DENVER — Win now. Win today. Win yesterday. Win tomorrow.
The Denver Broncos only ever have one option—win.
“This is a great place to work, but the expectations are high,” vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway said before his most recent coaching search. “Those expectations have been set by Mr. [Pat] Bowlen a long time ago. Everybody that comes here, whether it’s a coach or a player, understands that the standard is to be able to compete for world championships… The fanbase has expectations here, too. Not only do we [have expectations]as an organization, but the fans have that same expectation. Therefore, there is pressure.”
Normally, the culture brought forth by the future Hall of Fame owner is a fan’s dream. The “win-now” nature of the Broncos often has fans pointing and laughing at the other teams in town when they spend money on things like, oh, a party deck?
At 3-7, following their sixth straight loss, The Denver Broncos have by far the worst winning percentage of any major sports franchise in Denver. Heck, even last year’s NHL laughingstock, the Colorado Avalanche sit at 10-8-1. Suddenly, it’s the Broncos who are the butt of every joke in town.
Why? Well, once and a while, you need a “Plan B.”
“Plan B? We don’t have Plan B,” John Elway famously exclaimed after signing Peyton Manning. “We’re goin’ Plan A.”
The Broncos always go “Plan A” and “Plan A” is just about always “Win a Super Bowl this year.” Unfortunately, it’s that very mentality that has the Broncos in this mess.
As Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset and Brock Osweiler bolted for the big bucks, the Broncos were left scrambling for their next quarterback. Without Hall of Fame quarterbacks just sitting on the street as free agents, they did the sensible thing and turned to the draft to fill the void.
In the first round of the draft, the team selected Paxton Lynch, the big-armed, long-legged quarterback out of Memphis. For a team in “win soon” mode, it would have made sense to play the kid and live with the growing pains. Not in win-now mode. In win-now mode, it became clear that Lynch had some serious growing up to do. So the prideful Denver Broncos were forced to play a former seventh-round pick because he truly gave them the best chance to win.
After a year of winning football with Siemian under center that didn’t quite get the Broncos into the playoffs, a new coaching staff came in with the same pressure. This was no rebuild; this was a “reboot.”
With no option but to win right away, the new coaching staff eventually made the obvious decision considering the circumstances they were under and made the call to once again start Trevor Siemian.
The problem that we all now see is that that chance to win was still pretty small. Siemian got the Broncos out to a 3-4 start behind a nine touchdown to 10 interception ratio forcing the Broncos to try their hand with Brock Osweiler, who has since gone 0-3 with a two-to-three ratio of his own.
The last time the Denver Broncos won a football game Lonzo Ball wasn’t being called a bust, LiAngelo ball wasn’t being called an idiot and Lavar Ball wasn’t being called out by the President of the United States. But even the Ball family has had a better 48 days than the Orange & Blue.
Win now has turned into win never.
So, next week, 26 games after they drafted him, it’s very possible the Broncos will turn to Paxton Lynch to execute a six-word phrase that no team that’s winning now ever says: “find out what you have in.”
The worst part of it is, every answer is a bad one at this point. If Lynch flashes potential, well, you wasted a bunch of time not crafting that potential. If he shows what everyone has feared all this time, well, you wasted a first-round draft pick. It all looks bad.
“Everybody in this organization is accountable for how we’re playing right now,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said in a frustrated locker room on Sunday, responding to a question about John Elway saying the team “got a little bit soft.”
Sometimes the truth hurts, but while Elway certainly deserves his share of the blame for this debacle, he’s simply fallen victim to trying to “win now” with a quarterback room that is far from winning anything worth winning.
Since Pat Bowlen took over the team in 1984, the Denver Broncos have had more Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons. Don’t get it twisted, the culture that he has built around the Denver Broncos is nothing short of legendary. Unfortunately, an odd set of circumstances has turned Plan A, the only plan, on its head.
Whether they’ll outwardly admit it or not, as of Sunday evening, the Denver Broncos have entered win-later mode. Buckle up.