The headlines were “The Band is Back Together”, “Elway brings Kubiak Home”. They were supposed to ride back to 1999 in Doc Brown’s Delorean. In the end, the former teammates hoisted a Lombardi trophy together’ but the offense was crippled in the process.
Mike McCoy was brought in to reshape the offense, return it to the top half of the league as oppsoed to the bottom half of the league where it’s rested for 2 years. Even worse, in some key categories it was in the lower 25% (bottom 8 teams) of the league, which is just absurd.
When Gary Kubiak took over the offense, the production dropped in nearly every category. His big, bad running game, had a slight increase in yards per carry going up from 4.0 to 4.2 but dropped to 3.6 in 2016. Obivously, the production that the offense had from 2012-2014 was among the best 3 year span in the history of the NFL, so a decline can be expected, but the drop was atrocious.
Across the board, the numbers dropped and it really wasn’t to be expected. The intended premise was that the running game would improve, and the passing game might see a decline in numbers due to a decline in attempts. This didn’t happen. 607 attempts in ’14 and 606 attempts in ’15. The intended shift simply did not play out as anticipated.
In 2012, it was expected that the production of the running game would drop off with the arrival of a passing QB. The rushing game did lose 800 yards from the previous season, but the passing game added 2100. Even with that decrease in run yardage, it still had more production than the 2015 and 2016 versions led by Gary Kubiak.
When Kubiak brought his WCO (West Coast Offense) back to Denver, the best season on the ground was 2015 with 1,718 yards which didn’t equal the 2014 total of 1,785. The Passing game dropped from 4,661, to 3,970. Offensive touchdowns wilted from 55 to 32.
Conversions were down both on 3rd downs and Red Zone attempts. Punts increased, 3 & outs which were sub 20% from ’12-14, were bordering on 30%.
The offense went from scoring on 45% of their drives from ’12-14 to failing to score 33% of the time. In 2014 & 2015 combined, the team scored 64 offensive touchdowns. They scored 71 in 2013 alone. Negative plays (sacks, fumbles & interceptions) increased. The offense allowed more sacks in 2014 & 2015, than they did in 2012 and 2013 combined. The offense was crippled.
At the end of the day, it is about the Lombardi, so it’s fair to discount offensive production that doesn’t end with hosting one. However, it’s also fair to argue that if the 2013 team, and more importantly the defensive side of the ball, had the health of the 2015 team, there would be 4 Lombardi trophies sitting in Dove Valley.
A few years ago, Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs, returned to the Washington Redskins to try to revive their franchise. Some said the game had passed him by and quite frankly, it’s not that simple. A key component to his lack of success is mainly attributed to not having the HOGS. Joe Jacoby and Russ Grimm weren’t in place. When Gary Kubiak returned; he didn’t have Tom Nalen and Gary Zimmerman and a host of others that helped make the ZBS (Zone Blocking Scheme) work.
It’s a simple blocking scheme, but you but you have to have the stones to dominate. On another note, neither Gibbs nor Kubiak had a John Riggins or a Terrell Davis carrying the ball either. That surely hurt.
Thankfully, the team was able to overcome the inepteptude of the offensive line, again and Peyton Manning was able to make enough clutch plays in big spots. He never had a comfort level with Kubiak’s offense as there was very little meshing of the two systems. This robbed the 39 year old future hall of famer and the offense of his two biggest assets: his mind and ability to read a defense to get the team into a better play.
With McCoy replacing Kubiak and crew, the offense will be dramitically improved and the Quarterback will be put in better situations. Whether it’s Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian; there will be a “comfort level” in place where the QB can play football.
McCoy had offensive success with Philip Rivers in San Diego and out of the two guys on the Broncos depth chart, I would say that Paxton Lynch is closer to Rivers, than Siemian is.
It should be said that this author is not a fan of “rankings” without the core numbers. It is possible to “increase by ranking” while production declines based on other teams efforts, but these rankings and core numbers are equally alarming.
From 2012-2014 only two of the measurables were near the 50% mark. In 2015 & 2016 only one was at or above that 50% metric. The immediate goal is to be in the top half of the league, as opposed to the bottom half. Being in the top 25% (1-8) would obviously be better than the bottom 25% (25-32), which as you can see by the chart above was accomplished far too many times over the past two seasons.
The numbers that the offense produced under Mike McCoy in 2012 might be a bit ambitious for his first year with either QB and Lynch is lacking overall reps, but you want to have goals.
Instead of 30ppg, maybe 25. Having the 3rd down conversions north of 40% should help with production, extending drives, more points, etc. It was simply obscene how those 3rd down #’s dropped from ’14 to ’15.
It was obscene, and there is no convincing this author that the numbers would not have dropped across the board with Adam Gase as head coach of the Denver Broncos. The future Hall of Fame QB would have still been 39, and would likely still battled some injuries, but he would have been far closer to PFM simply on the comfort level alone. He wouldn’t have been handcuffed guiding an offense that was wobbling with training wheels attached to it.
The sooner the QB1 competition is decided, the better, so that the starter can get more first team reps in traing camp, practice and the preseason. This common sense logic seems to go against first year Head Coach Vance Joseph’s comments and wishes, but one can hope that was just “coach speak”.
Earlier in the offseason, Joseph discussed the QB position by saying, “It is open, guys, 50-50, it’s an open competition. We’ve got these two young guys who have bright futures. It’s open. It’s going to go down to the wire, I hope.”. One can only hope he means that he hopes that both players are excelling at levels that make the decision extremely hard. That thought process is understandable, but whoever starts at quarterback for the Broncos week 1, needs more than 50% of the training camp reps, no matter who it is.
Drive data was gathered from Football Outsiders while the rest of the data gathered from the NFL.