Can the Denver Broncos Win the Super Bowl?

By Akiva Wienerkur   August 13, 2023 

Can the Denver Broncos Win the Super Bowl?

On September 10, the Denver Broncos will start their 2023 NFL season versus the Las Vegas Raiders. This offseason, the Broncos have acquired head coach Sean Payton and signed multiple starters for their offensive line, priming them to make a run. Currently, the team’s Super Bowl odds are around +4500 across the leading sportsbooks.

Looking back, all football fans know the 2022 season did not go the way the Broncos had expected. Denver finished last season with an abysmal record of 5-12 despite sky-high expectations. It made no sense, they had all the pieces in place and finally got their quarterback by trading for Russell Wilson.

Before the season began, NFL analyst and host of “The Herd” show Colin Cowherd, said on live TV, “I think Russel Wilson wins MVP.” Well, that did not age well. But how did the Broncos end up here?

To understand the full picture, we’ll have to go back to the beginning.

The Manning Era (2012-2016)

Despite Peyton Manning’s injuries, when he hit free agency in the 2012 offseason, he was one of the biggest names to ever hit the market. An all-out bidding war began. Broncos’ GM, John Elway put an end to the war by signing Manning to a 5-year, 96-million-dollar contract. Manning ended up retiring a year before the end of his contract, but he still managed to accomplish plenty as a Bronco.

Over the course of four years, with The Sheriff under center, the Broncos went 45-12, winning four division titles, two AFC championships, and defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Manning set the records for most touchdown passes in a single game (7) and a single season (55). By the end of his time in Denver, Manning had tallied a total of 17,112 yards, 140 touchdowns, and a phenomenal passer rating of 101.7. The four years of success were definitely worth 76.8 million dollars the Broncos had paid him, but they didn’t know what type of expense they would pay in the years to come.

Moving on from Manning (2016-2022)

On March 7th, 2016, after 18 years in the NFL, Peyton Manning hung up the cleats and retired from football. With Manning gone, Elway and the Broncos had to prepare for life without The Sheriff under center. 

During the next draft, the Broncos traded up to the 26th pick to select quarterback Paxton Lynch out of the University of Memphis. Lynch was not ready for the NFL. Instead, the Broncos went with former seventh-round pick, Trevor Siemian to start. Siemian did not work out. Over the course of a few brief stints as Denver’s quarterback Siemian ultimately went 13-11 with a passer rating of 79.9, compared to Manning’s 101.7 passer rating.

On October 2nd, Lynch stepped into a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to replace an injured Siemian. The Broncos ended up winning the game by a large margin but that was not a sign of things to come. Lynch did not work out either. As Denver’s quarterback, Lynch ultimately went 1-3 with a passer rating of 76.7, 25 points under Manning’s 101.7. 

The next year the Broncos brought back Brock Osweiler to compete for the job. Osweiler did a solid job as the team’s backup under Manning but in his second stint with the team, things didn’t go as well. Osweiler went 0-4 with a passer rating of 72.5.

Elway tried to put an end to the quarterback carousel by signing Case Keenum to a 2-year, 36-million-dollar deal. Keenum was coming off the best season of his career but couldn’t continue his success in Denver. In one year with the Broncos, Keenum went 6-10 with a passer rating of 81.2, 20.5 points under Manning’s 101.7.

The Broncos moved on from Keenum after only one year by trading for Joe Flacco and drafting Drew Lock out of the University of Missouri. Flacco did not work out.

Flacco went 2-6 as a Bronco with a passer rating of 85.1, 16.6 points under Manning’s 101.7. Flacco was so bad that the Broncos had to replace him, even though Lock was injured. The Broncos benched Flacco for sixth-round pick, Brandon Allen. Allen did not work out. Allen went 1-2 with a passer rating of 68.3.

When Lock finally got back, he showed Broncos fans signs of hope that they hadn’t seen in years by going 4-1 in his rookie year. Drew Lock’s early success didn’t last, and he never continued what he started as a rookie. By the end of his tenure in Denver, Lock had gone 8-13 with a passer rating of 79.3, 22.4 points under Manning’s 101.7. 

