MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — This Broncos team? The worst of my lifetime.
How about you?
I’m 38, I think. Can’t be sure about that, though, because it seems I blacked out from 1-4:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. There's no way all of this could have happened — not to the Broncos! — in a single afternoon of football:
Trevor Siemian, pick 6. (OK, that could happen.) Football snapped over the quarterback’s head. (Yes, that did happen, in a Super Bowl.) Fumbled punt for a safety. Denver’s defense outscoring Denver’s offense, 6-3. Blocked punt. Delay-of-game penalty on the Broncos — on a kickoff. Three interceptions, two fumbles. One giant mess.
“You’d never think this organization would be in this predicament,” linebacker Brandon Marshall said after the Broncos lost their eighth consecutive game, 35-9 to the Dolphins.
But they are.
It's not a ridiculous question anymore: Are the Broncos, at 3-9, the worst team in the NFL? Only once during an eight-game losing streak — in a 20-17 loss to the Bengals — were the Broncos even competitive. My vote is yes — right now they're the worst — though a case could be made for the Browns (0-11), 49ers (2-10) and Giants (2-9). Either way, be careful of the company you keep.
“Being here so long,” veteran tight end Virgil Green said, “we haven’t lost games this big.”
If I were John Elway — the Broncos boss who toured Hard Rock Stadium roughly 45 minutes before kickoff, chomping sunflower seeds and wearing a serious look — the franchise would be looking for a new head coach. I'm running out of ways to say Vance Joseph is the wrong guy. The delay-of-game on the kickoff reminded of the failed fake punt in Buffalo — a novel idea they have no clue how to execute. The Broncos should allow Joseph to return to South Florida, where it’s so lovely this time of year that flip-flops and Dan Marino jerseys were the wardrobe of choice for 65,092 locals on Sunday.
This is worse than the Josh McDaniels era. It’s worse, because these Broncos are 22 months removed from a Super Bowl parade. When you once were great, it’s tougher to stomach when suddenly you’re not. It’s worse, because a Dolphins team that had lost five straight games — by an average of 23 points — rubbed their face in a blowout loss. It’s worse, because they’re wasting the prime years of one of the greatest players to play for the Broncos, Von Miller.
“What is Broncos football? We’ve got to find that. We’ve got to grind here and get back to whatever it is,” Miller said after the game. “You can’t say Broncos football is what we did in 2015. That’s two years ago. We’ve got to find our identity. We’ve got to find guys who are ready to take their game to the next level.”
It’s worse because the Dolphins — the 5-7 Dolphins, not the ’72 Dolphins — embarrassed the Broncos. With a 33-9 lead, Miami coach Adam Gase called for an onside kick. Here’s the backstory on that kick to the gut: Gase wanted the job when it was handed to Gary Kubiak. The Broncos never interviewed Gase, and he went to Chicago with John Fox. Sunday, Gase got his revenge.
“Playing against his former team it looked like there was some bad blood,” Chris Harris Jr. said. “Apparently, there’s some bad blood.”
The Dolphins recovered the kick. The Broncos must recover their pride.
“If this was Little League some guys would be upset (by the onside kick),” Miller said. “But it’s the pros.”
The Broncos offense scored three points. Total. The Broncos defense — thanks to an interception return for a touchdown by promising and undeterred safety Justin Simmons — scored six. Jay Cutler's offense scored 21.
“It was a back-and-forth game for a quarter,” Joseph said.
Translation: the Titanic saw a gorgeous sunset.
“We’re on our fourth quarterback (start) of the year,” Joseph said.
Trevor Siemian returned to his starting spot. He was 19 of 41 for 200 passing yards with three interceptions. Near South Beach, his game's one south. He's been smashed by giant linemen so many times he has the yips. There's no debate at quarterback. The Broncos don't have one.
They also have no discipline or direction. The Broncos were flagged for a delay of game (on a kickoff!), Isaiah MacKenzie fumbled another punt (for a safety!) and the Broncos collected nine more penalty flags (only six teams have more). Rock bottom hurts the most when you've been to the top.
"Everything is going wrong for us," Miller said. "It's been all over the place."
Miami’s football stadium is exactly what you’d expect: flashing lights, thumping bass and (most) clothing optional. Denver’s eighth straight loss was exactly what you’d expect: turnovers, blown assignments, a dysfunctional sideline. So I asked Von: is the Broncos locker room as committed as you?
“This is the pros. You assume that everybody is training and gearing up for the game in a professional way. So I can’t really speculate on that,” he said, nicely. “I do what I do, and everybody else, they do what they do.”
The Broncos do one thing well. They do it as well as any team in the NFL, as well as any Broncos team in the past four decades. They lose.