In any game, there is competition fueled by the result. Whether it's football, tic-tac-toe, Rock Paper Scissors, curling or something as simple as a straight-line foot race, being the last one standing victorious is the desire we all seek.
But the joy and even motivation for victory comes, in part, because there also has to be a loser. There has to be one or more participants that come up short. For them, the game doesn't seem as fun -- especially when you know you're out of the running, yet have to keep playing.
That's where we're at with the Denver Broncos, and at 6-8 following their 17-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night, it's time to formally welcome Broncos fans, as well as their friends and family, to the 2019 NFL offseason.
Let's talk about how to fix this thing.
After winning three impressive games in a row against the Chargers, Steelers and Bengals, the Broncos have lost two straight, first to the 49ers and now to the Browns. The Broncos remaining schedule is at Oakland and then hosting the Chargers for their second and final meeting. The Raiders game I can see them winning. The Chargers game, as long as L.A. is not resting their starters, I cannot see.
That would leave the Broncos at 7-9 to end the season, at best, a record that would surely leave them on the couch instead of on the field in January.
The best reality, though, is surely for this team to lose both of their last two games. 6-10 and 7-9 are very different, especially for a team that has the Chargers and Chiefs in their division. When it comes to determining the draft order, it goes by record first and then the first tiebreaker is strength of schedule. No team other than the Raiders has a higher strength of schedule than the Broncos, and if that holds, that means the Broncos would be picking last of all the 6-10 teams or the 7-9 teams, which could be the difference of 5 or so draft spots.
Can't have it. Get out the tank.
Find A Coach With Some Stones
Oh my god, when Vance Joseph sent his field goal team out there to cap off a nearly heroic 12-play drive that brought them all the way to the 6-yard line with five minutes left and elected to kick instead of attempting to get one freaking yard, I nearly threw up.
Like, dude, come on.
I mean, he had to know his job was on the line and that's the guts he wanted to show? None at all? It's one yard -- it's one freaking yard.
The Broncos need some new blood. You can't expect your men to follow you when you have that kind of approach to games -- meanwhile watching a guy like Mayfield on the other side of things. It's been 46 years since the Broncos have had back-to-back losing seasons, and a mentality like that is the reason why Joseph is going to break that streak in Denver.
As a general thought, I feel like the Broncos should lean towards hiring an offensive head coach, that is unless John Harbaugh were to become available. The Broncos either need consistency, which Harbaugh has (plus experience with this type of defense) or innovation. Certainly Lincoln Riley would be interesting for the Broncos, as he is for every team that will need a head coach. But Riley with Keenum seems lame as hell, so that only makes sense if they're drafting a dynamic quarterback. If they want to go after a guy like Matt LaFleur (Tennessee Titans) or Matt Campbell (Iowa State), I could dig those, but that will depend on how they want to pair a coach with their potential quarterback choice in the draft. Todd Monken, current offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers, could be a sleeper name here, too. He helped Tampa Bay have the best offensive in the NFL through the first two games of the season before being *cough cough* handcuffed a bit after that.
Defense In Free Agency; Offense In The Draft
The Broncos will have a better chance at making their team whole if they go into the offseason targeting defense more in free agency and offense more in the draft.
In March: Amos or Collins
Denver is scheduled to have the 13th most cap space going into the offseason, which bodes well for signing some key defensive players. The Broncos' top target should be safety Adrian Amos from Chicago, but he likely isn't leaving. A more realistic target could be Landon Collins from New York. It was rumored the Giants were trying to move Collins at the deadline, which is usually a sign that they are on the fence or not willing to pay him long term. That's where the Broncos could swoop in.
Other top names to consider could be Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu, but their markets are a little more unpredictable. The Broncos just need playmaking help wherever they can get it form the safety position, so any of those guys, even if they are up there in age, could give them a nice boost.
Roll The Dice With Verrett
The Broncos also have some decisions to make at cornerback. Tramaine Brock and Bradley Roby are both set to be unrestricted free agents. But the cornerback pool isn't great in free agency around them. However, there is one cornerback who is the definition of boom-or-bust that could mean everything for the Broncos. That would be Jason Verrett.
Verrett, a former first round pick, is one of the most talented cornerbacks in the AFC, but he's been placed on IR in each of the last three seasons, missing almost all of each season in the process. His price tag will be very reasonable because of it, and the Broncos can afford to take the risk. This also allows them to draft a cornerback in Day 2 instead of emphasizing it on Day 1 and missing out on some of the better offensive players in the draft.
In April: Hit The Weapons
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Depending on how the rest of the season goes, the Broncos could still put themselves in position to nab one of the best quarterback prospects in this draft -- and they have to be aggressive in getting one.
Haskins has the size, the arm and the stats. The only thing he doesn't have is longevity. In his one year as a starter, he led Ohio State to a Big Ten Title, and finished third in the Heisman voting.
With Keenum clearly not the long-term answer, they'll be looking for a quarterback wherever they land in the final draft order. Haskins will be well on their radar, and he must be a priority.
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
If Herbert decides to declare, the Broncos have to be aggressive for him, too. Herbert did not perform as well as many hoped he would going into his junior year at Oregon, but the flashes were still there: elite accuracy, adequate arm strength and good mobility in the pocket and when scrambling. They just have to get a quarterback who is worth going through growing pains with, and Keenum isn't it.
If they lose out on Haskins and Herbert, 2019 could be just a waste of a year, I fear.
If No QB in Round 1 Then...
Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
With all due respect to Matt LaCosse, I think the Broncos can do better at the starting tight end position.
The Broncos haven't had a tight end with more than 281 yards receiving in a season since 2015 with Owen Daniels. The tight end position is quickly becoming the league's go-to mismatch position, and the Broncos have certainly fallen behind when it comes to keeping up with that trend.
Fant is not only the best tight end in this class, he's one of the best prospects in general. His size, speed and ability make him the total package as a blocker and a pass catcher. He could give the Broncos a big boost at an important position of need.
Day 2 Possibilities
Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State
The Broncos could stand to shore up their offensive line, and a guy like Risner could work well for them since he has the ability to play both guard and tackle at the NFL level. Depth proved to be costly for the Broncos at times this season, so having a swing, starting caliber player would do them a lot of good.
Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford
If the Broncos don't get their hands on Fant, which would be ideal because hopefully they would be getting a quarterback, pairing such a pick with a guy like Kaden Smith would be smart.
Smith is under the radar when it comes to some of the other tight end prospects, it seems, but he would be well worth the second-round pick. He's more receiver than he is a complete tight end with blocking potential but he's the receiving weapon you want to Draft in the Top 50 at that position. Great hands and a good athlete for his size.
Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
With Emmanuel Sanders' 2019 start in jeopardy following his recent Achilles injury, the Broncos could use a deep threat receiver. Everyone tends to think of Oklahoma's Marquise Brown when they mention that category in this class, but the 6-foot-6 Butler actually averaged the most yards per catch of any receiver in the country this years. Size and speed, if they can get him.
1. Lose out
2. Fire Vance Joseph
3. Find a coach to believe in
4. Go get a top-tier safety in free agency
5. Take the chance on Verrett
6. Haskins, Herbert Or Die In Round 1