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This is the kind of season it’s been for the Denver Broncos: Right tackle Bobbie Massie, a respected veteran starter, was leaving for Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs when he slipped on an icy surface and hit his head when he fell, causing him to suffer a concussion and miss the game in the afternoon.
This is the kind of season it’s been for the Broncos: Starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, prospering with a career high 18 TD passes, suffered his second concussion of the season after 14 starts and missed the final three games of the season — all losses.
And this: The Broncos played against the defending AFC champion and AFC West division winning Chiefs with three players missing from their secondary on Saturday.
So is it any surprise this game, which the Broncos led into the fourth quarter, was lost on an 86-yard fumble return touchdown that happened when Melvin Gordon fumbled, turning 21-20 lead at the time, to another disappointing loss?
Well, that’s exactly what happened.
It was the Broncos’ fourth consecutive loss to end their season. And it is against this backdrop that general manager George Paton will decide the fate of head coach Vic Fangio sometime on Sunday.
Fangio has been the team’s head coach three seasons. And in all those seasons the Broncos have been under .500 and out of the playoffs.
Fangio, 19-30 in Denver, is unlikely to survive, according to NFL people monitoring the situation.
“No, I do not know,” Fangio said when asked afterward if he knew his fate.
So would firing Fangio be the right call? Is that going to solve the problem in Denver?
Of course not.
Fangio might not be a dynamic coach. He might not be considered a genius along the lines of a Sean McVay or even a Bill Belchick.
But he’s a very good defensive coach and his team never quit on him in Denver. They didn’t finish often enough for him. But they didn’t quit.
So why are the Broncos likely headed to a coaching change?
It’s the same reason they set themselves for a coach change from Vance Joseph before Fangio arrived. And the same reason the Broncos have now lost 13 consecutive games to the Chiefs since 2015, or three seasons before Fangio arrived:
Because the team that enjoyed John Elway in his prime and Peyton Manning in his latter years, has no one like either man now.
The Broncos have quarterback problems. The problems have lasted six years since Manning retired in 2015.
And, not surprisingly, the team has missed the playoffs every year since Manning departed because it had no one playing the position who could compete on any level approaching elite.
So Paton may think his next big decision is deciding Fangio’s fate on Sunday. But his biggest decision during his tenure as GM is figuring out how to find a quarterback that’s able to compete in the AFC West.
The Broncos, you see, are in a division with Derek Carr, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.
And the quarterback they’ve got signed among the 39 total players under contract for 2022 is … Drew Lock.
And Drew Lock ain’t it, folks.
The Broncos are not without talent. They have a good offensive line.
Their running back corps which includes Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams is talented.
But at QB the Broncos have Drew Lock.
The Broncos have gone through 11 starting quarterbacks and three head coaches since Manning retired after winning a Super Bowl in 2015. They may go be moving on to their fourth head coach.
But their bigger issue is not that next head coach. It’s finding a franchise quarterback to save their next coach hire from becoming their next ex-head coach.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero