In what is easily a must-win game for the Denver Broncos in Week 4 against the winless Chicago Bears, pressure from all angles is on coaches and players to follow up undoubtedly the worst loss in franchise history a week prior. After showcasing one of the worst defensive performances of all time, fans from all around the world have already begun their speculation as to how the outcome could look for the Broncos vs. Bears matchup, solely due to their horrifically bad defenses.
Meanwhile, some fans may have their focus aimed at Week 4, others have already begun their 2024 mock drafts with high hopes for a top draft pick next April. However, how realistic is it to believe Broncos head coach Sean Payton would induce a complete rebuild in his first year with the franchise? It may not seem very likely given his competitive nature, but is not completely out of the question.
How bad would the season have to get for Sean Payton and ownership to finally admit this team is in dire need of a restart? The next two games will be very, very telling. If the Broncos somehow find a way to lose to two poor opponents in the plummeting Chicago Bears and embarrassingly bad New York Jets offense led by former Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, you can most likely expect CEO Greg Penner to immediately begin making serious changes to the organization from top to bottom.
If that were to be the case, the Broncos would be 0-5 to start the season and their playoff hopes would be long gone. The 1992 San Diego Chargers are the only team in NFL history to start the season with an 0-4 record and make the postseason. Since 1978, only seven NFL teams have made the playoffs after starting 1-4 and only two teams in NFL history have made it after starting 1-5. Therefore, if the Broncos lose in Chicago on October 1st, this already puts them at a major disadvantage in having any chance to make the postseason.
However, if the Broncos were to defeat the Bears and improve to 1-3, ownership would perhaps have something to work with and could be convinced of a potential run back to a winning record. Although it may seem unlikely, anything is possible in the NFL. Broncos fans among anybody should know that the impossible is always possible after witnessing the defense allow 10 total touchdowns in Miami.
Let's say the Broncos do win Sunday vs. the Bears, there is not a ton of hope that they can return home to Denver and defeat a very talented New York Jets defense. While New York may not have things figured out offensively without superstar QB Aaron Rodgers, their defense has made every single game thus far competitive, even when QB Zach Wilson has played awful, to say the least. There's no telling Denver's offense could outscore New York's offense considering how bad the Broncos' defensive unit has been under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
Therefore, if the Broncos were to start 1-4, there would be almost no hope left in the tank. Denver's following opponents consist of the Kansas City Chiefs (twice), Green Bay Packers, and Buffalo Bills -- all of which are in contention to win their respective divisions. The Broncos are in a very dangerous spot where they have to win now or else it is too late, especially with the trend in NFL history.
Ultimately, if the Broncos do not win one of their next two games, the season is essentially a wrap at that point. Sure, the season is not officially over until they are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention however, as previously mentioned, the Broncos cannot afford to start the season 0-4 or 1-4 and especially not 0-5. If it were to come to that, it would be in the best interest of the franchise's future to begin trading as many of their star players as possible (excluding a few core pieces) to gather as much draft capital as they can to prepare for a rebuild.
Head coach Sean Payton picked top-10 in the first round of the NFL draft just twice in his 15-year tenure with the New Orleans Saints. Who were those players? Ironically enough, both were USC players -- DT Sedrick Ellis (seventh overall, 2008) and RB Reggie Bush (second overall, 2006). 15 years later, could Sean Payton be eyeing USC's Heisman-winning QB Caleb Williams with the first overall pick?