The 2023 Broncos have been one of the worst teams ever fielded in franchise history. Through the first six games of the season, the Broncos have suffered a multitude of embarrassing losses and things do not look to be getting much better. After losing its sixteenth straight game to the Chiefs and falling to 1-5 on the year, it seems Denver is headed for a full rebuild.
Things have been bleak in Denver, but teams in the NFL have recovered from worse starts in the past. A mid-season turnaround for the Broncos, however, is not likely to occur.
As the Broncos' season has spiraled out of control, many have pointed out the similarly disastrous starts of the 2022 Jaguars and Lions, both of which turned its seasons around and made a push for the playoffs. While there are certainly similar circumstances facing the 2023 Denver Broncos, the team does not have the right culture or enough foundational pieces in place to stage a turnaround like the Jaguars and Lions did a year ago.
Much like the Broncos are doing now, the 2022 Jaguars were trying to wipe away the stench of its worst coaching hire in team history. Jacksonville started 2-6 that season, but went 7-2 the rest of the way and made the playoffs. That same scenario could play out for the Broncos, but Denver lacks something the 2022 Jaguars had in spades- a young core with the full support of the organization.
Jacksonville already had its core players in place when it flipped the script and made the playoffs a season ago. Players like quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne Jr., and edge rusher Josh Allen have proven to be franchise cornerstones for the Jaguars. The Broncos do not have cornerstone pieces, and much of the roster is being evaluated for potential trades. Denver is too far away from success to turn things around quickly.
The 2023 Broncos have also drawn comparisons to last season's Detroit Lions. The 2022 Lions started 1-6, but finished the year at 9-8 while barely missing the playoffs. When compared to the current Broncos, we come to the same conclusion we arrived at when comparing Denver to the Jaguars- the Lions had core pieces that the Broncos do not.
Over the last several seasons, Detroit invested in its interior. Tackle Penei Sewell and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson have been home run draft picks, both of them have quickly developed into elite foundational players. The emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown as a superstar receiver also expedited Detroit's rise. The Lions found players they wanted to build around and followed a plan, while the Broncos are still figuring out what players they want to keep in the building.
This is not to say Denver is without any promising young players. Players like Jaleel McLaughlin, Marvin Mims Jr., Nik Bonitto and Jonathan Cooper form a stable of promising young talent. All-Pro corner Patrick Surtain II is already a franchise player, but unlike the Jaguars or Lions of a year ago, the Broncos do not have enough of those pieces in place to change its fortunes on a whim.
Denver does not have a franchise quarterback that everyone believes in like Trevor Lawrence, they do not have foundational interior pieces like Penei Sewell and Aidan Hutchinson and they do not have a superstar offensive weapon like Travis Etienne Jr. or Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Broncos are much further away from success than last year's Lions and Jaguars teams ever were. If Denver somehow manages to flip its season around, I will gladly eat crow, but a mid-season turnaround is not likely to happen. The Broncos need to keep its focus on a full rebuild.