Ask Mase: Should early-season Broncos offensive expectations be tempered?

Sep 4, 2022, 5:09 PM

Russell Wilson...

(Photo by Andrew Mason /

(Photo by Andrew Mason /

Let’s dive in:

I am all about tempering expectations. Then one has a better chance of not being disappointed. Hope for the best, but expect something much less than that.

In the words of “Dodgeball” gym owner Peter LaFleur: “I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed.

“And I gotta tell ya, it feels phenomenal.”

OK, that’s a bit extreme. But that being said, expect the early season to not reflect the finished product.

A look at 16 other veteran quarterbacks who changed teams and were not regarded as placeholder QBs in the last 15 years shows that teams with those QBs averaged 10.6 percent fewer points per game and 2.6 percent fewer yards per game in the first three games than they did in the balance of the season.

And while Broncos fans recall the improvement from Peyton Manning and the offense in 2012, the increase of 5.4 points per game after his first three Denver starts isn’t even the biggest of the last 15 years. That honor belongs to … Carson Wentz with the Colts last year. Indianapolis averaged 9.5 more points from Game 4 onward than it did in the first three games Wentz started with the horseshoe on his helmet.

So, expect better after the first three games … but don’t expect miles better. If the Broncos lurch from the gate and average 16 points a game in Weeks 1-3, be concerned. Because history shows that even if they improve, the improvement rate likely wouldn’t yield an elite offense this year.

If the Broncos can average 23 points a game in Weeks 1-3, history shows that they should be able to average 26-27 points a game after that. That’s the difference between an average offense and a top-10 offense.

From Mike in Salt Lake City:

Hi Mase!

With the trade for Russell Wilson and his extension signing, it has been said many times by many people that the Broncos are out of “quarterback purgatory”. That is a term that I think most football fans understand the meaning of without any explanation.

But quarterbacks haven’t always been as pivotal to team success as they are now. That got me to wondering, where did the term “quarterback purgatory” come from? I don’t remember when I heard it first, but I’m sure it hasn’t been around my entire life (born in the 70s like you Mase!)

When did it come into existence? Who coined it? What are the earliest usages of it?

So, the first thing I did was look up the exact words “quarterback purgatory” on, to which I have a subscription. The first instance of that phrase I could find was from Super Bowl Sunday 1989, in the recently-retired Bob Glauber’s preview of Super Bowl XXIII for Newsday. The interesting thing is that Glauber used those two words to describe Joe Montana! He used that description to talk about the situation in which Montana found himself at midseason, when he sat on the bench while Steve Young started — and dazzled, in his own unique style.

The next few entries for “quarterback purgatory” also described individual passers. A reference to Todd Marinovich of the Los Angeles Raiders late in the 1992 season. A 1994 season preview that noted how New Orleans Saints QB Jim Everett escaped purgatory with the Los Angeles Rams. Ditto an article in the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Telegram on Carolina QB Jack Trudeau, who lost a preseason competition with Frank Reich, then by Week 5 found himself usurped by first-round pick Kerry Collins.

But the first instance I could find of referring to a team being in quarterback purgatory was from story by Cam Inman of the Contra Costa Times story on March 29, 2010.

As In wrote, “So many teams are in quarterback purgatory that online forums are blowing up across the land as fans envision [Donovan] McNabb on their side.”

This, of course, referred to the erstwhile Eagles QB (not “QB Eagles” for you Tecmo Super Bowl fans). McNabb landed in Washington under the then-newly hired Mike Shanahan. It didn’t work out well.

Three years later, a story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes teams that have spent “decades in quarterback purgatory,” referring to the Bills, Cardinals and Bears. That story — at midseason of 2013 — offered a defense of Baltimore giving Joe Flacco a long-term contract after he won Super Bowl XLVII MVP honors. We know how that turned out.

But the fact that for decades “quarterback purgatory” described individuals who were backups — rather than teams — reflects the evolution of the game and the necessity of a top-shelf QB.

No doubt, having a terrific QB has always mattered. The difference now is that it’s a requirement for simply having a viable shot at accomplishing anything of significance. Without an upper-tier QB, your nose remains permanently pressed against the glass, watching the NFL’s contenders from the outside.

From Rob on Twitter:

Depth at cornerback, offensive tackle and inside linebacker, in that order. Denver is one injury away from being in trouble at those spots. At tackle, Denver will get Tom Compton back at some point. The Broncos also hope Billy Turner is ready early in the season. But it’s touch-and-go, and Turner must work his way into football shape.

I don’t throw tight end in there because the Broncos have some reasonable work-arounds. Specifically, they have a highly proficient blocker (Eric Tomlinson), a terrific pass catcher in space (Albert Okwuegbunam), an improving all-around tight end (Eric Saubert) and someone who can do a bit of everything (Andrew Beck). It’s a position where it’s about the aggregate. And you can lose one more beyond rookie Greg Dulcich — of whom little should be realistically expected as a rookie, anyway — and be OK.

Dre’Mont Jones, no question.

Interior pass rushers of his quality are difficult to find. And they’re even more difficult for an opposing pass-pro scheme to defuse. During training camp, he was the Broncos’ most consistently disruptive front-seven defender.

You can see the future at edge rusher in its embryonic stages of development. Baron Browning, Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper could easily comprise one starter and two rotational pieces beyond Randy Gregory if the Broncos choose not to re-sign Bradley Chubb. But on the defensive line, the future is not quite as obvious — in part because two-thirds of the second-team DL includes rookies.

Jones is probably the most necessary re-signing at this point.

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Ask Mase: Should early-season Broncos offensive expectations be tempered?