The NFL is a game of who you know. Offseason moves by players and especially coaches are so often dictated by connections to others in the league. The Broncos are a prime example as they’ve developed and found success with coaching staffs and players with close ties.
Consider 2015, when the team parted with head coach John Fox, and the top candidate to replace him was Gary Kubiak, the former Broncos coordinator and Mike Shanahan understudy who helped John Elway to two Super Bowl titles in the late 1990s. Upon arriving in Denver, Kubiak hired a staff that included many familiar faces in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp and a roster that had holdovers from Kubiak’s past NFL stops in Baltimore and Houston.
Comfort can breed success.
“A few years ago everyone just assumed “Pot Roast” (Terrance Knighton) was going to Oakland because of (Jack) Del Rio,” said Joel Corry, a former agent and current salary cap analyst for CBS. “Then you saw Reggie Nelson play in Jacksonville (where Del Rio had coached) and he went to Oakland. You see those connect-the-dots thing happen. … It’s something I noticed dating back to (Bill) Parcells. And Dan Reeves had turned the Giants into the New Jersey Broncos.”
As the Broncos map out 2018, their plan could likely include paths to those they’re familiar with — coaches they know and players the staff previously coached.
Kubiak, a respected talented evaluator and right-hand man to Elway, joined the Broncos’ front office last year and now has an expanded role (title TBD) to give him more say over the offensive draft prospects as well as free agent candidates. There’s a clear method to this madness, if even it’s not publicly stated. Read between the lines and dig a little to years past and you’ll come up with another potential path for the Broncos’ future.
Kubiak was the offensive coordinator in Baltimore during Tyrod Taylor’s fourth and final season with the Ravens. Taylor never started a game for the Ravens and when he hit free agency in 2015, he opted for Buffalo over, reportedly, more money in Denver, where he likely would have been third string behind Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler.
In his last three seasons as the Bills’ starter, Taylor went 23-21 while completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 201.3 yards per game, 51 total touchdowns and only 16 interceptions (the Broncos’ quarterbacks had more than that in the first 13 games of last season alone) for a 92.5 rating.
In a Week 3 win over the Broncos, Taylor gave Elway and Co. a close look at what could be, completing 20 of 26 passes for 213 yards, a pair of touchdowns and a 126.0 passer rating as the Bills’ offense marched over the Broncos, and quarterback Trevor Siemian tossed a pair of interceptions in the second half.
“He’s definitely one of the hardest quarterbacks to take out,” linebacker Von Miller said after the game. “He’s a great quarterback, he’s one that lifts up his other teammates. If they’re eighties, when Tyrod jukes the ball they’re nineties, they’re ninety-fives. He really knows how to boost his teammates.”
But now Taylor, 28, is likely done in Buffalo, following a wild-card loss to the Jaguars this past Sunday that landed him in the concussion protocol. The Bills are expected to either trade or release the seventh-year quarterback who is due $10 million base salary and has a $6 million roster bonus he’s owed shortly after the new league year begins in March.
The Broncos need a new quarterback and with Kubiak back as a Broncos decision-maker, many have already pegged Denver as the top landing spot for Taylor in 2018. The Broncos have an array of options to fill the void at quarterback, some will be costly and others risky.
Kirk Cousins is expected to receive more than $30 million per year if he’s not franchised tagged a third time by the Redskins.
“I think Cousins is a guy you can with,” Corry said. “I don’t think he’s a guy you win because of, but I think you can win with him.”
Drew Brees could leave New Orleans as a free agent, but “I can’t imagine him ending up anywhere else,” Corry said, echoing the feeling of so many in the league.
Alex Smith could be on the outs in Kansas City. But he’s an AFC rival.
“I wouldn’t think that they’re going to trade him within in the division,” Corry said. “You only do that if you think he won’t play. … If you’re going to trade for Alex Smith, (agent) Tom Condon is going to rake you over the coals on an extension. He’s coming off his best year.”
Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford could be an option, but any deal would require faith despite his injury history.
And it was reported by ESPN that if Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is hired as a head coach by a team seeking a quarterback, he could bring with him Minnesota’s Case Keenum, also an impending free agent. Why?
Because comfort can breed success. Connect the dots.