BRONCOS

Melvin Gordon was first domino to fall, but won’t be last from disastrous year

Nov 21, 2022, 9:30 PM
Melvin Gordon...
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Melvin Gordon was simply step one.

The Broncos have a long ways to go to fix this mess.

With the news coming out late Monday morning that Denver had cut Gordon, the initial reaction from the fanbase was relief. Gordon fumbled 12 times in 2.5 years with the Broncos. On more than once occasion, he cost the team a game. In fact, you can make a case Gordon coughed up three losses for Denver this season. Week 1 in Seattle, Week 4 at Las Vegas and Week 11 at home against the Raiders.

It’s maddening that Denver GM George Paton re-signed him this offseason. It’s even more maddening that head coach Nathaniel Hackett continued to give him chance after chance to literally drop the ball. In 10 games this year, Gordon put the ball on ground five times. Every carry was filled with anxiety for both the crowd in the stadium and people at home holding their collective breath. It wasn’t a matter of if Gordon was going to screw up again, it was a matter of when.

The fact it went on for this long is inexcusable. The Broncos are 3-7, and might very well be 6-4 if Gordon could’ve just held onto the football. At worst, they probably beat the Raiders twice and currently sit at 5-5. That changes the whole vibe of this year. The playoffs are still in play. People aren’t ready to abandon the Russell Wilson trade as a bust and there’d be plenty of hope entering the holiday season.

Instead, here we are. Denver’s in big, big trouble and won’t even be “rewarded” with a top selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. That pick is head to Seattle in the Wilson deal, and right now it sits at No. 5 overall. Talk about adding insult to injury. The Seahawks already made out like bandits and that will be the cherry on top.

But while Gordon was the first domino to fall, he certainly won’t be the last. It would be shocking if Hackett coaches more than one season in Denver and Paton’s seat keeps getting hotter, even if he temporarily saved himself by dumping Gordon. New owner / CEO Greg Penner might not be a “football guy,” but he’s a business man. And he knows poor performance when he sees it.

Hackett’s performance has been miserable. So much so, the coach no longer manages the game or calls the plays. Those responsibilities have been shifted to Jerry Rosburg and Klint Kubiak, respectively. Hackett even admitted on Monday he “didn’t know what to do” against the Raiders now that his biggest duties have been stripped. Talk about a guy having the best job in sports. No responsibilities, and the checks still clear.

For Paton, the first thing he did was spend a cool quarter-billion dollars of the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group’s money when they got to town. He extended Wilson’s contract without watching him play a down in a Broncos uniform. In retrospect, that was obviously a massive mistake. And billionaires don’t become (and stay) billionaires by making bad financial decisions.

For now, Penner, his wife Carrie Walton-Penner and father-in-law Robson Walton are still the new folks in town. We don’t know how they’re going to operate this team, but we do know they don’t fail. And while Gordon was the biggest failure on the field and paid the price, it’s not like Hackett or Paton have done a very good job.

Hackett will almost assuredly go before Paton. It’d be a massive surprise if Penner fires both this offseason. But unless the next head coach turns Wilson around, you can bet Paton will be the out come January 2024, or even before.

Calling Gordon a “scapegoat” would be unfair, because he deserved to be cut. He wasn’t very good at his job and actively helped the Broncos lose football games. But someone had to be first, and it just so happened to be him.

With this seasons off the rails, someone else will be next. And someone after that and probably someone after that. Changes will have to be made until this thing gets fixed, and the Broncos have a long ways to go.

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Melvin Gordon was first domino to fall, but won’t be last from disastrous year