Russell Wilson Makes Broncos Runners-Up

Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - In these editions of Four Downs, we'll review the biggest hole on each team in the division and then give a short look at each team's major free agents for 2022.

The Denver Broncos finally have the franchise quarterback they have sought for years in Aaron Rodgers Russell Wilson. Now what? What does Josh McDaniels' arrival mean for the Las Vegas Raiders? Can the Kansas City Chiefs keep Tyrann Matthieu? Why was Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis' superheroic combine performance bad news for the Los Angeles Chargers? Is this Walkthrough or Four Downs? It's BOTH!

Denver Broncos

Biggest Need: A post-Russell Wilson Trade action plan

Russell Wilson does not make the Broncos AFC Super Bowl favorites, but it does make them AFC Super Bowl contenders.

Don't believe Football Outsiders? Ask the house. DraftKings listed the Broncos at +1200 to win the Super Bowl on Wednesday. Here's the top of their board:

Buffalo Bills: +650
Kansas City Chiefs: +700
Green Bay Packers: +800
Los Angeles Rams: +1000
Denver Broncos: +1200
San Francisco 49ers: +1300
Dallas Cowboys: +1400

Every other team is +2000 or greater. There's probably some breaking-news helium in Denver's odds, but when the dust settles, the Broncos are likely to reside in broadly the same tier—at the sportsbooks, in DVOA projections, and in our minds and our hearts—as the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, and New England Patriots among the AFC chase group.

The Broncos gave up an awful lot to be projected as AFC bronze medalists: the ninth and 40th picks in the 2022 draft, first- and second-rounders next year, Noah Fant, Shelby Harris, a set of steak knives, some CVS receipt coupons, the lint in Fant's pockets, Drew Lock. But they had little choice, especially once they realized that all Aaron Rodgers wanted (momentarily) was a financial apology from the Packers. Piling all their chips on 12-to-1 odds was their only real play after six years of pouring money/resources/time down the Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch/Brock Osweiler/Case Keenum/Joe Flacco/Drew Lock/Teddy Bridgewater slot machine. Wilson rescues the Broncos from another year of dreary semi-contending and keeps them out of the Mitchell Trubisky "Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes" Sweepstakes.

The Broncos now need to figure out how to parlay Wilson, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Javonte Williams, and a sturdy offensive line into more than a second-place finish in the AFC West and a 42-31 playoff loss to the Bills. Which leads us smoothly into our next segment.

Major Free Agents: QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Bryce Callahan, S Kareem Jackson, RB Melvin Gordon, LB Alexander Johnson, LB Josey Jewell, ER Stephen Weatherly, LB Kenny Young

After the Wilson trade, the Broncos have over $26 million in paper cap space, per Over The Cap. Now the bad news: Callahan, Fuller, and Jackson combined for 2,118 snaps in the secondary. Johnson, Jewell, and Harris were opening-day starters who suffered season-ending injuries, while Young was a midseason replacement who also got hurt. The Broncos must spend nearly all of their remaining cap space either retaining or replacing starters and key substitutes for a defense which finished 20th in DVOA last year.

Did we mention that they no longer possess the ninth or 40th picks in a defender-rich draft?

The Broncos will likely let the thirtysomethings in their secondary walk. Fuller is coming off a poor season in which he allowed a 103.8 quarterback rating when targeted, per Sports Info Solutions. That was the 10th-worst figure in the NFL among defensive backs with 50-plus targets. Jackson is 33, Callahan a 30-year-old slot specialist coming off an injury-marred season. The Broncos still have Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby, and Justin Simmons in the secondary, so they will be just fine unless they are forced to face any ultra-high-octane passing teams in the playoffs (wink).

The Broncos may opt to retain Johnson and/or Jewell instead of splurging in their secondary. Both were playing well before getting hurt. Johnson provides some pass-rush juice. Jewell is a capable home-grown run-thumper who's a non-disaster in coverage. Both could get lost in the free-agent shuffle or low-balled by other teams. And frankly, the Broncos simply don't have the resources to replace all of their defensive veterans, nor do they have the luxury of gutting the depth chart now that they are on the fringe of the Super Bowl conversation.

Such is the give-and-take of a blockbuster quarterback trade. It's better to worry about nickel defenders and Mike linebackers than to wonder who the quarterback is going to be. But the nickel defenders, Mike linebackers, edge rushers and others remain a legitimate worry.

Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Need: Edge Rusher

Frank Clark is a $26.3-million cap hit waiting to be hauled out to the curb. Clark recorded just 4.5 sacks last season and only seemed to play well when he started getting national criticism for playing poorly. Per Sports Info Solutions, Clark recorded zero sacks, two quarterback knockdowns, and eight pressures in 97 pass rushes in the playoffs. That pressure total isn't terrible, but it's not what the Chiefs needed, either, and jettisoning Clark can free up over $19 million in cap space. Melvin Ingram, meanwhile, is a 33-year-old luxury the Chiefs can no longer afford to keep.

The 2022 draft class is hip-deep in edge rushers, so premium talent should be on the board when the Chiefs pick 30th overall. There's a chance, however, that the first round of the draft will turn into a feeding frenzy: the quarterbacks stink, some injury-case wide receivers (the Alabama guys, Georgia's George Pickens) could fall, no one's gonna reach for a running back, and so forth. Under the circumstances, the Chiefs may be forced to trade up if they are hoping to pick from among second-tier edge rush prospects such as Michigan's David Ojabo or Penn State's Arnold Ebiketie, two defenders who impressed at the scouting combine. The third tier of edge rushers is still fine, but it may not be enough for the Chiefs to keep pace with the Bills, Bengals, and a growing list of challengers.

The Chiefs could also address their always-needy secondary or add yet another playmaker on offense in the draft, then try to land a veteran edge or two on a ring-seeker discount. The problem with that strategy is that many of the ring-seekers (Von Miller, Jason Pierre-Paul) already got 'em, and many of the alternatives (Jerry Hughes, Ryan Kerrigan) are more washed than Clark.

Major Free Agents: DB Tyrann Mathieu, CB Charvarius Ward, CB Mike Hughes, ER Melvin Ingram, DT Jarran Reed, DT Derrick Nnandi, WR Demarcus Robinson, WR Byron Pringle, OL Andrew Wylie

Fans see Mathieu as a dynamic superstar. Colleagues and media outlets see Mathieu as a clickable name. From what I heard at the combine, teams see him as an aging, expensive, possibly irascible square peg who doesn't fit every system/budget/culture.

The Chiefs are hoping for a lukewarm Honey Badger market, and they might get one. The Bengals and Chargers, two potential contenders with lots of dough to spend, are mostly set at safety. Mathieu probably isn't interested in latching onto a rebuilding program like the Jets or Jaguars. If his list of suitors is small, Mathieu could be coaxed back to Kansas City with a back-loaded, incentive-heavy contract.

The Chiefs would also love to have Ward back. Unfortunately, the market for a solid cornerback who doesn't turn 26 until May is likely to be stratospheric, and the Chiefs don't have much financial flexibility.

Everyone else on the free-agent list above is likely to erode away. The Chiefs can absorb many of the losses (it's time to find better ideas than Pringle, Robinson, and Blake Bell as tertiary passing-game weapons), but some slippage back toward the pack is all but inevitable over the next few weeks.

Las Vegas Raiders

Biggest Need: Talent infusion, organizational vision

New Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels was boring, even by the standards of a Belichick Buddy, at his scouting combine press conference. He didn't try to come off as a charming intellectual like Matt Patricia did (that persona lasted through about 30 seconds of training camp) or give off the weird Joe Judge/Bill O'Brien "I'm already losing my sh*t" vibe. (Judge, you may recall, refused to refer to ANY Giants players by name at his combine presser). McDaniels droned along, aided by the fact that half of the press pool consisted of Patriots reporters with Mac Jones questions.

McDaniels insisted that Derek Carr will be his opening day starter, which is just fine: Carr has finished eighth, ninth, and 11th in DVOA in the past three years, so he won't cause any harm as a starter. And if McDaniels is just shining Carr's apple as an Aaron Rodgers/Russell Wilson consolation prize for some needy team, that's also fine. What the Raiders need right now is a plan for doing more than just competing for the third AFC wild-card berth, especially since the Broncos just upped the ante.

A Raiders return to relevance begins with a coherent draft strategy. One of the punchlines making the rounds among insiders at Indy was the fact that the Jon Gruden/Mike Mayock regime flew completely by the seats of their pants in every draft: internal scouting information and other data was simply ignored while GrudOck went on their weird jags. The Raiders have little to show for their last four drafts (dating back to the Jack Del Rio-Reggie McKenzie era) but Maxx Crosby, Kolton Miller, and some spare parts/injury cases.

