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Kiszla: Do you trust Drew Lock, Vic Fangio or the bickering Bowlens to lead Broncos out of this mess?

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Who leads the arsy-varsy Bron­cos out of this mess?

Uncle Vic Fan­gio? With strin­gent COVID pro­to­cols that can turn a bad team into social­ly dis­tanced strangers, it’s tough for a belea­guered coach to get close to his strug­gling play­ers, whether they need a hug or a kick in the rear.

Drew “Vapor” Lock? Our feisty gun­slinger can’t shoot straight. And it’s extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to lead if you spend all Sun­day after­noon clean­ing the stench of inter­cep­tions off your boots, cow­boy.

The Bick­er­ing Bowlens? A once-proud fam­i­ly busi­ness in now dys­func­tion­al. Let’s skip Thanks­giv­ing. See you in court, sis­ters.

Not long ago, the best day on the Col­orado cal­en­dar was Orange Sun­day. Don’t know about you, but now I sit down to watch the Bron­cos play with the same sense of dread Lock expe­ri­ences the instant before he throws an inter­cep­tion.

“It’s fun­ny,” Lock said Thurs­day. “Half the time, right as the ball leaves my hand, I’m like, ‘That’s not going to be a good one.’ It’s just one of those gut things, right as you let it go, it’s like, ‘Oh no.’”

Well, if this mis­er­able Bron­cos sea­son can be sum­ma­rized in two words, I’d say it’s a bad gut feel­ing that makes all want to say: Oh …

The Bron­cos’ biggest prob­lem isn’t a rash of injuries or a spate of scat­ter-brained inter­cep­tions. It’s a void in lead­er­ship. What has Den­ver missed most for near­ly five sea­sons? Pey­ton Manning’s steady hand in a storm and the late Patrick Bowlen’s stub­born refusal to accept sec­ond best.

With this sea­son doing a slow, clock­wise swirl toward the sew­er, do you know who tells the Bron­cos to put on their big-boy pants?

Me, nei­ther.

He’s Uncle Vic, not Gen­er­al Pat­ton. I feel sym­pa­thy for Fan­gio, because it’s not his fault Lock keeps falling off the quar­ter­back carousel and get­ting hurt.

Even worse for Uncle Vic: If the Bron­cos are any­where near as tired of Zoom meet­ings as the rest of us, how does the coach even know for cer­tain his mes­sage is reach­ing this team?

In a year that has dared us all to hide beneath the cov­ers and wait for the coro­n­avirus clouds to pass, a foot­ball team going nowhere could eas­i­ly quit in this weird NFL sea­son.

Who in the Den­ver lock­er room has the author­i­ty to stop that from hap­pen­ing?

“In try­ing to be that leader,” line­backer Bradley Chubb said, “I’m going to keep empha­siz­ing that there’s no quit­ting on this team.”

Have run­ning back Phillip Lind­say and the Bron­cos for­mal­ly filed for divorce yet? It has become painful­ly obvi­ous the opin­ion of Lind­say is much high­er out­side Dove Val­ley head­quar­ters than it is among deci­sion-mak­ers inside the front office.

Arms locked across his chest, offen­sive coor­di­na­tor Pat Shurmur’s body lan­guage shouts how uncom­fort­able it is for Den­ver to rank 28th among 32 league teams in scor­ing.

While Bryce Calla­han plays cor­ner­back at a Pro Bowl lev­el, he exudes a stuck-at-a-bad-par­ty vibe. Although offen­sive tack­le Garett Bolles deserves kudos (and prob­a­bly a raise) for get­ting his act togeth­er in a major way, it’s hard to estab­lish your­self as a leader with­out a long-term com­mit­ment from the team.

At the Bick­er­ing Bowlens fam­i­ly Christ­mas par­ty, should we put it to a vote of the sib­lings as to whether Brit­tany or Beth gets to play Bad San­ta?

There’s no cry­ing in foot­ball, even if your ribs ache. “I think any­one that’s hurt in this league real­izes that the longer you’re not play­ing, the faster you get for­got­ten,” Lock said.

I’d give Brett Ryp­i­en the start at quar­ter­back against Mia­mi and let Lock come swag­ger­ing out of the bullpen, spit­ting fire, if need­ed. Of course, nobody is ask­ing me. Bruised ribs and all, it seems the team’s dis­tinct pref­er­ence is to have Lock start and fin­ish, because the last headache Fan­gio needs is even a whiff of a quar­ter­back con­tro­ver­sy.

Get­ting trounced 37–12 by da hat­ed Raid-duhs on of a 43–16 trash­ing by Kansas City are sig­na­ture loss­es that could get a coach fired. How hot is Fangio’s seat? Well, all I know is if you’re bent on rais­ing John Elway’s ire, don’t just lose to AFC West rivals, but lose with­out a fight.

After the Bron­cos lost their shirts in Vegas, guard Dal­ton Ris­ner felt the pain of Bron­cos Coun­try.

“You all might be look­ing at it and say­ing it’s a mess,” Ris­ner said. “Of course we know that we have to be bet­ter. But we’re look­ing at each oth­er and say­ing, ‘We love each oth­er. We know that we can do this. We believe in each oth­er.’ Screw being 3–6; we know we’re way bet­ter than that.”

Sor­ry, Bub­by. But in this league, you are what your record says you are.

So what does that make any­body who says the Bron­cos are way bet­ter than 3–6? Full of …

Spunk?

But here’s what seems sad to me: The Bron­cos have tak­en all the fun out of crit­i­cism, even for a cer­ti­fied cur­mud­geon, because the guys in orange have the lead­er­ship-void blues.

So get­ting mad would be point­less. All I’ve got left for this team is pity.

Wake me when 2020 is over, Bron­cos Coun­try.

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