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In an effort to stop the bleeding, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway has not only installed new management, but he’s also brought in another starting quarterback.
The success of the Broncos in 2019 will depend on whether new head coach Vic Fangio can lead the team while coordinating the defense and whether new quarterback Joe Flacco can learn and operate effectively under new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s system.
Denver has had an interesting offseason of adding offensive depth to its roster, but the oddsmakers are not very confident that it will make a difference in the end, and we take a look at some of those Broncos moves as well as the odds and predictions of their 2019 season.
The 2018 Denver Broncos did poorly enough to get second-year head coach Vance Joseph fired since the team’s 6-10 record was only one win better than his first season, and the Broncos had back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early ’70s.
With newly signed Case Keenum under center, the Broncos did not get the offensive boost they were hoping for, and for the second season in a row scored 30 or more points just once.
Some key late-season injuries were the final nail in the coffin for the Broncos and they ended their season with a four-game losing streak and failed to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season after their Super Bowl win in 2015.
In addition to what’s just been mentioned, under head coach Joseph, the Denver Broncos also posted back-to-back double-digit losses for the first time since 1966-1967, and that was enough to convince general manager John Elway that a huge change in leadership needed to be made.
So Elway fired Joseph and hired the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to lead the Broncos, and immediately Fangio made it clear that since he was hired because of his work on the defensive side of the ball, he would be the one who would be calling the defensive plays, thus no need for a defensive coordinator.
On the offensive side, Fangio did not retain coordinator Bill Musgrave, whose squad ranked 19th in both total yards and passing yards and 12th in rushing last season, but instead brought in the former quarterbacks coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Rich Scangarello.
After the Broncos spent 2017 juggling between three quarterbacks (Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch), they decided to solve the problem by giving free agent Case Keenum, who’d been lighting it up for the Minnesota Vikings, a two-year, $36 million contract.
Keenum only threw for 18 touchdowns in 2018 and threw almost as many interceptions (15), so the Broncos traded him to the Washington Redskins and then turned around and traded a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Baltimore Ravens for Joe Flacco, the franchise quarterback (and Super Bowl MVP) they’d grown tired of.
Now Flacco’s job is to do what those four other guys couldn’t these last few seasons and that’s getting the Broncos back to winning and the postseason, as well as act as a veteran leader to the young quarterback Denver just drafted for the future, Drew Lock.
The Denver Broncos have spent years searching for a right tackle and now they think they have their man in Ja’Wuan James, the free agent who has played all five of his NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
General manager Elway was so convinced, in fact, that he made James the highest paid right tackle in the NFL with a four-year deal worth $51 million, hoping to fill a position that’s had a different starter to begin each of the last four seasons.
James was a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has started in each of the 62 NFL games he’s played in, and last season he was called for the fewest penalties of his career, so if he can stay healthy he’ll help give the Broncos’ offensive line the consistency it’s been lacking.
By signing Flacco and James and by using their first three draft picks to greatly improve their offense (see below), Elway has made it clear that adding talent and depth to their 19th ranked offense was the big priority.
The idea is to give Flacco the reins and hope that under a new system he can tap back into whatever Super Bowl mojo he had in 2012 for Baltimore and lead these faltering Broncos back to the top of the AFC West and the postseason.
With Fangio at the helm, the defense will be a high priority, and it will be interesting to see if Vic will be able to simultaneously manage the responsibilities of head coaching a team and coordinating their defense, something Bill Belichick over in New England did successfully last season.
Linebacker Brandon Marshall, who signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders worth $1.2 million, with $350,000 of that money guaranteed.
Offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, who, after being signed by the New England Patriots for a one-year deal, announced his retirement.
Cornerback Bradley Roby, who signed a one-year contract with the Houston Texans worth $10 million, with $9.5 million of that guaranteed.
Offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, who agreed to a four-year, $51 million deal with $32 million of that guaranteed.
Cornerback/safety Kareem Jackson, who signed a three-year contract worth $33 million, with $23 million of that guaranteed.
Cornerback Bryce Callahan, who took a three-year deal worth $21 million, with $10 million of that guaranteed.
Offense: Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, the offensive line
Defense: Defensive line, edge rusher, inside linebacker
The Broncos ended up with 6 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they were:
Over the last decade, the Denver Broncos have been to the playoffs five times, including a Super Bowl L victory in 2015 over the Carolina Panthers, 24-10, and a Super Bowl XLVIII loss in 2013 to the Seattle Seahawks, 8-43.
The other three times were Divisional Playoff losses in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
In total, the Denver Broncos have been to the Super Bowl eight times and have won three Lombardi Trophies (1997, 1998 and 2015) but have come up short five times (1977, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 2013).
The oddsmakers are not big fans of Flacco, apparently, because they’re predicting his Denver Broncos will come in third in the AFC West again behind the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers.
There are 24 teams with the same or better odds than the Broncos to win the Super Bowl, and 12 other AFC teams with a better shot of even getting there.
Best not to assume that the 34-year-old Flacco will falter, though, since he’s still got a cannon for an arm and the ability to win, and given that he was “miserable” in Baltimore, it might be possible that a happier place like Denver could reignite his fire.
Does Flacco still have it, especially now that he’s happy again, or has he hit that same ineffective level that another former Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning, seems to have?
Can a football team under all new leadership thrive, or is chaos all but guaranteed?
Will Fangio be able to balance leading the team AND the defense, or will he be inundated and crippled by all the details?
Never count John Elway out of the game, but his team is definitely an underdog this season that will find it difficult to defeat the big dogs.
Here are the current odds listed for the Broncos’ postseason in 2019-20:
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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