The last time McDaniels was a team's showrunner, the Broncos drafted Tim Tebow and made other, less memorably dubious choices (tight end Richard Quinn, a second-round pick who caught just 12 passes in college and zero in the NFL, leaps to mind). But those Broncos also selected Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and others, and McDaniels is over a decade older and wiser now. He muttered about selecting the "best available athlete" last week, and while that's standard boilerplate, it was much more encouraging than hearing one decision-maker yammer about "my guy" or watching the other speed-dial Dabo Sweeney for suggestions.

Major Free Agents: CB Casey Hayward, G Richie Incognito, QB Marcus Mariota, WR DeSean Jackson, DT Jonathan Hankins, CB Brandon Facyson, CB Desmond Trufant, CB Gerald McCoy

Did you have any idea that Gerald McCoy and Desmond Trufant were still in the NFL? The lower half of the Raiders payroll has been a pension program for the semi-retired since the day Gruden showed up and began signing players based on his Monday Night Football production notes, and McDaniels' arrival is a great opportunity for a mass purge of guys who were toast years ago (McCoy), guys who can still play but don't really fit a rebuild (Hayward, Hankins, Jackson), and guys who are about one high ankle sprain away from becoming popular-but-unlistenable shock podcasters (Incognito).

Mariota is likely to get swept up in the league's dragnet of reclamation-project quarterbacks. He'll look great starting for the Commanders until he gets injured on Day 3 of training camp.

Maxx Crosby is due for an extension. The Raiders would be better off saving their $17 million in cap space to help broker that deal than to spend it on any of these dudes.

Los Angeles Chargers

Biggest Need: Run defense

The Chargers got some indirect bad news when Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis performed like he was wearing the Infinity Gauntlet at the combine. Davis was getting less pre-combine buzz than Georgia teammates Travon Walker and Devonte Wyatt; as an "ordinary" 341-pound 1-technique tackle, he could easily have still been on the board when the Chargers picked 17th overall. Now that he's Thanos, some team that subscribes to the Bill Parcells Planet Theory may gobble Davis up before the Chargers get a chance to select the one player most likely to upgrade their run defense, and by extension their entire team.

There will still be plenty of run-stopping talent in the draft pool after Davis is gone, of course. Houston's Logan Hall would make a fine 5-technique in Brandon Staley's scheme, as would Davis' teammate Walker if Davis leapfrogs him on draft boards. Phidarian Mathis of Alabama headlines the hog mollies (let's take that term back) who will be available on Day 2. There's also depth at linebacker and plenty of veteran run-pluggers in the free-agent pool. But Davis looks like Vita Vea, so he's the guy the Chargers really want to fall.

Major Free Agents: CB Chris Harris, DT Linval Joseph, TE Jared Cook, ER Kyler Fackrell, ER Uchenna Nwosu

Mike Williams, who finished 12th in receiving DYAR last year, signed a three-year, $60 million contract while we were all ogling at the Russell Wilson trade on Tuesday.

Harris, Joseph, Cook, and Fackrell are all thirtysomethings in varying states of decline. Cook's unreliability returned last season—six drops, four interceptions when he was targeted (he has a habit of giving up on plays), several blown blocks—so he has probably either reached the end of his career or the start of his Houston Texans career. Harris is still a quality slot corner, but only at the right salary. Joseph is 33 years old and may not fit the system. Fackrell is just a guy who had a fluky 10.5-sack season once. Both Fackrell and Nwosu are rendered a lot less important by the Khalil Mack trade. The Chargers would be better off saving their cap bucks for one young premium cornerback than making offers to these holdovers. Rumor has it that they covet Charvarius Ward, and a double-indemnity move that helps the Chargers while hurting the Chiefs would maximize the bang for their buck. Best of all, the Chiefs may be financially powerless to stop them.

The AFC West is now a division of very-good-to-historic quarterbacks leading loaded offenses against defenses which are getting pulled apart by age, the salary cap, injuries, and some substandard drafts. The Chargers have two affordable Justin Herbert years left to make a run. They can do it, but they need to be aggressive: with Russell Wilson in Denver and the Raiders coming off a playoff berth and rediscovering quasi-professionalism, the Chargers are as close to last place in the division as they are to first.


