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<p>(RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)</p>
(RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Landin’s Lane: Broncos Historic Loss is an Indictment of the Franchise

What happened to the Denver Broncos? Since joining the league in 1975, the Broncos have only suffered 11 losing seasons. They have built a foundation of success and a standard of excellence, culminating with three Super Bowls. Broncos country expects nothing else other than winning. Some of the NFL’s greats have suited up in orange from John Elway, Peyton Manning, Terrel Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Ed Mccaffrey, Von Miller and the list can go on. That’s why Sunday’s beatdown of 70-20 to the Miami Dolphins is all but more embarrassing for this storied franchise. 

Here are some quick stats to understand the precedents of this game: 

  • The Broncos became the fourth team to suffer a 70-plus-point loss in NFL history, the last occurring in 1966. 

  • The Broncos became the first team in NFL history to allow five passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns in the same game. 

  • The Dolphins were the second team in NFL history since 1940 with 300-plus pass yards and 300-plus rush yards in a single game. 

  • The Dolphins scored more points on Saturday (70) than the Broncos had all season (69). 

Since Peyton Manning’s retirement in 2016, the Broncos organization has produced meaningless and apathetic football for fans who have supported this team through the thick of it and this past Sunday was the breaking point. 

After arriving in February, head coach Sean Payton has become tabloid fodder for the media. He threw his predecessor under the bus, describing Nathaniel Hackett’s 2022 season as “One of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.” Say what you’ll say about Hackett, but it took him until week 16 to get blown out on national television. It took Payton three games, and this was an all-timer. Payton continues to rattle on to the press and will give any chance to be social media bait. Now the Broncos sit at the bottom of the AFC West and are 0-3. Did former head coach of the Broncos, Dan Reeves, start gossiping with the media in Denver, or did Mike Shannahan make insinuating comments? The answer is equivocally no. They did their talking on the field, something Payton had forgotten to do. 

The Broncos have become the laughingstock of the NFL. They will continue to be unless drastic changes happen within the organization, from top to bottom, as there is something systematically wrong up in Dove Valley. Since former Broncos CEO Pat Bowlen stepped down in 2014, the team has lost its spirit and identity that it was once so well known for. Bowlen created a culture of winning, as the city of Denver bled orange and blue for decades, making it one of the premier fanbases in all sports. All of that has disappeared. Winning culture has turned into seven straight losing seasons. Excitement has turned into dismay as generations of fans lay in anguish and can’t bear to watch another game. 

So CEO Greg Penner, whom the Walmart family bought the team for $4.65 billion, must eradicate the stemming problems within the team because they have become a cancerous tumor that has held this organization back for far too long. That starts with the potential firing of General Manager George Paton, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, and others. It begins with the trades of Justin Simmons, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and others who have become accustomed to losing. The Broncos cannot lay idle and watch as the league passes by. The Broncos need to embrace the rebuild, as a reset is required for them to truly understand the magnitude of their mistakes and how to get back to winning ways. 

The dusty old cow town of Denver no longer exists, as the city still embodies the grit and doggedness of the past, and if the Broncos can reinvigorate their former selves, then the sunshine will shine over the Rocky Mountains and into the dormant winning culture of the past. 

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