DENVER -- If the old adage “I’d rather be lucky than good” is true, the Broncos are blessed beneficiaries.
The team obviously wasn’t any good this season. But it certainly has gotten extremely lucky lately.
First, on Christmas Eve, the Broncos were leading Washington when Kirk Cousins, like the Frankenstein monster, finally came alive and decimated Denver’s defense while Brock Osweiler sputtered. Then, on New Year’s Eve, rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes, in his first start (in a meaningless game for Kansas City), performed well against the Broncos. And despite two late touchdowns produced by Paxton Lynch, the Chiefs kicked a field goal on the final drive to win.
Those two losses, combined with victories by other lousy teams, propelled the Broncos from owning a draft pick barely in the top 10 to fifth overall, which gives them an opportunity, if they so choose, to select an upper-echelon quarterback.
Next, the worst team in the league, Cleveland, declined the invitation to coach in the Senior Bowl. The Giants and the Colts couldn’t be considered because they are without a head coach.
Houston, at 4-12, was in, and the Broncos were up at 5-11 (over the 5-11 Jets because of a tiebreaker).
Of course, the Broncos, who haven’t coached in the game of talented seniors since 1989 because of their success, accepted the offer, making John Elway especially elated, excited, eager and energized.
Vance Joseph’s staff was given the North squad, the Texans the South.
The Broncos get to be up close for a week in Mobile, Ala., with players potentially draft worthy.
Then the official announcement was made that Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma would be placed on the North team. The Senior Bowl is somewhat geographically challenged and doesn’t stick to the Mason-Dixon Line as a guidance. Oddly enough, Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State could be on the South team.
The Broncos definitely want to coach, and slobber over, Mayfield, one of their significant possibilities. There are four QBs on each side. One slot remains open. Reportedly, the eighth and final quarterback will be Wyoming’s Josh Allen, who would play on the North. Bingo for the Broncos.
Allen also is a quarterback the Broncos have followed for two years because of his close proximity to Colorado and are highly-interested in for the draft.
(Allen is a junior, but is eligible for the Senior Bowl because he was a fifth-year player. Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, the two most heralded quarterbacks in the draft – who both announced on the same day this week they are turning pro – are underclassmen who can’t play in the game – which has archaic rules.)
The Broncos’ staff, with new quarterback coach Mike Sullivan (whose addition was announced Thursday), will coach Mayfield, presumably Washington State’s Luke Falk, maybe Rudolph or intriguing prospect Brandon Silvers of Troy, and Allen, if he decides to participate.
The South would have Kurt and Kyle – Kurt Benkert of Virginia (apparently destined to be drafted in the second or third round) and Kyle Lauletta of Richmond, Mike White of Western Kentucky and Rudolph or Silvers.
But the Texans already have a quarterback in Deshaun Watson, so Bill O’Brien won’t be as needy (unless they like one of the other guys as a later-round choice).
The Broncos are lucky.
They’d rather be good, as they were with Elway, Peyton Manning and Jake Plummer (four most recent quarterbacks who guided them in playoffs to conference title games and Super Bowls).
Elway may find himself a quarterback in the Game-On-The-Gulf.
Since Elway took over for the 2011 season, the Broncos have drafted, or signed as free agents, 16 Senior Bowl players – including their first picks Von Miller, Sylvester Williams and Derek Wolfe (second round), offensive linemen Michael Schofield, Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia, punter Riley Dixon and one-time defensive starters Quinton Carter and Nate Irving. Among others not so hot. The Senior Bowl has been a mixed bag for Broncos draft picks.
But, expect as many as five of their choices this year to come from players the Broncos’ staff coaches in Mobile this year.
Here are some quarterbacks who have played in the Senior Bowl during the Elway Era in Denver: Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mike Glennon, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton and three others who could have been drafted by the Broncos – Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott. The Broncos had Wilson (who earlier had been drafted by, and played in, the Rockies’ organization) on their radar, and we’ll never know why they didn’t draft Prescott. There seemed to be no serious discussion then about Cousins, but there is now.
Could the Broncos’ future quarterback be at the Senior Bowl?