37 comments, Last at 14 Mar 2022, 7:12pm

1 The Wilson trade should be…

The Wilson trade should be valued as a multi year acquisition rather than a single year turnaround. Ofc if they win the sb, its all gravy but I don't think that's an acceptable bar for success.

Really, as long as Wilson ages ok and provides them at least a 3-4 year window, this trade will have been a success for Denver and a real sellers remorse for Seattle. That's the biggest value a QB brings. Years of contention and numerous chances 

Russ is only 33 and we seem to be in a new world of QB age curves, though it's hard to predict who will remain effective for how long.

Big Ben, for example, is only one year older than Aaron Rodgers but was a shell of himself the last 3 years while Rodgers has just come off back to back MVPs. 


4 Wilson is a weird…

Wilson is a weird combination of age and mileage.

He has thrown 50% fewer passes in three fewer seasons than Stafford, but is only a year younger and has taken more sacks. (He also has some extra shoulder mileage from his baseball years)

So he's a weird mix of older and a lot of hits, but with relatively little passing mileage on his throwing arm. But with the caveat that there is some high-intensity baseball mileage in there. (Baseball throwing is generally considered a higher stressor of the shoulder than football passing because it involves more torque and deceleration load)


37 It's been ten years since…

It's been ten years since Wilson played professional baseball, and he was an infielder. I agree that baseball puts more strain on the arm, but I feel it would have made itself known by now if it was a problem.

On a semi-related note, I just found this ESPN feature showing the injuries that Brady, Brees, Rivers, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger suffered during their careers. (warning, it requires a lot of scrolling)

2 I hope Russell Wilson makes…

I hope Russell Wilson makes a difference in Denver. I was looking at the 2021 QB stats page to compare him and Teddy B, and let’s just say, there, it’s hard to tell the difference. 

33 Wilson's full season 2021…

Wilson's full season 2021 performance is straight in line with most prior years, outside of 2019. It's easy to find reasons why, but getting a full season of top-5 QB out of Wilson has been the exception, not the rule.

3 tsk, tsk, tsk

Mike Ta-NIER?!? forgetting where Wentz ended up?? Better make a quick edit on that Mariota destination, FO Editor Guy.

9 No, he said the same thing…

In reply to by BigRichie

No, he said the same thing in the podcast. Given that Wentz is likely to miss games sometime during the season, getting Mariota as a cheap backup would make sense for Washington, if he weren't even more fragile himself.

10 ???

Wow. Don't suppose Mike is taking wagers on that?

Mariota will be an expensive backup, not a cheap one. Quite possibly the most expensive backup.

Unless Mike got that on background, I just see no way. Far more likely imo Mariota winds up in Indy or Pittsburgh than backing up Wentz in DC.

35 He's not saying it would be…

In reply to by BigRichie

He's not saying it would be a good move, just the kind of boneheaded move that Washington might make.

5 poor Fangio

He got pretty much everything he could out of the Broncos, keeping Denver in the conversation of the playoffs most years much later than it felt they had any right to be considering both that Drew Lock is on the level of Daniel Jones and the company they keep out West. The Broncos can him, and THEN they get a real QB? I'd imagine some long sighs and stares in the mirror in the Vic household...

11 Shed no tears for Vic

In reply to by NYChem

He's Wade Phillips 2.0.  Brilliant defensive coordinator; should not be a head coach.  I wish him well, but I hope he realizes (like Wade eventually did) that he needs to stick to what he is one of the best at.

34 I’ve found bouts of insomnia…

I’ve found bouts of insomnia more entertaining than  watching Fangio’s listless, unimaginative, mistake prone Denver Broncos the last couple of years.

His defense routinely got pushed around like Girl Scouts at key moments, they didn’t even blunder into turnovers much less force them, and they were terrible situationally.  On top of all that, they generally played about as inspired as a recidivist marching off to another stretch in the joint. 

Dude is overrated AF.


14 The OC

In reply to by NYChem

Fangio also insisted in having Pat Shurmur as his OC; one doesn't cross choppy waters well when you opt to tie a cinderblock covered in chum to your waist  

6 Responding to NYChem

Yup and this is what makes it so annoying hearing fans whine about defensive coaches who they defacto blame for the offense being putrid. It's a classic correlation does not equal causation fallacy.

I posed it here multiple times over and over. What evidence is there that defensive coach x improves the offense vs being fortunate to have the QB land at his feet, something even Carrol candidly admitted.

It's just lazy football analysis.

13 The head coach is responsible for all sides of the ball

Vic did not coach the offense, that is true.  But that doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable for the multiple training camp anecdotes about how when the offense "won" a play he would virtually ignore their success in favor of being pissed his defense failed, and how that attitude about caring about the offense trickled through the team.  It doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable for the terrible OC staffing decisions he made, and the near complete lack of coaching accountability on offense and special teams.  It doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable for the many, many abysmally poor challenges and clock-management game failures because he was too busy being DC to see the big picture.  It especially doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable for the fact that he was just as poor at those elements in his third season as he was in his first.

I'd also note virtually all coaches - regardless of offensive vs defensive background - are fortunate (or not) in which QB lands at his feet.  Brady in the 6th round and all that.

Again, he's a fantastic DC (even if DVOA wasn't impressed this past season).  But he's just not a HC.


15 Uh-huh; Uh-huh

Yeah, this in spades (or hearts, if you prefer that card game).

Fangio had 3 full years to cobble together something in the way of offense. When the Boss Man delegates, he delegates authority, not responsibility. He benefits if the people he chooses do well, he bears responsibility if they screw up.

By all reports Fangio was another Buddy Ryan. Not quite the defensive genius Buddy was, but also not the overall Insano Buddy was. Fangio valued 'His!' defense clearly more than the offense. And his offense performed accordingly.

Fangio didn't take over an empty cupboard. If after 3 seasons you're no better than when you started out, yeah, time to get your heinie out of there and give the Next Guy a shot.

16 A few comments.He is…

A few comments.

He is certainly not the only on who is guilty of ridiculously tight play calling, foolish challenge decisions and clock management choices. It applies to Andy Reid, McVay and Kyle Shannahan. 

"It doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable for the terrible OC staffing decisions he made"

I wonder just how much offensive coordinator choices matter much in the scheme of great offense. Do I need to list the number of failed offensive coordinators who once they left their qbs, they became instant punching bags? Remember Adam Gase? Mike McCoy? Joe Philbin?

And what about Pete Carrol. He has produced exactly nothing offensively when Wilson has not been his QB and been healthy. What would you expect from LaFleur if Rodgers had decided to be traded and was not going to resign?  And then there's John Fox. And on and on. 

Plus, if Fangio really was the problem, you would have expected the quarterbacks to look much better outside of his coaching. See Joe Flacco and Teddy B. Hell, even Sam Darnold is another great data point about just how much coaching can fix/hinder the qb. No one seems to be clamoring for the Mitch trubisky reclamation project.

Once you get passed the surface level correlations, you realize very quickly just how much these coaches are victims or beneficiaries of circumstance. I very much doubt it was Fangio's desperate pleading that stopped the trade for Wilson a year ago. 

21 Does the HC matter at all?

You seem (to me) to be very close to arguing that coaching (HC or OC) doesn't really matter and it's all about the quarterback.  Which probably has a kernel of truth in it, but you're also dealing with a long term Bronco fan who remembers the Elway years under Reeves vs the Elway years under Shanahan.  Scheme and fit absolutely matter to some degree.

Reid, McVay, and Shanahan also screw up plenty of things, for sure.  They all also have much more recent success at getting teams to wins and the playoffs, which is what counts.

Funny you mention John Fox.  With Manning at his peak, he took Denver to the Super Bowl and got hammered.  Kubiak took Manning's corpse to a Super Bowl, and won.  Coaching matters, and you can't just say it's all about luck and circumstance about who someone has lined up at QB.

I do not hold Fangio accountable for the QB failures, to be clear.  I hold him accountable for the coaching failures.  Shurmur spent 2 years mis-using almost the entire offensive roster, despite mounds of evidence.  Every stat you care to look at (advanced or not) shows the offense was far worse in 11 personnel than any kind of 2 TE set.  But guess what they ran far more than anything else?  EVERYONE who followed the Broncos could see the problems with talent vs scheme--an OL way better at power run blocking than zone, but that stubbornly kept calling zone runs (one of the more discouraging things I've heard about the new staff is their desire to emphasize outside zone, which makes me concerned they also aren't paying attention to what they have, or are planning to replace 3-4 starters).  Slow developing deep routes with big bodied receivers like Sutton and Patrick who are great at contesting 50-50 balls but are simply NOT defense-stretching burners. One of the best pure route runners in football (Jeudy) reduced to running decoy motion pre-snap where he would loop around the QB to end up on the same side of the field he started only several yards further behind the LOS and then just stand there. It went on and on.  But he never seemed to care.  Shurmur was going to run his scheme, that was that, and Vic let him.  Special teams competence was even worse.  Vic fired one coach in his tenure for performance-Scangerelo.  Who also was the only NFL coach who got anything promising out of Lock (not that I think Lock was the answer).

