Explaining the Broncos’ spectacular 3-9 failure is perplexing. However, the blame doesn’t fall on Patrick Surtain II.
Yahoo Sports! Franck Schwab believes when Denver selected Surtain II over Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft, it created a ripple effect that doomed the franchise.
“The Broncos certainly saw the shape of their future change. If they didn’t believe in the butterfly effect before, they do know,” Schwab writes.
While Schwab makes a compelling point, especially with Fields rushing for the seventh-most yards (905) in the league, the Broncos’ cracks formed before Surtain II arrived.
After winning Super Bowl 50, John Elway— a former Broncos star quarterback and general manager—missed out on elite offensive players.
Elway’s list included Pro Bowlers like Dak Prescott in 2016, George Kittle in 2017 and Josh Allen in 2018. The players he drafted flopped. Between 2016-20, Elway selected one Pro Bowler (Courtland Sutton) on the offensive side of the ball.
As a result, Denver’s offense tanked and ranked 22nd or lower since 2016.
The lack of firepower created impatience, leading to the ill-fated Russell Wilson trade. Yet, Denver could’ve ridden Teddy Bridgwater in 2022.
Bridgewater wasn’t exceptional, but he was solid. In 2021, Bridgewater posted a 94.9 passer rating in 14 starts, 12th in the league. Bridgewater’s contract didn’t deplete cap space either, this year it was a one-year deal with 6.5 million guaranteed.
Additionally, if the Broncos drafted Fields, they may have ruined him. In 2020, ESPN created a list of each organization’s quarterback draft history. The Broncos ranked 25th, below perennial bottomfeeders, such as the Lions.
Surtain II is on the short list of successful decisions the Broncos made. Pro Football Focus, graded the 22-year-old star as the league’s ninth-best corner (79.0).
There is no simple solution to the Broncos’ complex problem, which is why they’re on the verge of extending their playoff drought to seven years, the second longest in franchise history.