If the Denver Broncos are to make a game of it Sunday night vs. the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs, preparation will have to meet perfectly with execution. It’s been a half-decade since last the Broncos beat their division rival, and the odds are stacked against Denver.
According to SportsBetting.com, the Broncos are 13.5-point underdogs heading into Arrowhead Stadium this week.
As far as preparation goes, it’s been a troubled period for the organization, especially coming off the heels of the quarterback disaster last week and the subsequent fallout. The backdrop of internal strife was only amplified when the oldest daughters of the late Pat Bowlen, Beth and Amie, issued a scathing statement putting pressure on the current team brass and the Bowlen Trust — headed by CEO and President Joe Ellis.
Some interpreted that statement as a call to sell the team to an outside buyer. Whatever the case may be, the pervading feeling is that the Broncos are currently a rudderless ship that badly needs a firm hand to guide it forward.
Head coach Vic Fangio’s job security has already, quite predictably, been the subject of speculation. While firing Fangio remains unlikely, it hasn’t been a good week for the veteran coach after he walked a perilous tightrope of condemning (and fining) Drew Lock and the quarterbacks without questioning the NFL’s unfair handling of Week 12’s mask-wearing indiscretion, ostensibly risking the unity of his own locker room.
Veteran safety Kareem Jackson broke with Fangio’s public posture following last Sunday’s 31-3 QB-less defeat to the New Orleans Saints, making it clear he took an alternative view to his coach’s simplistic assessment that the four mask-erring signal-callers must shoulder all the blame for handicapping the Broncos competitively.
On Wednesday, Lock deferred to his boss while avoiding pouring fuel on the flames of further potential unrest.
“No, anything that coach Vic says it’s not my opportunity or my jurisdiction to really get upset with him,” Lock said. “He’s my boss. He’s the leader of the team and whatever he says goes.”
By towing the company line, Lock doubled down on the carefully-worded statement he released on Sunday regarding the incident, stressing the need to be fully accountable as a leader. Reading between the lines, it’s clear that Lock still believes deep down that he and his fellow signal-callers had the team’s best intentions in mind when they chose to gather at the facility on a day off to study Saints film.
“I feel like we were taking a bit of leadership by coming in and getting ready by ourselves and doing that by ourselves on a day where everyone else is at home,” Lock insisted. “So, I feel like that shows leadership.”
Lock’s perceived lack of maturity will no doubt continue to be brought into question until he starts winning and producing more consistent results; such is the nature of the NFL beast. As a young player, Lock made a mistake in not fully grasping the seriousness of any potential consequences the league could mete out by not perfectly obeying mask protocols.
That negligible infraction, which the NFL punished extremely and unfairly, in Lock’s estimation, shouldn’t call into question his wherewithal and standing as a leader. However, Fangio did not back down from putting the onus on his QBs, and in particular, his starter, to follow all the rules and protocols, which the Broncos have done a good job following throughout the season, relative to their NFL peers.
“It overshadows all the good work that everybody has done here starting with the players and that part bugs me a little bit,” Fangio admitted. “But, hey, it is what it is, we had that mistake with the quarterbacks, and we have to own it.”
Extreme caution is now the team’s primary focus as it prepares to face the surging Kansas City Chiefs. With that in mind, the Broncos have taken the logical step of reintroducing virtual team meetings.
Using the Zoom platform means close contacts can be minimalized, but it doesn’t appear that the old-school Fangio is overly thrilled by the new virtual setup.
“We just have to make do with it, but yeah, it’s different—a little bit of difficulty to it. Not ideal,” Fangio conceded.
‘Not ideal’ could just about sum up not only this week, but last, and maybe even the Broncos’ entire season if truth be told. After a turbulent and dramatic week, it’s unlikely this team suddenly finds a way to reverse the losing trend of the past five years against the Chiefs.
But it is the NFL. You know what they say; ‘Any given Sunday.’