Offseason for Broncos’ John Elway, Vic Fangio all about Chiefs
Broncos general manager John Elway’s 2020 Offseason Mission Statement should be called, “How We Will Catch Kansas City.”
This draft was all about the Chiefs.
Receivers who can help Courtland Sutton challenge Kansas City’s defense? The Broncos drafted two with their first two picks for the first time in franchise history. And a tight end who can form a productive tandem with Noah Fant? The Broncos started Saturday by adding one even though seven were already under contract.
Get guys who can run fast and can develop into NFL contributors by stressing a defense. Only until the Broncos stop being bad and boring offensively will they challenge the Chiefs in the AFC West.
“We have to put points on the board,” Elway said after the Broncos completed a 10-player draft. “Seventeen points a game is not nearly enough. The first step was this year in the draft.”
The first step actually was last year’s draft, when the Broncos selected tight end Noah Fant and quarterback Drew Lock. The second step was this weekend, when the Broncos added receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam.
The Broncos averaged 17.6 points per game last year, 28th in league, and everything was difficult. They were terrible on third down. They were awful in the red zone. They couldn’t consistently get the big strike.
Coach Vic Fangio’s charges fought the good fight last year, losing five games by eight or fewer points. But their two games against the Chiefs showed how the Broncos’ offense and defense had to play left-handed (not enough good players).
The Chiefs won 30-6 at Mile High in October and 23-3 in the Arrowhead snow in December. A day after the 7-9 season was completed, Elway mentioned the lack of production against Kansas City, which won the Super Bowl a month later.
If one opponent was the driving force behind the plan formulated by Elway and Fangio, that’s great. That’s the way it should be. The NFL is still set up to reward the division champion (guaranteed one home playoff game).
All divisional roads go through Kansas City and coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, receiver Tyreek Hill and a defense that gradually found itself over the final half of 2019.
For the Broncos, that meant acquiring offensive players who can budge the scoring average up to 25 points a game, which would have been enough to win 12 games last year.
“Offensively, we felt for us to compete and give Drew a chance to be successful and for us to be successful on the offensive side, we had to get some speed and some explosiveness,” Elway said.
Jeudy (4.45-second 40). Hamler (his camp says he ran 4.27 in pre-combine training). Okwuegbunam (4.49).
Speed to create downfield separation against every opponent and create all-field mismatches against the Chiefs’ linebackers in the form of Okwuegbunam (Lock’s college teammate).
“We had some good players on offense, but we had to add to that,” Elway said.
Adding to the offense for Elway has been like trying to land a transport plane on an aircraft carrier. Unsuccessful and expensive. Lock will be the fourth Week 1 quarterback in as many years and Pat Shurmur will be the fifth offensive play-caller in as many years. All in the name of breaking the current nine-game losing streak to Kansas City.
How long has it been since the Broncos beat the Chiefs? The starting quarterback that night in Kansas City was Peyton Manning … who is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021. The play-calling head coach was Gary Kubiak … who has since been semi-retired, a coaching consultant and now Minnesota’s offensive coordinator.
No Broncos offensive players remain on the roster from that September 2015 game. In the nine losses:
*Kansas City has outscored the Broncos 28.7 to 11.7 and won five games by at least 10 points.
*The Chiefs outgained the Broncos by an average of 354.6-320.3.
*In plays of at least 15 yards, the Chiefs had a 61-54 advantage.
The Broncos have transitioned from Super Bowl champion to general irrelevance on the league scene. They hope this offseason (trades, free agency and the draft) finally produces a course correction. It is all about Kansas City and will continue to be all about Kansas City.
“We feel like we’re still in good shape defensively,” Elway said. “And the way Drew played, we saw the signs of a guy who has a chance to be very successful in this league.”