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Woody Paige: Are Elway and Joseph willing to utter the most repugnant word Broncos backers could ever hear?

January 30, 2018 Updated: January 31, 2018 at 7:25 am
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Last January, when Vance Joseph was introduced as the Broncos coach, he emphasized that the team was not "broken'' and his job was "not a rebuild; it's a reboot.''

A year later, the Broncos are badly broken and need a comprehensive rebuild, not just a ctrl-alt-del reboot.

Thirty-seven players from the Super Bowl 50 roster already are gone, and as many as a dozen more will be jettisoned before the start of the 2018 season.

Only eight starters who earned championship rings likely will be left. Only four 2016 coaches are on staff.

These are not your Peyton Manning Broncos. The franchise has lost 18 of 32 games since Manning retired and 11 of 16 since Joseph replaced Gary Kubiak.

Rome wasn't rebuilt in a day, and neither will the Broncos.

Truth is, the Broncos are further away from success than they were a January ago.

Joseph and John Elway have significant issues at quarterback (again), running back, tight end, the offensive and defensive lines, and at linebacker and in the secondary. Did I leave out any areas? How about special teams? The Broncos were worst in the league.

Can a veteran quarterback solve The Denver Dilemma?

Well, some will say that Manning did just that in 2012. But the Broncos reached the postseason, and won a game, the previous season. Kirk Cousins would be joining a team that hasn't won the division or made the playoffs the past two seasons.

How about adding several other veteran unrestricted free agents? How did that plan work out last offseason? Ron Leary and Domata Peko turned out to be solid players, Menelik Watson, Zach Kerr and Kasim Edebali not so hot. Jamaal Charles was the Mystery Man.

As Elway has maintained since he took over as the man on high with the Broncos in 2011, the draft would be most important aspect of the franchise's return to greatness. And the upcoming draft will be particularly critical, which is why the Broncos were so thrilled to be coaching in the Senior Bowl.

Obviously picking at near or at the end of the first and most rounds since they were annual winners and in the Super Bowl, the Broncos selected 16 players in the draft process the past two years. (In reality, the Broncos drafted one perennial Pro Bowl player - Von Miller - in seven drafts.) Seven members of the 2016 draft, counting No. 1 pick Paxton Lynch, have become starters at various junctures. And the eighth was punter Riley Dixon. Adam Gotsis and Justin Simmons are potential Pro Bowlers. In 2017, of the eight draftees, only Garett Bolles became a full-time starter. Three were injured and never played. DeMarcus Walker was an occasional backup, or inactive. DeAngelo Henderson showed something in the final game. And Isaiah McKenzie was a fumble waiting to happen.

Only Trevor Siemian, Max Garcia and Shane Ray have emerged from the '15 draft. All but one of the rest have been dismissed, Jeff Heuerman and Garcia are journeymen, and Siemian will be dismissed before next season.

Derek Wolfe and Brock Osweiler (for the moment) are around from 2012-13, and Bradley Roby, Matt Paradis and Corey Nelson are 2014 survivors. Miller is the last player standing from '11.

The most recent Broncos trades of note involving players brought Mark Sanchez, A.J. Derby, Vernon Davis and Gino Gradkowski to Denver. The four departed.

Thus, the Broncos' problems spread beyond the lack of a legitimate starting NFL quarterback.

Woe is Broncos.

Actually, Elway has two options for 2018:

- Sign a veteran quarterback (Cousins), draft the "best available player" - Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson or Alabama safety-nickel back Minkah Fitzpatrick - at No. 5 and sign veteran free agents at wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback, and try to get back into postseason play immediately.

- Draft a young quarterback in the first round, select well in the next four rounds, bring in several other pieces, develop a team for the future and suffer the swords.

Elway first told me in a 2013 interview he was assembling a team "for now, and now on.'' He may not be able to do both now and now on.

But, are Elway and Joseph willing to utter the most repugnant word Broncos backers could ever hear?

Rebuild.

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