This NFL season has been full of surprises. Numerous teams are exceeding expectations and thrusting themselves into the playoff picture, most notably the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints. At the same time, each conference has had one team perform exceptionally poorly.
It is safe to say that there will not be a rematch of Super Bowl XXI this year, because the Denver Broncos and New York Giants have been absolutely abysmal this season.
These two teams entered the season with great potential, but each have been total flops, though for very different reasons.
Let’s look at each team’s downfall and determine what they can do to get back on track in the near future.
First, the Denver Broncos, only two seasons removed from a Super Bowl championship, have undergone some dramatic changes since they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
Future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and coach Gary Kubiak are both out of the picture, with Trevor Siemian and Vance Joseph replacing them in their respective roles.
Still, Denver’s elite defense from the past several seasons is, for the most part, intact.
The season started out well, with the Broncos getting off to a fast 3-1 start. As Siemian was showing significant improvement over his 2016 season, Joseph was finding early success in his first season as an NFL head coach. Meanwhile, the defense was also doing its job to shut down opposing offenses.
The Broncos headed into their bye week looking strong and feeling confident for their Week 6 Sunday Night matchup at home against the Giants, who were 0-5 at the time.
Unfortunately, Denver stumbled out of the gate against the Giants, and ever since have been unable to regain any semblance of what the team was in the first four games of the season.
The Broncos lost to the Giants in the contest that began their current eight-game losing streak.
What went wrong for the Broncos, and why have they not been able to get back on track over the last two-plus months?
The answer is actually quite simple: quarterback incompetence.
After his strong start to the season, Siemian began to falter, becoming extremely inefficient and struggling to hold on to the football.
The Broncos now have a quarterback carousel featuring Siemian, along with Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch.
None of these three quarterbacks have been able to keep the Broncos competitive, in large part due to Denver’s 27 offensive turnovers, which only trails the Cleveland Browns (30) for most in the League.
With such ineffectiveness at the quarterback position, it seems that the defense has recognized there is not enough even it can do to keep the Broncos in the game. They seem to have quit on the team, producing a mere 11 turnovers this season, which has contributed to the team’s minus-16 turnover margin.
In Denver’s Super Bowl season, Manning and Osweiler were not playing at an elite level, but they were still effective at managing the game.
The same cannot be said of this year’s bunch, and as a result, the team has spiraled out of control in what has now become a lost season.
Not counting the quarterback position, Denver has a talented roster across the board. Their fate is now in the hands of general manager John Elway, who must find a player who can serve as a leader for this team on the offensive side of the football.
Whether he drafts a quarterback with Denver’s high first-round pick this year, or tries to acquire New York’s Eli Manning, the status quo simply cannot stand.
The Broncos may have imploded this year, but they still have a chance to regroup without having to do a complete overhaul.
The Giants, on the other hand, are staring at what could be a bit more of a lengthy rebuilding process.
New York began the season with lofty expectations and was touted by many as a potential Super Bowl contender.
With Eli Manning at quarterback, a plethora of weapons at the wide receiver position and a solid defensive lineup, the New York Giants appeared to have the complete package.
Unfortunately, injuries to receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard left Manning in a tight spot.
The barren receiving core also exposed two issues that have plagued the Giants for years: a nearly nonexistent running game and a severely lacking offensive line.
The New York Giants now sit at 2-10, and on Monday, they fired coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.
Despite the evident problems that the Giants faced across the board, McAdoo decided to use Manning as a scapegoat, constantly blaming him for New York’s inability to win football games.
Harsh words towards the man who has started in 210 consecutive games for the team were certainly unwarranted and placed McAdoo firmly on the hot seat.
Furthermore, it became clear that a majority of the players had quit on their coach and were not willing to sacrifice their bodies for a man that they did not respect.
The benching of Manning last week was simply the last straw before McAdoo’s firing.
The decision to bench Manning simply did not make sense. Not only was Manning not to blame for the Giants’ problems, but he was benched for Geno Smith, a quarterback who has already proven that he is incapable of leading a successful NFL team during his time with the New York Jets.
It would have been one thing if the Giants had played rookie quarterback Davis Webb in order to evaluate the youngster’s potential.
However, the decision to start Smith was simply an insult to Manning, who has been a very important figure in New York football over the last 14 seasons.
The New York Giants still have plenty of talent, but it appears that due to the aging Manning, the organization has decided that the time to make drastic changes to its roster has come.
The Giants will likely move Manning in the offseason, with the Broncos or Jaguars appearing to be the most likely landing spots.
The Denver Broncos make sense as Manning’s next destination for several reasons. First of all, Denver has a roster in place that is a quarterback away from potentially returning to the Super Bowl.
In addition, Elway already made a similar move in 2012, bringing in Eli’s brother and quarterback Peyton Manning for what was also his 15th season.
This move was a tremendous success, as Peyton brought home an MVP award and a Lombardi Trophy during his four seasons in Denver.
The Jacksonville Jaguars also make a lot of sense as a landing spot for Manning.
Currently, the Jaguars are having a very successful season, despite the mediocre play of quarterback Blake Bortles.
Manning’s presence would undoubtedly provide additional stability for Jacksonville’s offense.
Furthermore, general manager Tom Coughlin — who was Eli’s coach for his first 12 seasons in New York — would be happy to reunite with the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Giants should be expected to draft a quarterback in the first round.
Manning successfully led this team for many years, and New York will now look to a new youngster to do the same.
The Giants may now be several years away from Super Bowl contention, but they will try to complete a rebuild as effectively and as quickly as possible.
The Broncos and the Giants are both at major crossroads, and they have major looming decisions that will change the outlook of their respective franchises moving forward.
They must move on from their lost 2017 seasons and determine the steps required to create a sustainable contender in the future.