Three consecutive defeats guaranteed the Broncos' third straight losing season under Vic Fangio. Running back Melvin Gordon lamented that Denver had all the pieces in place to make a playoff push but came up short.
"You sit back and get frustrated because we're so much better than what our record shows," Gordon said this week, via SI.com. "It's frustrating. It's frustrating as a player. I know it's frustrating as coaches, as an organization. It's frustrating. We're such a good football team. So talented across the board it is ridiculous. For us to be sitting here and not having a chance for the playoffs, all that work you put into the offseason, it's tough to say the least."
The Broncos boast a solid defense with burgeoning talents like Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain II in a secondary that has given good quarterbacks fits. The receiver corps is stocked with young talent in Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Courtland Sutton, who could be among the league's best trio if healthy. Rookie bulldozer Javonte Williams has proven he can handle the load with Gordon's pending free agency. The offensive line has improved each year. On paper, it's an enticing roster.
"After the Raiders game, I was so mad, just because I was thinking about from the D-line, from the secondary, from our receivers, tight ends, the linemen we have, young but yet a lot of moxie," Gordon said. "Running backs, I mean, even the ones, the twos, the threes, even the guys that don't get as much love, the linebackers, I mean, it was so frustrating because it's such a well-built team. It's a Super Bowl team."
Whether it's a Super Bowl team is debatable, but there is undoubtedly talent up and down the roster.
The Broncos' Achilles' heel in 2021 was the same as it's been since Peyton Manning's retirement and the same as every prognosticator suggested entering the season: quarterback.
Until Denver has a QB who can make a difference, they'll continue to be a middling operation. Good enough to win seven or so games, but not great enough to make a leap. What general manager George Paton does this offseason at quarterback will define the franchise for years to come.
The most pressing question in January is whether Fangio will be retained for another run or if Paton will move on to select a new coach after Saturday's finale against K.C.