DENVER — Hey, Broncos. What’s the plan, man?
Here’s one from the cheap seats. It’s an oldie but a goodie.
Make Dove Valley Uncomfortable Again (MDVUA). Sell the hat, tweet the hashtag. The best plans are those that already worked, anyway: In August 2013, coming off a heart-wrenching loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs, known infamously here as Rahim Moore’s “Mile High Mistake,” Broncos boss John Elway pledged to create “an uncomfortable atmosphere” at team headquarters, according to then-quarterback Peyton Manning.
No job was safe, no position battle predetermined. And the Broncos were uncomfortable all the way to the next Super Bowl. They lost, but what would Colorado give for "43-8" these days? The Broncos now are too cozy.
“Whenever you go through adversity, you have to smile through adversity,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said Thursday.
Dove Valley is more country club than uncomfortable.
In a 16-game season, the Broncos have lost five straight games — the seasonal equivalent of the Rockies losing 50 straight, the Nuggets losing 26 straight, Colorado College hockey losing 11 straight. When the plan fails — as the Broncos' has done — the plan must change. Somehow, after a 25-point loss to their former peer, the Patriots, the Broncos made only minor changes. Last week they changed punt returners, waived a backup pass-rusher (Kasim Edebali) and a tight end (A.J. Derby) and doubled down on votes of confidence.
“I’m not down on Brock (Olivo, the special teams coach),” coach Vance Joseph said.
Those aren’t real changes. They’re announcements that losing consecutive games by 13, 21, 10, 28, 25 points is A-OK.
The Broncos need a plan. As an unmarried man, years of dating have taught innumerable valuable lessons. One stands out: The plan only matters if you don’t have one. And snowball fights are a bad idea, but that’s another story.
What is Vance’s plan? Joseph, the embattled, overwhelmed first-time coach, said the plan against the Bengals at Sports Authority Field is a “clean” game, free of turnovers, penalty flags and boneheaded boo-boos.
Also on Sunday, I’m planning to spell “Kasim Edebali” without Google's help.
Some things are easier said than done.
Broncos Country is dying. It’s also dying to know: What’s the plan, man?
Down or up, the Broncos must choose. In the NFL, the worst place to be is stuck in the middle. Elway first told Gazette columnist Woody Paige his plan is to “win now, and from now on.”
For the first time in a long time neither is on the horizon.
The Broncos say they are still in the playoff hunt and trying to win now. But if they were serious about putting the team in the best position to win now, they would’ve told $33 million wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to grab his helmet for punt-return duty. “He has a huge job (at wide receiver),” Joseph countered. Is it huge-er than Antonio Brown’s job? The Steelers superstar returns punts. Instead, the Broncos’ plan is to use one-time practice squad call-up Jordan “Sunshine” Taylor in place of wobbly return man Isaiah “Butterfingers” MacKenzie. The heat’s on, Sunshine.
The Broncos also are still trying to win later. But if they were serious about the future, they would try second-year question mark Paxton Lynch at quarterback. Instead, on Friday, Joseph wouldn't even commit to Lynch as the backup — woo, boy — the biggest indictment yet of Lynch’s ability to play at all.
“That’s still being discussed,” Joseph said of Brock Osweiler’s backup.
If you don’t know, you probably know.
“The determining factor will be how well we thought Paxton practiced this week,” Joseph said.
The Broncos are sticking with the initial plan: same roster, same coaches, same plan. Surprise! They’re getting the same results.
According to one veteran player in the Broncos locker room, coaches are hesitant to make positional changes due to a lack of depth on the roster. Players know they can’t be replaced; the backups aren’t talented enough to justify a move. “VJ’s” approach to discipline is no different than it was under John Fox and Gary Kubiak, the player said. Guys simply got older, and the reserves weren’t refilled sufficiently.
The next plan must include improved scouting, drafting or developing, if not all three. Or they could implement Emmanuel Sanders' plan. They could smile.
"I'm not frustrated," Sanders said of the losing streak. "It happens."
Want a better plan? Move one week of training camp out of the sweet digs at Dove Valley and into the Air Force Academy. If the academy is good enough for the 7-2 Patriots, it's good enough for the 3-6 Broncos. Drop another touchdown pass (Bennie Fowler) or muff another punt (MacKenzie)? Next man up. After 18 months in the program, a first-round quarterback isn't ready to be the backup? Move on (to open a roster spot) or play him, anyway (to put the Broncos in prime position to draft another first-round quarterback).
The Broncos are too cozy.