The Denver Broncos have been a fascinatingly terrible NFL team

Image courtesy of Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons.

There’s a scene in the “Simpsons” episode “You Only Move Twice” in which Homer’s incredibly rich ex-boss buys him the Denver Broncos, and Homer is immediately disappointed because they’re not the Dallas Cowboys. Although this clip is from 1996 (actually a pretty good year for the Broncos), it paints a vivid picture of what being gifted the Denver Broncos would feel like today. It would suck. I certainly would not want to be gifted the Denver Broncos.

From the beginning of the preseason, the Denver Broncos have been a team NFL fans have kept an eye on. This can be traced primarily to their offseason acquisition of Super Bowl Champion and former Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson. The Broncos sent away multiple first-round picks and three players to Seattle and have agreed to pay Wilson enough to make him the second highest paid quarterback in the league, per NBC sports. People have been paying attention to Wilson this offseason. He had his own Subway Sub from February to August, according to CBS sports, and footage from Broncos’ Twitter of Wilson awkwardly giving takes on the line “Broncos Country: Let’s Ride” went viral over the offseason after being quoted by fans and college quarterbacks alike, as featured on the ESPN sports Instagram. 

There’s been one problem though with all of this extensive media attention, though. The Broncos’ offseason acquisition of Wilson has been a disappointment in every way possible. Despite being an MVP-caliber talent for much of his career,  Wilson has had some of his worst career numbers through six games this season. He’s been inaccurate, and his passing yards per game have suffered. The team sits at 2-4 after six weeks.

These failings can be explained largely by Wilson’s new playstyle with the Broncos. As described by Sports Illustrated, Wilson has always been a quarterback that moves. When Wilson moves around a lot, he creates openings in the defense where he can throw to receivers. Another thing to know about Wilson is that he is relatively short for an NFL QB so when he doesn’t move in the pocket, something he has done a lot this season, it can be hard for him to see open receivers behind his linemen. This is particularly a problem in the middle of the field. Wilson’s lack of vision has significantly contributed to an incredibly ineffective Broncos offense, especially in front of larger TV audiences. 

The Broncos have played the majority of their games this season in nationally televised spots either on Sunday, Monday or Thursday night football. Every team in the NFL plays at least one primetime football game while “Marquee match-ups” (games with teams projected to play well and draw in many viewers) put notable teams in even more primetime games, as described by NFL operations. The Broncos have played four primetime games in six weeks. It is clear the NFL schedule makers believed Denver would be an exciting, competent football team. Denver’s stats have proven them very wrong.

 As someone who watches quite a lot of primetime football but who is not a Denver Broncos fan, I have begrudgingly watched quite a bit of Broncos football. My viewing experience has ping-ponged between being disappointed by the lack of offensive scoring and appreciating the close score, but ultimately ends with being fascinated by how collectively banal these games have been.     

The Broncos’ primetime scores have been incredibly uncommon, including low scores like a tight 11-10 win against San Francisco and a 17-16 win over Houston, but the magnum opus of Broncos primetime football was a 12-9 OT loss to the Colts at home, in which neither team scored a touchdown. This game was so unexciting that fans were leaving the stadium before the overtime period even began, as archived by Sports Illustrated. The game ended fittingly: on a failed Broncos touchdown attempt. This game was also notable because Wilson’s post-game conference after the loss ended with him triumphantly saying “Broncos Country, let’s ride,” before leaving the room, Sports Illustrated reported.

If there’s one positive in this year’s Denver team, it is that its defense has been very effective. The team is holding opponents to an average of 16.5 points per game, which is good for fourth in the league through six weeks.

This is certainly a highlight for an underwhelming Broncos team, but it’s likely things for the Broncos will get worse before they get better. I didn’t even mention Denver’s new Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett who has faced scrutiny for his late game calls, like opting for an incredibly difficult 64-yard field goal in a week one loss and taking pass attempts instead of running the ball in the red zone in week five, perUSA Today. 

 After a sobering press conference following another loss in week six, Wilson did not end with “Broncos Country, let’s ride.” It appears the Broncos are currently not riding, and it seems quite uncertain when the Broncos will ride again.

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