DROP THE MIKE

Who will get blamed if the Broncos miss the playoffs this season?

Sep 7, 2022, 6:37 AM
Nathaniel Hackett...
(Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images)
(Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images)

Finally! We are ready for a Broncos season with real expectations.

No more trying to talk ourselves into believing Trevor Siemian can be anything more than a journeyman. No more trying to con ourselves into thinking Joe Flacco still has a lot in the tank, or that Case Keenum can be a franchise QB, or that Vic Fangio… oh, never mind. No need to continue to dredge up the painful memories of the last six years.

This Broncos season starts with unbridled optimism fueled by the arrival of Russell Wilson. The expectation is that this is a playoff team.

But what happens if they fall short? Unless there are catastrophic injuries, who will get the blame if the Broncos go 9-8 or worse?

The obvious first choice is Nathaniel Hackett. There’s no doubt in my mind the Broncos must go at least 5-3, really 6-2, in their first eight games. The schedule is softest at the beginning and the Broncos must take advantage. If they don’t, it will be open season on Hackett’s training camp and preseason strategy of easy practices and not playing regulars.

Add in how Broncos Country has become experts in dissecting the flaws in first-time head coaches like Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio, and Hackett becomes an easy target that has him placed squarely on the hot seat after just one year on the job.

Next up in the blame pecking order if the Broncos fall short will be George Paton. This roster that he was (smugly?) confident about throughout the pre-season and onto into the cut down and claiming process could very well end up being the culprit if the Broncos are home watching the playoffs.

Paton failed to address the middle linebacker and right tackle positions, add cornerback depth, bring in a wide receiver after the Tim Patrick injury or keep a pass rusher like Malik Reed. These moves or lack thereof could conspire to bring down heat on Paton who to this point has received rave reviews as Broncos GM. But this is the NFL and it’s Broncos Country, and what have you done for me lately is what matters most.

Notice I waited this long to get to Russell Wilson? That’s because I just can’t see Russ stinking up the joint. If the Broncos miss the playoffs, it will be because the Broncos’ supporting cast on offense just isn’t ready for primetime yet. Or, Hackett and his staff of first timers struggle in year one. Or, we overrated this defense.

Of course, it could just come down to the Broncos gave up a boatload for Russ, signed him to a big contract and have convinced themselves he’s “The Guy” for the next 10 years. And then he goes out and proves all those annoying people in Seattle were right.

Nah. Nope. That isn’t going to happen. No way you can bail on all that after just one year.

So Coach Hackett, GM Paton and all the rest of you Broncos not named Russell Wilson? Good luck! No pressure! Playoffs or bust, baby!

***

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Who will get blamed if the Broncos miss the playoffs this season?