Going back to in-game decisions and learning from mistakes.  He literally made the worst I've ever personally seen against the Raiders in the 2020 season.  Less than 30 seconds left, Denver with a small lead, Raiders have the ball in the red zone with no timeouts.  Clock is running, crowd is loud and going crazy (Denver home game).  Raiders are in mass confusion trying to shuttle personnel on and off the field.  It's chaos.  It's questionable that the Raiders would have even gotten a play off, let alone something with the right match of call and players (and lined up correctly).  Then Fangio called timeout.  Here's Raiders RB Jacobs post-game:  ""First, we didn't know the call," Jacobs said. "We didn't know the personnel. We had people running back in off the field. When they called timeout, they really kind of helped us with that. We would've been scrambling.""  And Fangio's reasoning?  He wanted to make sure he was clear on what personnel they had on the field so he could get the right defense out there.  Which is BEYOND stupid.  First of all, the Raiders obviously didn't know what they were going to do, why give them a chance to figure it out?  Second, if they did change personnel late the refs were required by rule to give Denver a chance to adjust.  Even a DC should know that!  It literally did nothing except give the Raiders a chance to get themselves straightened out and give them a better chance to win (which they then did). And after the game, Vic wouldn't even admit it was a mistake.  This was the last game of his second season in charge, and he was not only (still) so hyper-focused on being the defensive play caller that he completely lost sight of the game situation, but he didn't even understand why that was a problem and didn't hold *himself* accountable for some VERY obvious mistakes (and not just that one).

Again, he's not alone or unique.  Heck, Carroll still thinks passing at the goal line against an exhausted Patriots defense late in the Super Bowl instead of smashing Lynch into them again was the right call.  Some people just seem incapable of admitting mistakes.  And if these were isolated issues in a game here or there, or about a few decisions a season, then no big deal.  Everyone makes mistakes, especially under pressure.  But for a coach who made a Very Big Deal about accountability when he was hired, there were a LOT of mistakes he and his staff made, precious little accountability for those mistakes, and absolutely no evidence that he or his staff were learning from those mistakes.

Nice guy.  Great coordinator.  Better HC than Joseph before him.  But that's a low bar and Vic simply was not a good head coach.  Were I a GM he'd be at the top of my interview list for DC, but not everyone is cut out to be a NFL head coach and there is absolutely NO shame in that.   

22 I appreciate the detail…

I appreciate the detail. Obviously, you follow the Broncos way more than I do. I rarely can speak to those level of specifics for any team outside of the one I follow. My points were more broad.

For the record, I don't consider the coach inconsequential. However, I do feel like the coaching curve is a very peak centered around the average with a few outliers in either direction. The number of coaches currently in the NFL that I am absolutely certain are great are limited to two. And then maybe another 3-4 that I suspect might be that good but I'm less certain about.

Even with the details you listed, I wonder how much of that gets swept under the rug if you have a QB that you can rely on. Suddenly, all of the missteps in playing calling feels small potatoes. How we judge coaches is ultimately about wins and losses, which is even harder to adduce how good they are than the QB who at least has some direct impact over statistics. To me, you can only judge a coach after several cycles of talent. Even BB, it took combinations of years without Brady to cement my view of him.

And btw, how much credit do you want to give Kubiak for riding an all time defense and a putrid offense to the title is a topic for another day.

Bottom line, I don't think Vic at a macro level was any worse than lots of other coaches who have the misfortune of failing at QB. Similarly, we have seen coaches who have a great QB and then we've seen what happens when you take them away.

26 LOL

“Funny you mention John Fox.  With Manning at his peak, he took Denver to the Super Bowl and got hammered.  Kubiak took Manning's corpse to a Super Bowl, and won.  Coaching matters, and you can't just say it's all about luck and circumstance about who someone has lined up at QB.”

