And, of course, he did. Gary Kubiak stepped in for Fox and won a Super Bowl in just his first year on the job. But it didn't go the way we expected.
Kubiak, known for his offensive prowess and signature zone-blocking philosophy, fielded a struggling offense that, to put it bluntly, was the worst offense since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens to go all the way and win a championship.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1740920-the-challenge-in-evaluati... At times, the offense showed flashes. The memorable Sunday night victory over the Green Bay Packers comes to mind, but mostly it was just a half here or a quarter there in which the offense was humming the way it was designed to do. That can be attributed in part to a declining Peyton Manning or an over-matched offensive line, probably both to be exact.
There were games, however, when the offense completely lost its identity, and collapsed as a result. In a Week 14 loss to the Oakland Raiders at home, Brock Osweiler threw the ball a total of 51 times, and was famously put in the dirt another five times by Khalil Mack. They ran just 21 times to balance those 51 pass attempts, and amassed just four field goals as a result.
But at the end of the season, when Manning returned to the driver's seat, the offense regained balance, as anemic as the production was at times. They found a way to grind out yards on the ground, eclipsing the century mark in rushing yards behind C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman in most games.
This season, and especially in the last three losses, there's simply been no balance to speak of. In the Christmas blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the offense ran the ball just 13 times (not counting the fake field goal) to 43 passes.
A week before in the loss to the New England Patriots, they ran the ball 16 times to 40 passes. And before that, in the loss to the Tennessee Titans, there were just nine runs sprinkled in with 51 losses.
The most disturbing part about this trend is that, early in the last couple of games, the run was effective. Against the Pats, Devontae Booker and Justin Forsett combined for 33 yards in the first quarter. In the next three quarters, they gained just 21 yards on the ground.
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It was the same story against the Chiefs. Booker was running as hard and as effectively as he had since the injury to Anderson forced him into the lead role. In fact, he was running for an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. The only problem is that he only got five carries.
At the first sign of trouble, the Broncos panicked and forgot to run. After going down 14 after the first quarter, the offense shifted into a one-dimensional attack that looked predictable, sloppy, and disorganized. Kansas City's pass rushers were able to tee off on Denver's horrid pass-protecting offensive line, tossing them aside like traffic cones.
Regardless of your thoughts on Trevor Siemian, he's been put in a bad spot for the past three weeks. It wouldn't matter if it was Siemian, Paxton Lynch, or even Tony Romo behind center; an offense that doesn't even attempt to run the ball with an offensive line that can't function properly dooms the quarterback to fail.
The answer is not to fire Kubiak, but this trend is concerning, to say the least. He's one of the forefathers of one of the most famous rushing attacks in NFL history, and he's lost his identity. It's appeared briefly over the past two seasons, but is fleeting as best.
The offseason gives the Broncos a chance to get it back. They need to build a line around Matt Paradis, develop young players like Connor McGovern, and try to pick up the pieces. Perhaps that means addressing the quarterback position, perhaps not.
If Gary Kubiak and the offense can find itself, success will follow.
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Will Keys is an Editor for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.