because they have functional senses and watch the games or because they think that black players should stick to running back.

I am so far gone that I went to a bar to watch the games last season after they got pulled off the air for some of the worst offensive play calling known to man. I’m going to watch every game this year and I will still wonder why I get depressed and anxious in the fall and winter. I’ll try to blame it on seasonal affective disorder but we all know that’s not true. 

Glenn:

The only thing in Denver media that’s worse than the Broncos fellation is the way the media treats Coach Prime up the road in Boulder. They’re so far up his ass they can see his tonsils. 

Ryan:

In 2014, I exchanged my old Tim Tebow jersey for a $12 haircut. My haircut lady thought she was getting one hell of a deal, while I was just ecstatic to get rid of it. The whole time while trimming away she tried to convince me that Tebow should still be with the Broncos because he, “played the right way.” I was secretly hoping she’d accidentally cut my ears off so I didn’t have to hear any more of her bullshit.

Manu:

I work at a big retail store in Mexico, and as part of the NFL’s International Home Marketing Areas program, my beloved Denver Broncos, who got assigned Mexico as their foreign market, were planning an event in one of our stores.

I was thrilled when I got asked to help set the event up. They wanted to do a viewing party for the kickoff game against the Seahawks on Monday night, they were even bringing in a retired player - Rod Smith! - to take pictures with the fans and have a Q&A at halftime. The whole thing seemed like a dream come true for a lifelong fan like me, especially with the Russell Wilson era looming.

We worked overtime and longass hours to pull this event off. When the day arrived, we were really proud of what we were able to accomplish. Tons of Broncos fans were piling into this terrace that had been decked out with Broncos paraphernalia and merchandise. Rod Smith was pumping up the crowd as kickoff neared. People laughed, cheered, and drank beers, and I thought to myself, “Man, is this what loving your job is all about?”

Little did we know that Wilson and the literal worst head coach in history were about to take a dump on everyone in attendance for three hours. We didn’t host another event all season, and most of our Broncos merch ended up in the clearance bin, including a not insignificant amount of “Let’s Ride” t-shirts made specifically for this event but lingered in the store for months.

Jon:

The new owners are just DYING to build a gazillion dollar suburban stadium surrounded by "mixed use development" and a parking monopoly that can't be reached by bus or train. The '22 Broncos had the greatest difference in competence between the head coach and defensive coordinator in the history of mankind. That DC left, and the fanbase hasn't really processed the fact that the downgrade to Vance Joseph is probably worth two or three losses. The team will be staring up at Mahomes in the standings for 12 more years, which is probably more time than the Colorado River has left. And the stadium plays Toby Keith jingo jingles while the color guard marches onto the field before each home game.

I will watch and yell until I die.

Submissions for the NFL previews are now closed. Next up: Los Angeles Rams.

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