In the 2021 offseason, the Broncos traded for Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater started strong but wasn’t good enough. Despite being Denver’s best quarterback since Manning, Bridgewater did not work out either for Denver. In one season as a Bronco, Bridgewater went 7-7 with a passer rating of 94.9, only 6.8 points under Manning’s 101.7. The Broncos post-Manning quarterback play has simply been horrendous. The following is a chart to portray the quarterback struggle in Denver since Manning.

Quarterback Record as starterPasser Rating 
Peyton Manning45-12101.7
Trevor Siemian13-1179.9
Paxton Lynch1-376.7
Brock Osweiler0-472.5
Case Keenum 6-1081.2
Joe Flacco2-685.1
Brandon Allen1-268.3
Drew Lock8-1379.3
Teddy Bridgewater7-794.9
Broncos under Peyton Manning45-12
Broncos since 38-68

Building a Championship Team:

Outside of Denver, a couple of teams around the league embraced a new roster-building strategy. The trick was to ignore the quarterback position and build as good of a roster as possible aside from the quarterback. Once the team is satisfied with their supporting cast, they use all of their remaining resources to acquire a quarterback. Let’s look at examples of two teams that used said philosophy.

2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

The best example came on March 20th, 2020. Tom Brady hit the free agency market and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scooped him up. The Buccaneers had been building their roster for the past couple of years and only needed a quarterback to complete the puzzle. Despite having multiple great weapons, such as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Buccaneers only won 7 games in 2019. With Tom Brady under center, the story was different. “Tompa Bay” won 11 games in 2020 and made the playoffs. The Buccaneers tore past the Washington Commanders in the wild-card round and beat the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round. They then eliminated Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship before making quick work of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. 

2021 Los Angeles Rams:

The very next year the Los Angeles Rams took advantage of the same philosophy. They had a great team put together and capped it off by sending Jared Goff to Detriot for Matthew Stafford. Stafford made an instant impact in LA upon arrival. He led the Rams to a 12-win season and a division title. The Rams destroyed the Arizona Cardinals in the wildcard round and then upset Tom Brady and the Bucs in the divisional round. The Rams then beat the San Francisco 49ers for the first time in seven matchups In the NFC championship before taking down the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. 

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Russell Wilson’s Sloppy Season

After seasons of poor performances, the Broncos looked for their new quarterback. Denver’s new general manager, George Paton made a blockbuster deal with the Seattle Seahawks. On March 8th, 2022, the Broncos sent the Seahawks two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a fifth-round pick, along with DT Shelby Harris, TE Noah Fant, and QB Drew Lock in exchange for a fourth-round pick and Super Bowl champion, Russell Wilson. The Broncos odds and lines shot through the roof.

Similar to the Bucs and Rams strategy, the Broncos already had a top-3 defense and a handful of weapons on offense, such as RB Javonte Williams and WRs Jerry Jeudy and Cortland Sutton. In addition, the Broncos had recently hired offensive mastermind Nathaniel Hackett to be their head coach.

However, that team only won 5 games last season. Wilson went on to finish the season with a career-low 84.4 passer rating and a career-worst 16-11 TD-INT ratio. Even though Wilson performed terribly all season, a handful of analysts claim that if he had better coaching, protection, and a run game he would have done better. So, that’s exactly what George Paton and the Broncos addressed.

Denver sent their first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for the rights to Super Bowl-winning, proven head coach Sean Payton. In addition, they took to the free agent market to improve their offensive line. They signed RT Mike McGlinchey to a 5-year 87.5-million-dollar deal and G Ben Powers to a 4-year 52-million-dollar deal. Javonte Williams, WR Tim Patrick, and LT Garett Boles who missed the majority of the 2022 season due to injury should be back as well. 

The Upcoming Season

The Denver Broncos’ 2023 season will have one of two outcomes. The first outcome: The Broncos take a step forward and have an encouraging season. An acceptable result in my opinion is a 10-win season. The AFC is stacked top to bottom with great teams so it’s hard to say how far Denver will go. I think this team must make strides toward improvement and show that post-season success in Denver is possible. 

The second outcome: the Broncos miss the playoffs again and questions about the quarterback position stir. I think it will be hard to top this current roster with a potential Hall of Fame head coach, a top-tier defense, and great weapons throughout the offense. 

The Broncos Super Bowl odds are currently hovering around +4500 (17th in the NFL) and +500 to win the division (3rd in AFC West). If this team cannot figure it out this season, I do not know how the Broncos will build a roster that can.

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