Apparently only defensive coaching, since the winning team in both cases had number one ranked defenses.

28 Btw,  The discussion about…


The discussion about Kubiak I find odd because it contrasts so heavily with your careful analysis of Vic. 

That 2015 Broncos run was driven almost exclusively by turnovers and defense. Anything less than a herculean effort and they don't sniff the title, because the offense was basically unplayable after it's first scripted drive. So unless you give Kubiak credit somehow for the defense, I am not sure what credit he deserves for that run in particular.

I do like Kubiak as a coach, but I wouldn't point to that run as evidence of his prowess.

36 That's it exactly...

Coming back to this after the weekend, so who knows if you will see it.

You are spot on about the offense vs defense of that team.  I give Kubiak credit for understanding that and crafting plans that absolutely minimized offensive mistakes and turnovers (which must have driven him nuts, considering his background), and Wade Phillips (with Kubiak's explicit support) for using an extremely aggressive high pressure defense to create the sacks and turnovers the offense needed.  Understanding the whole team is the HC's job.  Kubiak also had the balls to bench Payton f*^I^^ Manning midseason when Peyton was trying to push through an injury, and timed Manning's return right as well.  His head coaching that season was superb, because he wasn't just a really good coordinator focused on maximizing his side of the ball.  He understood and "coached" the whole team, not just the offensive scheme. THAT is precisely the difference between Kubiak and Fangio.

Fangio's bend but don't break slow them down zone approach limited the scoring against on defense (and again, there is plenty of evidence his scheme limited QB's as good as Mahomes), but was not capable of regularly getting the big plays (sacks/turnovers) the offense needed.  His scheme would pair perfectly with an explosive offense, but that's not what Denver had.  And he never seemed to adjust his own defense to account for that and, again, never held the offensive and special teams coordinators responsible for some blatantly bad mistakes.

FYI, I would agree that there are very few plus or minus coaches in the league.  Most are in the muddy middle.  In general I put Kubiak in the muddy middle as well-I just also think he performed above his own average that one season.  I definitely don't think Fangio was the whole problem, and I fully agree that a great QB can cover a whole lot of other sins.  But even if he wasn't the problem, Vic wasn't the solution either.  There was no real improvement in the team or coaching throughout his tenure.  And while it's easy to blame the QB for everything (isn't that also a kind of lazy analysis?) and it's true Denver did not have great or even good QB play while he was the HC, there were a lot of other problems that he should have addressed.  Some as simple as hiring someone to sit in the booth and tell him when to use a damn challenge, since he messed those up from game 1 to his last game.  I can live with mistakes--but people who seem incapable of learning from their mistakes drive me insane.

17 Broncos need defense?

Should've taken Wagner and dropped the 4th in the Russ trade since Johnson is an UFA. Also I wish they did it a year early so that there would have been a Gordon Wilson reunion. 

And Jordan Davis may look like (a thinner) Vea but he didn't play like it in college. Wyatt deserved the attention. Davis a huge (literally) projection. 

32 Market value

Did the Seahawks cut Bobby Wagner despite being at a below-market contract?  Your post already screams yes! yes! yes!

20 Tariq Castro-Fields

Mike overlooked the inevitable draft day trade by Josh McDaniels of a 2023 first rounder for the right to draft Tariq Castro-Fields (whom I assume is good prospect, decent human being, and whom I selected completely arbitrarily for my typical snark.  My apologies to the entire Castro-Fields family, their neighbors and grocer, and anybody with whom they might have shared an elevator).

23 The Raiders need to trade…

The Raiders need to trade for DeShawn Watson just to make this the best (worst?) division ever. (OK, no idea if they have the assets for that, probably not)

24 I don't think they're gonna,…

I don't think they're gonna, but a combo pack of Watson + Tunsil (to RT) + Cobb would upgrade the QB position and address two outstanding OFF weaknesses.

In return, Carr with the outlines of a new contract in place, plus 3x firsts?  

Who says no?  

25 Carr

Carr says no. If there's anyone with a real grievance against the Texans organization, it's the Carr family. 

29 I don't understand why so…

I don't understand why so many people want the Raiders to get rid of Carr. It's even more puzzling that I am one of them. I see his incredibly consistent top-10 stats, but whenever I watch the team some meathead part of my brain screams "you will never win with this guy."