DENVER — Outside of Josh McDaniels’ forgettable tenure with the Broncos from 2009-10, the Patriots pretty much knew what to expect when they traveled to Denver from a scheme and playcalling standpoint since Mike Shanahan arrived in 1995.
It was Shanahan with Gary Kubiak running his offense, and a parade of different defensive coordinators. Then it was John Fox with Adam Gase and Jack Del Rio. Then Kubiak returned with trusted hand Rick Dennison, and veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Now, though with first-year head coach Vance Joseph, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the Broncos are, and that either makes them very dangerous, or out of their depth.
Considering they’re 3-5 to this point, we’re going with the latter.
Not only is Joseph, 45, running a team for the first time, he was only a coordinator for one season last year in Miami. He hired former Chargers coach Mike McCoy to run his offense, but it at least takes half a season for the changes to settle down — and that’s before you get to the lack of consistency (or good play) the Broncos have gotten out of the quarterback position.
On defense, the Broncos have gone from an encyclopedia of defensive strategies (Phillips), to a first-year coordinator in Joe Woods. While Woods has a sterling reputation as a long-time defensive backs coach, running a defense is entirely different.
Throw in that Joseph hired Brock Olivo, who is perhaps best known for running a failed bid for the House of Representatives in Missouri in 2008, to be his special teams coordinator. Olivo is another first-year coordinator.
Now, there are certainly some widely respected veteran coaches on the staff — Bill Kollar (defensive line), Jeff Davidson (offensive line), Eric Studesville (running backs), Reggie Herring (inside linebackers), Fred Pagac (outside linebackers) — but Joseph left himself little margin for error when he hired so green in some power positions on his staff.
This Broncos team doesn’t have time to learn along the way with their coordinators, and there were bound to be some growing pains as a result. But at some point, all that stuff settles down and the group begins to improve. The question for these Broncos is whether or not it’s too late for that.
Here is the scouting report on the Denver Broncos (3-5), gleaned through film study and background discussions with two AFC personnel executives (Note: we are going to skim their offense, because it isn’t good and not a concern in this game):