Broncos caught in double standard for Melvin Gordon, Albert Okwuegbunam

Denver Broncos, Albert Okwuegbunam - Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos, Albert Okwuegbunam - Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

What in the world is going on with the Denver Broncos and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam? The team pitched Albert O. as the Broncos’ TE1 early on in the offseason, shortly after Noah Fant was included in the blockbuster Russell Wilson trade. Since that time, he’s been anything but the TE1, which isn’t altogether surprising, but in some ways it is. Okwuegbunam has shown some nice things in his first two NFL seasons despite dealing with a torn ACL as a rookie and some drops as well, but the potential has been there along with flashes of real production.

Okwuegbunam was a healthy scratch in just the sixth game of the 2022 season. Back in June, everyone could feel the heat Greg Dulcich was putting on Okwuegbunam but I don’t think anyone expected this instead of these guys being the obvious top two at the position going forward. After being a healthy scratch against the Chargers, the trade rumors started heating up. Simultaneously, trade rumors started heating up regarding running back Melvin Gordon, the presumptive RB1 following the devastating season-ending injury to Javonte Williams.

Gordon wasn’t a healthy scratch against his former team on Monday night, but perhaps even worse — he was benched during the game and consistently made an example of by the ESPN camera crew. Gordon was embarrassed in front of the entire NFL world in a game where he apparently says he was not informed that he was benched or if he was benched, why?

Denver Broncos double standard is hard to watch from the outside

What do the situations of Melvin Gordon and Albert Okwuegbunam have to do with each other? Up until Nathaniel Hackett spoke to the media on Wednesday, nothing. Then Hackett got in front of the media and named Gordon the starter at running back against the Jets on Sunday after apparently having a really good conversation with Gordon.

Wait a second…what? What conversation was had here?

Gordon was perhaps wrongfully benched vs. the Chargers, but that’s only because it came way too late. The Broncos should have benched Gordon and had a talk with him long ago, but instead, he’s had four fumbles this season — nearly a fifth against the Colts — and has arguably cost the team games, as dramatic as that sounds. Albert Okwuegbunam has had issues holding onto the ball himself at times, struggling some with drops as previously mentioned. So why has Nathaniel Hackett not had a conversation with Albert O.?

Why are the Broncos simply content to just settle for Eric Saubert when they have a 6-foot-5, 260-pound freak who runs a 4.49 sitting on the sideline or not even dressed for the game? This is not to absolve Okwuegbunam of his issues, either. All I’m saying is that the Broncos are seemingly rewarding Melvin Gordon for going on national television and literally shaking his head on the sideline after Latavius Murray ran for a first down late in the game against the Chargers.

He has had clear issues holding onto the ball in consecutive years now, but he gets the benefit of a conversation with the head coach and a public announcement that he’s going to start this weekend? It’s all so confusing, and it starts with the way Hackett is communicating to the public inconsistently across the board. This is a guy who won’t give an inch when anyone asks about Billy Turner or the right tackle position, but all of a sudden you’re going to just flat-out tell the Jets with days to prepare for a game who is going to be your RB1?

Again, why does Albert Okwuegbunam not also get a conversation? Why was Okwuegbunam better under Pat Shurmur, who was supposedly not going to use the tight ends or was incompetent in terms of scheming an offense? Okwuegbunam made some big plays in Shurmur’s offense, as infrequent as they may have been. There were people in the comment section and on Twitter last year telling me that Albert O. was clearly better than Noah Fant.

What happened? Why can’t the man who apparently impressed George Paton with his innovative offensive plans get the freak athlete at tight end involved when he’s constantly using 12 and 13 personnel? Why does Greg Dulcich immediately get into the game and run a wheel route for a touchdown after barely practicing since June, while Okwuegbunam was playing deep into the fourth quarter of preseason games and has been a rare player to barely show up on the injury report this year?

This is not meant to be an Albert Okwuegbunam apologist post, but rather a plea for Nathaniel Hackett to have some consistency. If you’re going to give Melvin Gordon a 100th chance after he visibly pouted all game, shaking his head instead of getting pumped for his teammates, what is preventing you from getting Okwuegbunam involved?

Why are we talking about Okwuegbunam not being long for the roster when he should have been helping the passing game all along? Is he not capable of running wheel routes? Does he not fit into Hackett’s offensive innovation?

The entire offense is frustrating at this point, but the double standard? I can’t stand it.