Denver Broncos: Who will step up as the next face of the franchise?

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos reacts against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos reacts against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Former face of the franchise, Von Miller, has officially been dealt to the Los Angeles Rams. Who steps up as the next face of the franchise for the Denver Broncos?

Von Miller’s historic run with the Denver Broncos is officially over, for now.

Before I begin to even speculate who could potentially be the next face of the franchise, I have to pay my dues to not only a Denver Broncos legend, but an NFL legend, Von Miller. In the 2011 NFL Draft, with still to this day, the highest selection the Denver Broncos have ever held, they selected then Texas A&M Aggie, Von Miller.

Since Von Miller traded in his burgundy 40, to the orange and blue 58, Von has been nothing short of stellar for this franchise. Miller was someone that I will tell my grandkids about watching one day. As we swing on the front porch, I will tell them the story about how Von Miller brought the Mile High City it’s third Lombardi trophy.

Denver Broncos: Who will step up as the next face of the franchise?

From a personal aspect, my life has been through many stages during the decade that Von Miller was a Denver Bronco.

Dating back to April 28th, 2011, I have been through several different relationships, cars, jobs, homes, and cities. Since the day Von Miller became a Denver Bronco I have flipped my credit score, bought a home, started a family, grew my family, and even grew from a boy into a man.

I’ve watched this man haunt “Superman” Cam Newton. I’ve watched this man level, intercept and give the GOAT, Tom Brady, hell. Von “freaking” Miller has been a pillar of this franchise and has solidified himself as not just a Denver Broncos’ Ring of Famer, but a National Football League Hall of Famer.

To say Von Miller will be “replaced” is asinine, at best.

That said, time has a stamp on everything. Unfortunately for Broncos Country, Von Miller’s time, for now, has come to an abrupt stop. While it wasn’t the storybook ending that John Elway or even Peyton Manning was gifted, in fact, it was quite the opposite, Von Miller will forever be a legend to this city, team, and community.

In Miller’s ten-minute goodbye video, Miller did mention the return of a player like Shannon Sharpe. If you weren’t around for that, Hall of Famer, Shannon Sharpe left the Denver Broncos for a very successful, short stint with the Baltimore Ravens, to just return home a few years later.

Wouldn’t it be something if Miller finished the season with the Los Angeles Rams, then came home to Broncos Country after the Broncos received a 2nd and a 3rd round pick for him in the upcoming draft? Talk about playing chess while others are playing checkers, I don’t think we have ever seen something of that nature, at least not in the NFL.

That scenario isn’t likely at this point, but we can all dream, right?

Today I have already been through four out of the five stages of grief, unfortunately, my heart has been crushed before, so I am able to heal rapidly. As I look ahead to the fifth step of grief, acceptance, I want to highlight the rise of a certain rookie that could cement himself as the next face of the franchise.

Some may say, “wait, why would you not think Justin Simmons will be the next face of the franchise?”

Fair question.

In today’s game of football, there are four pillar positions on a football team: tackle, quarterback, edge rusher, and cornerback. Justin Simmons is a phenomenal player, who the Denver Broncos should absolutely be honored to have wearing orange and blue, does not categorize as any of those positions.

Simmons is just as great of a person as he is as a player, which is one heck of a compliment. It just isn’t that often that you mention a safety as being the “face of the franchise.” Again, saying that has zero disrespect to Justin Simmons, I hope he is around as long as Von was. Hopefully, unlike Von Miller, Simmons only wears orange and blue.

Focusing in on this certain rookie at one of the premier positions in the league, Patrick Surtain II was the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for a reason. There were even teams like the New Orleans Saints who were trying to move all the way up from 28th overall to 9th overall, just to steal the Alabama product.

In his rookie debut, Surtain II had a couple of hiccups, but since then, he has been the best cornerback on this roster. To win in this league, it is an absolute necessity to have great cornerback play, as well as depth.

Patrick Surtain II has quickly jolted up the Denver Broncos depth chart, and with the help of Kyle Fuller’s abysmal play, had a highly coveted NFL veteran benched with his rise. Yes, Fuller has been atrocious, but as bad as the staff has been, they don’t make the move unless they trust Surtain II.

Watching play after play of Surtain has opened my eyes to why they selected him ninth overall, instead of trading down or selecting Justin Fields or Mac Jones. This young cornerback has been lights out.

Veterans like Philadelphia Eagles cornerback, Darius Slay Jr., is taking time out of his day to tell Surtain that his press work is flawless. Per Pro Football Focus, Surtain has allowed fewer than 40 yards in coverage in 7 out of his 8 games, as a rookie!

What really stands out to me when I watch Surtain is his ability to be in on every throw. After his rookie debut, just about every time a pass is thrown Patrick Surtain II’s way, he has been glued to the receiver. His size and length give him the ability to recover even when he ends up on the inside on an out-breaking route.

As of late, it has to be a perfect throw for Surtain II to get busted, even then, he still ends up being close to making a play. This week will be a huge test for Surtain II and put his true skills to test. Having to cover the likes of either CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, or Michael Gallup can be a bit daunting.

Starting off as the potential “tight end killer”, Surtain II looks like he has the ability to be the “number one pass-catcher killer.” Comparisons aren’t fair, they sometimes set too high of expectations on players, but I can’t help but watch his tape and think of Champ Bailey.

One of these days he will get his 100-yard interception return, much like Bailey, let’s just see if he scores on his. No, I’m not actually taking a shot at Bailey, context isn’t always clear, but I am just giving the greatest I’ve ever seen a hard time. Honestly, I do not have a projected ceiling for Surtain right now, as there isn’t a bar he cant clear if he continues to progress at such a high level.

Patrick Surtain II’s hips are fluid, like Champ Bailey’s.

Patrick Surtain II’s length is comparable to Richard Sherman’s.

If Patrick Surtain II’s ability to mirror receivers continues to grow, to the level of someone like Jalen Ramsey’s, Patrick Surtain II will have an outstanding career.

Champ Bailey himself possessed all three of these traits, which is why I will argue with anyone, I have never seen someone cover better than Champ Bailey. Just as good, sure there are a few but better? I can’t say that I have.

If that is the product the Denver Broncos get for the foreseeable future, Patrick Surtain II could certainly fit the mold as the “face of the franchise.” He possesses the ability to eliminate one side of the field for quarterbacks, much like Von Miller forced teams to game plan against him.

Surtain II has the ability to be elite, for a very long time. If he is able to maximize his talent and abilities, Surtain can extend the Denver Broncos streak of having a first-ballot Hall of Famer defender to three decades, following Champ Bailey in the 2000’s and Von Miller in the 2010s.